Explore the Collections

Explore the Collections allows you to search over 1 million object records with our improved search functionality as well as browsing through curated collections.

Our online collections are a working database providing online access to over a million catalogue records and over half a million images of objects in our collections. We make as much information available as we can and continually enrich and update the database. New text and images are added daily.

The V&A's collections also include the National Art Library and the V&A Archives.

There is more about the Beta release and Explore the Collections on our blog.

To get started searching on Explore the Collections

  • Start typing in the search box.
  • As you type, suggestions will appear to help you find what you're looking for.
  • You can apply a date range to the search to focus your results.
  • Select one of the suggestions, or press enter to run a search.
  • When you see your results, you can filter them to find other related results.

Search Results

After you have entered a search term, or chosen a search suggestion, you’ll be taken to the search results page. On this page you can:

  • see how many search results you have.
  • browse through the results in the default image view.
  • hide filters to give you more space on the page for the search results.
  • show the results as a list or image view.
  • On list view you can order results by artist or maker, date or place of origin.

Limiting your results

When you see your results, there are check boxes below the search field that limit the results shown to those object records that have images, or to those that are on display at one of the V&A sites (South Kensington, Dundee, Museum of Childhood)

Filtering your results

Once you have performed a search you can choose to explore within your results by applying filters.

There are filters for Category, Person, Organisation, V&A Collection, Gallery Location, Style, Place, Object Type, Technique and Material.

Clicking on the + button will expand the group to show you the filters you can apply to the search.

Once selected, the search results will narrow to objects related to those filters.

Filters are removed by unticking the filter, or by removing the filter from the search box.

Date Range

You can limit the results to a particular range of dates by adding a start date and end date in the Date Range filter. Use a hyphen for dates before the first millennium; '-100' to '200' will give a range of 300 years.

Sorting results

In 'List View' you can sort your results by clicking on the heading of a column. Where there are multiple entries in a field, such as more than one artist, the list will be sorted based on the first entry in the field.

Boolean Search Options

You can use boolean operators on your keyword search to help you narrow down and remove irrelevant results to the set of results.

The boolean operators available are:

  • Phase searching
  • Negated searching
  • AND/OR searching
  • Fuzzy searching

There is further information on how to search in our API documentation.

Object Page

Object pages show all the information the V&A has about an object in the collection, and bring together the object record, catalogue information with curatorial knowledge, and editorial storytelling.

You can use this form to suggest improvements to any of the object records.

Images

Please see our terms and conditions for information about using content from V&A Explore the Collections for non-commercial purposes.

FAQs

1. I cannot download the high-resolution image I would like.

Some images are restricted by copyright, but many are available, as indicated on the individual image.

2. The high resolution image I have downloaded appears to be too small.

Where objects have high-resolution images available, these are sized at up to 2500 pixels along the longest side of the image, and of a printing quality up to A5 in size (300dpi). You need to accept the terms of use to download these images. After accepting, you can continue to download large images. Image downloading sessions timeout after 30 minutes, after which you will need to re-confirm acceptance. You can do this as many times as you need to.

If you want to publish images larger than A5, please contact our image licensing team, V&A Images.

3. I would like to download a low-resolution image for non-commercial research or private study.

You can download low resolution images for certain uses without needing permission from the copyright holder. Please see question 8.

To download an image for this purpose, right click on the image and select 'save picture as/copy image' from the image carousel.

4. I would like to use an image for a purpose not covered by Explore the Collections terms and conditions.

If you would like to use an image for a use not covered by our terms and conditions, please contact our image licensing team, V&A Images.

5. Why are some images marked 'image unavailable'?

We publish new images and information every month. If you would like an image of a collection item that is not currently available on Explore the Collections, please contact our image licensing team, V&A Images.

6. Why are some images marked 'in copyright'?

Some collection items on within the V&A Collections are still in copyright and the V&A may not be the copyright holder. Images of these objects are restricted as they may require special permissions, and are therefore not available for high resolution download.

7. How do I use an image of a work that is marked 'in copyright'?

Should you wish to order an image marked 'in copyright', please contact copyrightenquiries@vam.ac.uk for further advice quoting 'marked in copyright' in the subject field of your message.

8. Are there instances where images of 'in copyright' works may be downloaded and used without requiring permissions from the rights holder?

The UK Copyright, Design and Patent Act 1988 as amended and revised lists a limited number of examples or 'exceptions' where images of 'in copyright' works may be copied. These exceptions are known as 'Fair Dealing'.

Examples include:

  • Copying for research of a non-commercial nature and private study, for example use in a thesis submitted by a student for the purpose of securing a degree.
  • Criticism and review
  • Incidental inclusion, for example a sculpture in the background of a general gallery photograph.

If you are not sure if your intended use is allowed or you need further help, please contact copyrightenquiries@vam.ac.uk