The V&A Archive is a rich resource for the study of the history of the V&A and its collections, and of the broader history of art and design. It was established in 1992 to preserve the Museum's institutional records and make them accessible to the public, as required under the Public Records Act. These institutional records date from 1837 through to the present day and comprise items from every department in the Museum.
What can be researched in the V&A Archive?
- The acquisition and provenance of the V&A's collections, recorded in tens of thousands of correspondence files, inventories and photograph albums.
- Information about specific individuals or institutions and their relationships with the V&A.
- The work of specialist advisors (so-called 'Art Referees'), 1863 – 86, such as Walter Crane, William Morris and Frederic Leighton.
- Exhibitions held within the V&A or to which the Museum lent objects, from 1862 to the present day.
- The histories and development of the V&A and its predecessors, including the Government School of Design, the Museum of Ornamental Art at Marlborough House and the South Kensington Museum.
- The history of the V&A's departments and branch museums, including the Circulation Department, the Museum of Childhood and the Theatre Museum.
- The architectural history of the V&A, including models, photographs and plans.
- Posters, publicity, press coverage and the V&A's evolving corporate identity.
- Cultural developments and events with which the V&A was associated e.g. the international exhibitions of the 19th century or the progress of art education.
- Particular periods of history or social history e.g. the V&A during wartime.
- Museology in general e.g. conservation, building and gallery design, arrangement and display of collections.
Opening arrangements 2022
We are in process of relocating the V&A Archive from our collection centre at Blythe House, to V&A South Kensington. Access and enquiry services are currently suspended and will resume in mid-January 2022. In-person access to the archives may be subject to restrictions due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but we hope to offer appointments to consult material from the V&A Archive from 26 January 2022 onward – initially on Wednesdays only – in the National Art Library at the V&A. We will be increasing the frequency of service during the spring.
Search the Archive
A selection of our catalogues are available on Search the Archives, with more currently in development.
We have access to a wide range of resources – please contact us online for assistance in identifying materials relevant to your research. A helpful overview of the scope and content of the V&A Archive can be found in Anthony Burton's Vision and accident: the story of the Victoria and Albert Museum (London, 1999) and John Physick's The Victoria and Albert Museum: a history of its building (London, 1982).
Use our Research guides to discover popular topics of study relating to the V&A collections, buildings and history. These guides describe books, manuscripts, photographs and other sources which are available in the V&A Archive, and offer some introductory guidance to their use.
Visit the Tales from the Archives blog to discover interesting facts about the history of the V&A and hidden stories from our various archives. We will also keep you informed about our current and future projects, offer sneak previews of our new acquisitions as well as insights into what it's like to run a busy archive service.