HNW - London: V&A

Nora Campbell nscamp at
Sat Mar 10 10:30:20 PST 2001

>I'm off for a first-time visit to London soon.  I have one day set aside
>to go to the V&A.  Anything in particular I should be sure not to miss?


I have been to the V&A twice. The last visit was in 1996. I spent the 
better part of two days there just in the needlework and textile area. Much 
of the needlework and textile items are in large frames that you can take 
down and carry to the work tables to examine and photograph (by the way, 
had I known that I could take photos I would have needed more time). It is 
great being able to get so close and really examine the pieces but it is 
time consuming, just the taking down and putting back up of the frames (not 
to mention tiring on the arms and back as they are rather large).

I spent a small amount of time with the clothing collection in 1996 because 
I did that area extensively in 1986 on my first visit. At that time ('86) 
the textiles and needlework were mostly under lock and key and you had to 
make appointments to see the pieces. Thankfully that has now changed.

I also spent some time in 1996 in the bookstore. They have wonderful books 
and are well worth the money for the photography.

I cannot speak for any other areas of the V&A as I have never had time for 
any other exploring. The  V&A is on the web, you might want to check it 
out. When I was there in '96 they were doing a wonderful special exhibit on 
William Morris. I bought the exhibit catalog and used my micro cassette 
recorder along with a sketch pad to fill in areas specific to my interests. 
The recorder was invaluable as I found that I could verbally describe 
things faster than I could write. When there are many people trying to see 
the items it is sometimes difficult to spend a lot of time at very close 
range so the recorder right next to your mouth (thus you don't have to 
speak loudly and disturb others) works very well. When I was making my 
notes into the recorder I made sure that I noted information about the 
piece e.g. exhibit number, title etc. so that when I was transcribing my 
notes when I returned home I could link up my notes with the exhibit 
catalog.  Therefore it is really an extension of the catalog, tailored to 
you special interests in the exhibit.

I hope this helps some. I guess the bottom line here is that there is 
probably not enough time ever to do the V&A justice but I recommend that 
you spend all the time you can spare there. I would also recommend that you 
check them out on the web, see what exhibits will be there when you visit. 
That way you can do as much homework as possible before you go and maybe 
save yourself some valuable time.

Good luck and enjoy. It is truly a wonderful experience!

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