Saturday, April 3, 2010

Victoria and Albert Museum

Sooner or later I think, if you are interested in needlework, you become interested in fashion, clothing and costume if only for the embroideries that decorate them. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has studied Italian needlework quite extensively and is a great resource for printed material in English on the subject, though you may have to dig around a bit to find it. I have never been to the museum itself though I have talked to those who have: they describe it as utterly amazing. I believe it. If you search Youtube, there are various videos about the museum and it's projects. Some made by visitors, others made by the museum itself.

The museum bookstore has some of the most beautiful publications. I only have a couple of them, but many more are on my wish list. At Home in Renaissance Italy by Marta Ajmar-Wollheim and Flora Dennis is a particularly good one with a section on textiles and clothing which features some excellent colour photographs. In truth there are embroideries and textiles scattered throughout the other sections too. A detailed summary catalogue lists everything they know about the pieces shown. There are also many plates of paintings which depict clothing and therefore show decorative embroidery.

On the museum's website, you can search the collections for Italian pieces. For example, inputting "embroidery Italy" or "lace Italy" results in many pages of results with photos. Clicking on an image that interests you brings up a pop-up window with minimal information like the date, place and maker but also two important links: 'view details' and 'add to order'.

'View details' brings you to a page with all the known information regarding the piece and the option to zoom in closer to look at the photo. Sometimes there are other photos of the same piece with details of the needlework. You can download a .pdf page with all the info contained on the page for future study, or explore related subjects by clicking on links provided on the bottom part of the page. There is a place to click for a summary, more information and even a map to show you where the place of origin is located. From this page you can order a high resolution photo of the image but you can also do that by clicking on 'add to order' from the previous pop-up window. Signing up for an account is free, and you can then download high resolution images to study. There are some limitations on the amount of images you can download per session, and there are some use and licensing restrictions. However, if you just want to study a piece close-up for your own interest, this is a great way to do it for those who cannot get to the museum itself. Images are available for download within 15 minutes of ordering, just refresh your order page in your browser and after a few moments a link will appear and you can download the image.

Best of all: it costs nothing!

1 comment:

  1. O-o-o! Thank you very much for your so detailed practical advice! I never tried button "Download image" because I thought, that to get free hi-res-images from VAM - this is too good to be true :)))
    I rarely use VAM-site - their pictures are so small and poor except very few of them! And now I can get much better pictures free...
    Just now I have tried and I get MUCH larger photo of delicious piece of old embroidery. Thank you!!!