Blythe House Archive
Our last class visit was to the Blythe House Archive, which is part of the V&A. This is where they house the Beatrix Potter and other children’s lit archives. They also keep the archive of art and design here. First we learned about the history of the building. It was built in the 1900s as a bank, and was the headquarters for the post office. Since the 1970s, it has been split between 3 museums to use as storage for collections. The Archive of Art and Design was set up in 1978. More design programs were being established and there was no access to the archives. Most of the collection is 20th and 21st century British art and design works because that is what was available to them at the time. They still collect some archives- about 5 to 15 items per year. Most acquisitions are gifts because they have a limited budget. They don’t normally take loans. Next we heard about the Beatrix Potter collection, which is the largest in the world!! They have 2,000 Beatrix Potter memorabilia, including original artwork since 1902. My favorite piece was an 1879 sketchbook of flowers and animals. Beatrix was 9 years old at the time! They always have a rotating collection on site at the museum. Next we heard a really great talk from Andrew Wiltshire. He told us about the personal connections between Beatrix Potter and Leslie Linder. Linder is the person who discovered the code that uncovered the secret diary the Potter kept. Part of the strange connection was that Linder and Potter both came from well-to-do families. This allowed Potter to spend her time writing and drawing, and allowed Linder to spend 10 years trying to crack Potter’s code.