Ceramics Collecting and the V&A: the Debt to Geology by VAMuseum


Susan Newell outlines the largely forgotten history of a key part of the ceramics collection that was transferred to the V&A from the museum of the Geological Survey in 1901. Called the Museum of Practical Geology, from 1851 this museum occupied grand purpose-built premises in Jermyn Street and housed the national collection of rocks, minerals and geological models. The collection was also designed to instruct visitors about the economic uses of geology, so objects demonstrating the industrial end products of raw materials were also displayed. As part of this scheme, ceramics were acquired to show the applications of different clays. Contemporary sources will be used to evoke the early geological museum before exploring its remarkable range of ceramics. Unlike other collections in the early Victorian period, (public and private), it embraced all kinds of clay products from elite historical and contemporary ceramics to ‘ordinary’ wares and those serving the needs of the rapidly expanding metropolis, such as bricks and tiles. The Museum of Practical Geology’s ceramics collection was a reflection of the scientific nature of the unique institution in which it was embedded.

This talk took place on Wednesday 3 May 2017.