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The museum and the factory: the V&A, Elkington and the electrical revolution

posted on 2023-06-09, 15:06 authored by Alistair Grant, Angus Patterson
Published to accompany the re-opening of the V&A Cast Courts on 27 November 2018, this book reveals a great untold story of enterprise and innovation based on the relationship between the Victoria and Albert Museum, and Elkington & Co., the renowned industrial art and design manufacturer of the 19th-century. The Birmingham-based company pioneered and patented the industrial art of electro-metallurgy to create original artworks, perfect replicas, and mass-reproduced luxury consumer goods that used electricity to ‘grow’ metal into shape at a molecular level. This technological revolution created a profound legacy, which continues to influence the way modern material culture looks and operates today. Elkington’s syntheses of science and art into industrial manufacturing processes revolutionized the design and production, replication and reproduction of precious metalwork, metal sculpture, and ornamental art metalwork. Elkington & Co. gained huge public acclaim at the Great Exhibition of 1851. They subsequently produced artworks and luxury goods, including world-renowned sports trophies like the Wimbledon Singles Trophies, as well as luxury dining services for great steamships and railways, including tableware that sank with the Titanic. Elkington played a crucial role in shaping and building the V&A’s permanent collection from its foundation in 1852 (following the Great Exhibition) until the First World War. The V&A’s collections in turn had a profound influence on Elkington’s output. The great success of their relationship cemented both the museum’s status as a leading cultural institution, and the E&Co ‘makers-mark’ as one of the world’s first truly multinational designer brands. Elkington’s electrical alchemy helped spark the electrical revolution that founded the modern world.


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  • Published


Lund Humphries





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V&A 19th-Century Series

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  • Art History Publications

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