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Victoria and Albert Museum API Docs

Page history last edited by Owen Stephens 12 years, 5 months ago

Victoria & Albert Museum API Documentation


Welcome to our API. It is designed as a RESTful interface to our collections and what we know about them.


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Principles and Getting Started



We strongly believe in the URL as interface. It's nice to be able to read a URL and guess what it might bring back

We also believe the URL is a better interface than a complex SOAP or XML-RPC based system for returning data that is generally available elsewhere.


This page.



The first part of the URL indicates the format in which you would like your response


Returns all items in the database (paginated) in serialised JavaScript format


Returns all items in the database (paginated) in XML format. Note this is not yet as fully implemented as JSON but could be useful if your app prefers to consume XML. The JSON contains more of the related information concerning objects.


Using the API in anger


General Keyword Searching

The emphasis on the API is on bringing back Objects from the museum collection.

Everything the API knows about is searchable by keyword. Simply pass your query string to the search interface in the q GET parameter



Keyword searches in specific fields

You can filter your museum object search results by type, people, places. materials, techniques and categories

Object Type and Title

To find necklaces:


Or The Hay Wain


People and Places

Search on a specific artist or maker:


Or items from Stockon


Materials and techniques

Crucial to a museum of applied arts, you too can search on this information. Look for items that are glazes:


Or items made with ivory



Dates and other delights

Why not bring back recent objects?


Or before 1000BC? Note the signed integer indicating a date BCE.


Pre-Roman Greek objects made of silver?


A selection of random* objects associated with wine!


*Not really random but a pseudo-random offset of the results. MySQL RAND() is SO slow.

A selection of nudes, but only those with images available!


Only records with a detailed description



Geospatial search

You can set an anchor point using latitude and longitude to search around, then set a radius within which you wish to search

This returns objects we have succesfully geocoded within a 50km radius of Bruges


You can order your results in ascending order of distance from the anchor point



Full record details

If you like the look of something in your results, simply append the object_number from the fields section of the response to the end of the appropriate URL interface more information


Yes - that's an 'O' for Oscar.

With a museum object, you'll see all the associated people, places, categories, styles and periods, materials and techniques. In short, everything we know about the object usefully split up into separate fields.


Images and Media

We have pre-processed several sizes of images and we make these available at predictable URLs based on the image_id field of image records

Many high-resolution images are available to order for free at http://collections.vam.ac.uk/


Constructing URLS to images

By taking this Museum Object result, and identifying the primary_image_id value, we can make a URL to retreive the image.

        "pk": 7052, 
        "model": "collection.museumobject", 
        "fields": {
            "primary_image_id": "2007BL8769", 

Collection object images are served from this location.


The second part of the URL is constructed from the first 6 characters of the image id.


The final part of the URL is the image id with a jpg extension - at its most simple...



Images Sizes

We have also pre-processed the following image sizes:

Please note that due to the extra-ordinary bulk import of these images, some may not be available. A standard 404 will be returned in these cases.


Comments (1)

Richard Light said

at 10:42 am on Dec 10, 2010

I'm puzzled by the comment that the JSON is more detailed than the XML. An examination of the results suggests the opposite: certainly the XML contains textual info lacking in the JSON. What additional info is found only in the JSON output?

Another question: what is the purpose of the "slug" field? Is it for constructing dbpedia-style URLs, and if so, what form should they take?

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