Conservation

With contributions from all sections of the Department, we intended to highlight current projects and research carried out by the Conservation Department at the V&A, including work on exhibitions and displays currently on show at the Museum and touring throughout the world.

The Conservation Department is responsible for the preservation, conservation, investigation and display of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s collections, ensuring that they are safeguarded for present and future generations. Combining expert knowledge of science, the history of materials and techniques and practical proficiency, underpinned by scientific analysis, staff carry out research, assessments and practical conservation treatment on objects.

In addition, Conservation staff interpret the processes of deterioration, and evaluate provenance, authenticity and the restoration history of V&A objects. The Department consists of ten studios and four Conservation Sections (Paper, Book and Paintings Conservation; Sculpture, Metalwork Ceramics and Glass Conservation; Furniture, Textiles and Fashion Conservation, and Conservation Science). It covers all collections held by the V&A, including the Theatre and Performance collection, the Archive of Art & Design, the National Art Library and the Museum of Childhood.

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The dress in textile conservation before any investigation.

Conservation of a Vionnet Dress: Treatment begins…

The dress appears much dirtier in the bright conservation studio than in the dark store!  The beginning stages of any treatment is to assess the object thoroughly, through looking, taking photographs and taking patterns and measurements.  A more detailed treatment plan can be formed.  Any testing and material identification can be carried out at this […]

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Tartan: Its Journey Through the African Diaspora

Our  Collaboration The exhibition ‘Tartan: Its Journey through the African Diaspora’, opened with a BANG last Monday 4th August 2014 at Craft Central Gallery in Farringdon, London. Colourful Caribbean dancers, Caribbean and African musicians and a superb Scottish piper celebrated the exhibition opening in a most stupendous fashion. Sun and rum welcomed the guests, as did Designer Laura […]

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Dress, designed by Madeline Vionnet, 1937. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Conservation of a Vionnet Dress

This beautiful dress was designed by Madeline Vionnet in 1937 and was given to the V&A in 1968 by Cecil Beaton. It will be on display in the Horst: Photographer of Style exhibition, due to open in September 2014. The dress will be one of 9 other examples of French couture from the 1930s, reflecting […]

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Swirls of colour under the micoscopeshows Constable's alla prima technique. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Constable sketches up close and personal

Our dynamic Paintings Conservation interns, Arabella and Morgan have been lucky enough to work on some of our Constable oil sketches this week for the upcoming Constable: Making of a Master exhibition. We’ve posted recently on our discovery of an unknown Constable sketch that was hidden by an old lining, so of course preparing the rest of the sketches for exhibition gave Arabella and Morgan another […]

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So what are you doing with a science degree in a design museum…

At the very beginning of my internship I posted (in rather mushy way) about the FTIR machine that we have here in the lab. We have quite a good setup here and over the past number of months I’ve been trying to take every advantage I can to use it. FTIR stands for Fourier Transform […]

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A Spring Cleaning in Paintings Conservation

This week’s guest post, written by Arabella Peaver and Morgan Wylder, describes the conservation of a painting by John Frederick Herring. With only a few weeks until the V&A’s Constable exhibition opens to the public, some of the Constable paintings normally on display in our paintings galleries will be relocated to the exhibition. This offers a great opportunity for us to have some […]

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The current setup for a long duration time lapse. Its hoped that we might gain some insight into the decay rate by recording the progress over the next 6 months or so.

Mini Post No. 7 – Using a Raspberry Pi to watch a handbag decay

So a while back I posted an image of one of the plastic handbags we have here in the Conservation Science Dept. We use these non-museum objects as sacrificial lambs in the aid of heritage science. We have a second handbag that has started to dramatically decay. As we will use any excuse here in the […]

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Mini Post No. 6 – How safe are your photographs?

So I have been researching about Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) over the past while and I came across this lovely example in the lab of the major danger associated with PVC. Many of us have our family photos kept in ‘plastic’ photo albums – most of these are going to be made from PVC. The biggest […]

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Analysing Chinese Export Paintings

The V&A’s Conservation Science department has been working on a collection of Chinese export paintings, looking closely at the materials that the artists used and trying to uncover the secrets of an important part of the history of Britain in China. Sonia Bellesia, former intern in the Conservation Science section explains more… Originally sold as souvenirs to Western merchants […]

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Mini Post No. 5 – Storing the samples we analyse

We collect a lot of samples during the year and these days we store them in little plastic resealable bags or if they are really small we put them in clear gelatin capsules… But back in the days before plastic (and in an era where more people smoked!) we used matchstick boxes.  

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