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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Too Petite for Petite: Mounting a 19th Century Corset for Undressed

Marking out the position of the breasts using coloured pins

Costume mounting is the topsy-turvy task of making a mannequin fit a particular object, a job that can often make you feel more like plastic surgeon than a museum employee, as the following post explains… First up on the Undressed costume mounting schedule is this charming cotton corset dating from 1825-35. Don’t be deceived by its […]

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The curious case of the Tibetan skull drum

Detail showing an area of missing decoration © Johanna Puisto Victoria and Albert Museum, London

I was recently asked to work on a very unusual object, which was a 19th century Tibetan drum, made of human skulls. The drum was about to travel to the Wellcome Collection’s exhibition titled; ‘Tibet’s Secret Temple; Body, Mind and Meditation in Tantric Buddhism’. It was highly exciting to work on this loan as His […]

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Seeking missing landscape

Detail of CAI.81 during varnish removal.

Conserving paintings often leads to interesting discoveries, but what I found during the treatment of this painting was a little more (and less) than I expected! The painting in the pictured below,  ‘A peasant driving a laden mule’, by Jan Both, ca. 1645, museum number CAI.81, is undergoing conservation to prepare it for display in the […]

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The Serials: From Harlem to Dickens to Trollope

A Tale of Two Cities

In the last episode I left you hanging – I was on the run with KK pursued by her ex-boyfriend, with a loaded shotgun. He had reason – half his family was running away to England. We –  KK, her three year old son Arrow and I – had sought refuge with the neighbour, a […]

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An iridescent flash of green

IM.89-1930. Green jewels catching the light (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Here in Paper Conservation one of my tasks is mounting some objects from the South and South-East Asia Collections. While preparing to mount some of these items I noticed some unusually bright green jewels in three paintings. Since I had to check these works under the microscope anyway to make sure the paint was stable, […]

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All that glitters – part 3, manufacturing techniques

11 gold thread for blog

The’ bling-ometer’ in Textile Conservation reached new heights last week with the arrival of the contemporary loans from India so it seemed a fitting time to return to the ‘All that glitters’ blog post (part 1 and part 2 can be found here) and complete the story with a look at manufacturing techniques past and present. […]

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Gold, lacquer and mirrors: a figure of the Buddha from Burma

The mask was carved separately and then held in place with nails.

By Adriana Francescutto and Victor Borges, Sculpture Conservation. Here in the sculpture conservation studio, we have recently begun the treatment of an 18th to early 19th century standing figure of the Buddha. It came originally from the Kyaik Than Lan pagoda in Moulmein, Burma. It depicts the Buddha standing on a lotus bud, in a […]

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Slippery Sari Sagas and Delightful Draping


Here in Textile Conservation we are just over half way through mounting the garments for display in The Fabric of India. A few weeks ago, our studio was all a-flurry with the unwrapping of mannequins and the speedy draping of a collection of stunning and vibrant contemporary saris for publication photography. That was by no […]

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Guest Post: Conservation Close-up


Annika Amundson is a student placement in the V&A Textile Conservation Studio, a part of her MPhil course at the Centre for Textile Conservation, University of Glasgow. This week she tells us about the conservation of an embroidered child’s dress in preparation for its display in The Fabric of India. This child’s dress will be […]

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All that glitters is not gold – or is it?

Figure 4
The golden surface of the sandal viewed with the microscope inbuilt in the XRF machine. The laser in the center of the cross hairs shows the exact spot analysed, which is 0.2 mm across

Science meets Shoes. Go behind the scene and find out what we do to our objects before they can go on display. This is the tale of the two Lucias, Lucia the research assistant and Lucia the scientist: together we reveal aspects of our job related to the forthcoming exhibition “Shoes – Pleasure and Pain”. […]

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