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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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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Kaleidoscope House – A dolls house for the ‘child’ interested in modernist architecture

One of the nicer elements of my job is the exposure to the wonderfully diverse collection that we have here at the V&A. Later in the year the Museum of Childhood is putting together a wonderful exhibition on Dolls houses. We (my supervisor and I) were asked to consult on one of the more unusual […]

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Mini Post No. 4 – How we prepare samples

The nice people over that the Getty Conservation Institute have just released their new newsletter for Spring 2014. It deals with all things plastic and has a great article on the research they carried out on animation cels from old Disney films. You can find a pdf of the newsletter here. In other news… The science conservation department […]

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Mini Post No.3 – Sometimes we even get to have fun at work…

We had to cool the FTIR machine down to do some analysis… I’ve used liquid nitrogen before, but this never gets old!! In a later post ill speak a little on why we use FTIR so much and how we integrate it into our workflow, but for now, enjoy the video.

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Why conserve Plastics?

So then, Plastics… Why do we need to conserve things that we have been told last for hundreds of years in rubbish dumps? Well it turns out that some plastics don’t last that long at all! In fact rather than thousands of years we can be talking about very short lengths of time. The key […]

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Uncovering Michelangelo’s David

The renovation of the V&A’s Cast Courts has given me the opportunity to study and conserve one of the V&A’s most iconic objects, Michelangelo’s David – albeit in cast form. It’s tempting to think of a cast of a sculpture as something of an inferior copy, but the V&A’s plaster cast of probably the most famous […]

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Mini Post No.2…Preparing samples for testing

Today I tested some of the different ratios of of Paraffin oil and carbon black, a standard soil, that have been mentioned in literature. Once the ideal one has been chosen I can used it in my cleaning experiments. The % quoted in the photo below is the wt% of paraffin oil used.

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Mini Post No.1- How we calibrate our science kit

We calibrated the XRF machine this week – how often do you get your hands on these weird metals… (Every now and then I will do a mini post between the regular, larger posts; normally these posts will be just a photo or a very short piece of writing – they will show more of […]

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