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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It’ll never last…. A Ferragamo patent shoe

Written by Sarah Glenn, Textile Conservator This Ferragamo ‘Vara’ pump shoe (T.91-1988) is going on display next year in The Glamour of Italian Fashion: 1945-2014. Ferragamo patent leather shoe © Victoria and Albert Museum, London Made of patent leather in 1986, it has never been worn and has a perspex last (most likely the original […]

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An Unknown Sketch by Constable

V&A Paintings Conservators Nicola Costaras and Clare Richardson have discovered a previously unknown oil sketch by John Constable in the V&A’s collection. The original sketch, ‘Branch Hill Pond, Hampstead’, had been glued to a canvas lining at some stage before it came into the V&A’s collection in 1888, completely obscuring the sketch on the other side. Suspecting that […]

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Play it Again SAM: Replicating Cybernetic Sculpture using 3D Printing

There are a number of examples of sculptures created in the 20th century using synthetic materials that have already degraded to a point where conservation is unfeasible (and sometimes even impossible). This can also be the case where where works have been made with electronic components that have become obsolete and impossible to replace. In these contexts, […]

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Just in time for Halloween: A disembodied skull comes to the studio

The V&A is the world’s leading museum of art and design, and as such, one might surmise that its conservation department would not have to deal with the issues surrounding human remains. That said, the theatre and performance collection at the V&A contains a number of unusual objects, one of them being this somewhat macabre […]

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Working with the British Museum Chinese paintings conservators

Auspicious Visitors:Working with Chinese paintings (with a little help from the British Museum)

Destined to be an iconic exhibition, Masterpieces of Chinese Paintings 700-1900 will open this week to a public eager to see some of the most remarkable examples of Chinese painting from 1200 years of tradition. Detail from ‘Nine Dragons’,  Chen Rong, 1244, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Photograph © 2013 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. […]

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This Week’s Post: Free From Arsenic

It seems that V&A Conservation are in favour at the BBC at the moment. This week, V&A Senior Paper Conservator Susan Catcher is featured on the BBC Four documentary, Fabric of Britain: The Story of Wallpaper, talking about the difficulties (and dangers) of treating wallpaper containing arsenic. Death by Wallpaper? Prior to the late 18th […]

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Seeing the Unseen

Part of a Conservator’s job is to identify the materials used to create objects. One way of ‘seeing the unseen’ is by using X-radiography, which can reveal some interesting things about an object. X-rays can help to identify the construction, manufacturing techniques and materials of an object, which in turn helps to inform us about what […]

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Rubies and Weasel’s Teeth: Reconstructing Nicholas Hilliard

A few weeks ago, the art historian and presenter James Fox (A History of Art in Three Colours, British Masters) came by the conservation department to film a segment for ‘A Very British Rennaissance‘, a new documentary series to be shown next year on BBC 2. He came to discuss the materials and methods used […]

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Bowie packing

David Bowie Is… Moving on.

David Bowie Is… finally closed its doors on Sunday 11 August. By the day of opening back in March, pre-booked tickets had reached over 67,000, and when the doors closed for the last time at South Kensington, a record 311,000 visitors had seen the exhibition. But David Bowie – always an artist to keep moving […]

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Rebinding ‘The Emperor’s Pearls’

‘The Regulations for Ceremonial Paraphernalia of the Present Dynasty’. Beijing, 1772. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London Aside from the titular precious stones, the upcoming Pearls exhibition will also feature a lavishly illustrated 18th century Chinese book. Known as ‘The Regulations for Ceremonial Paraphernalia of the Present Dynasty, the book is known to have been […]

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