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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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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Hilliard. Elizabeth I

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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winter hat 1700 small

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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Merryl wallpaper

Conservation and Mounting of a Chinese Export Wallpaper Panel

Paper Conservators at the V&A are responsible for everything from minute portrait miniature paintings to enormous printed posters. Historic wallpapers also come under their remit, and the V&A has an extremely fine collection. As part of a series of posts on new displays for the British Galleries, Senior Paper Conservator, Susan Catcher explains the processes […]

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tending the hives at V&A

The V&A Beehives

Typically conservators regard insects as troublesome pests that represent a very real danger to the safety of our collections. No-one who has witnessed the havoc that can be wreaked by the larvae of the webbing clothes moth or carpet beetle would fail to understand why the presence any insect in, on, or near museum objects is something to […]

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Company painting_Delhi

Changing Displays at the Nehru Gallery: Conservation of Company Paintings at the V&A

This September, the V&A’s Nehru gallery of South Asian art will be transformed when the current display in the gallery is changed and around 85 new paintings and 20 textiles are installed. The V&A’s collections of South Asian art are the most comprehensive and important in the Western world. The paintings in the collection number some 5000, most of […]

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From Club to Catwalk: From Studio to Gallery

Conservation and costume mounting work on the soon-to-be-open display of Club to Catwalk: Fashion from the 1980s is coming to fruition. Objects and mannequins are making their way from the textile conservation studio to the temporary display space, in the centre of the Fashion and Textile Galleries (Gallery 40). Conservation work and costume mounting began […]

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tapestry  photo call

Introduction to the V&A Conservation Department

Welcome to the V&A Conservation Blog. One of the largest in the country, the V&A’s Conservation Department comprises of more than forty Conservators and Conservation Scientists, who specialise in particular areas of conservation that reflect the wide variety of the collections held by the Museum. There are specialist studios for books, works of art on […]

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The Helmet

The helmet was treated by Andy Thackeray, an intern in Furniture Conservation. He describes his treatment below. – Cracked and lifting lacquer on the iron substrate rim of the helmet bowl, and where lifting from the iron supporting bars of the neck plates (ita jikoro), were consolidated with an application of xylene followed by a 10% solution of Paraloid B48N in xylene. If moving they were clamped either by lightweight clamps or using a shimbari system. Cracked and lifting lacquer on the leather substrate of the ita jikoro plates was consolidated with 10% and where appropriate, 20% Mowilith 50 in …

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