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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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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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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