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The Analysis of Cleaning Protocols for Plastics in the V&A Collections

Figure 2. Polystyrene samples being loaded into the ToF-SIMS machine for analysis

Anna L Fricker Research Postgraduate, V&A and Imperial College London The issue of plastics conservation is one that has been highlighted in this journal several times over the last twenty years and has most recently focused on the need to look at a proactive approach to the care of polymeric artefacts1. As part of this […]

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Caring for Plastics – An intern’s reflection on the conservation of modern materials

Part of the ‘Plastic Teaching Collection’ held in the Conservation Science Laboratory

Mark Kearney V&A HLF Intern   Since 2006, The Institute of Conservation and Heritage Lottery Fund (ICON-HLF) funded internship scheme has been providing valuable opportunities to those wishing to join the conservation profession. The internships have provided two indispensable career-building ingredients to those entering the field – professional, real-world experience, and funding, in order to […]

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More Than Meets the Eye: Transformers, me and the MoC

Ironhide, the Autobots' second in command, shown transformed with his 'battle sled'. Museum no. B.105-1994, Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Transformers are alien robots hailing from the planet Cybertron, a metallic world riven by aeons of civil war between Heroic Autobots and Evil Decepticons. The differences between these two factions are absolute: Autobots are peace-loving, kind and curious about humanity; Decepticons are bellicose, authoritarian and contemptuous of other lifeforms. Transformers came to Earth by accident: […]

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New acquisition: Storm umbrella


Umbrellas have been used to keep dry since distant antiquity, their basic shape has not changed a great deal throughout history. During the course of my research I found that each year, on average, around 1000 new patents are registered worldwide for ‘improved’ umbrella designs. New designs can include improved, stronger rib technology or alterations […]

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Dirt off your shoulder…

Close up on dust

One of the great challenges in museums is keeping the collection clean once it’s on display – dust & dirt are our number one enemy! This isn’t a new problem either, as far back as the mid 1800’s museum professionals have been worried about what the local environmental conditions were doing to their collections. Michael […]

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A very brief history of staying dry

E.1240-1931 Poster No Wet - No Cold; 'No Wet - No Cold'. Colour lithograph poster with a stylised graphic design of umbrellas, advertising the London Underground Railways. Designed by Manner and issued by the Underground Electric Railways Co. of London, Ltd., 1929. Manner Underground Electric Railways Co. of London, Ltd. London 1929 Colour lithograph © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

As I said in the first post, to stay dry is a very human wish (unless of course you subscribe to the ‘aquatic ape’ theory put forward by some natural historians); so how did people keep the rain off in the olden days?     There is evidence that aboriginal Americans were the first true […]

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Raspberry Pi Project – 1st video


Last July I wrote about our project using a raspberry pi and its camera module to track the decay of a plastic handbag. The project has been running for about 4 months now and we complied the first video not so long ago. To be honest we were more than a little nervous about this […]

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Mini Post No.8 – Ghosts of Logos past

One of the 1st Laptops used in the conservation science section of the museum - A Toshiba t1600

As part of my internship I have been repeating and expanding on some of the experiments into cleaning that they did during the POPART project. One part has been repeating experiments on real-world objects that have a surface texture – more on that in a later post though! The unusual object I’ve been using to […]

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Mini Post No. 7 – Using a Raspberry Pi to watch a handbag decay

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.

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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Vivier Party Plastic

Pair of shoes, Roger Vivier for Balenciaga, ca. 1967, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

These shoes were acquired by the Museum in 1974 as part of an evening outfit, and had been displayed in 1972 with that ensemble in Cecil Beaton‘s groundbreaking V&A exhibition ‘Fashion: An Anthology‘.     What’s interesting about them is the innovative use of materials and the co-ordination, materially and stylistically, with the rest of […]

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