Behind the scenes: The technical services section

Installing a bust in the sculpture gallery

Installing a bust in the sculpture gallery

Display

The Display Team undertakes the movement and installation of museum objects. A technician from the team will be appointed to lead a job. These can vary from the removal of objects for photography, to taking an object to be conserved, to the installation and deinstallation of a major exhibition. Jobs can be quite complicated, especially when they involve the movement of heavy, fragile objects within a large and complex building, so there is often a lot of planning required.

The lead technician produces method statements and risk assessments that detail the installation process for each object, identifying potential problems, equipment, time and the number of technicians needed. Major installations may require not only the Display Team but draw on the manpower and expertise from other members of Technical Services as and when required.

Packing & Transport

The Packing and Transport Team focuses on the safety of artworks coming into or going out of the museum. The Packing Team assesses objects to ensure they receive the right amount of protection for their journey. The variety is enormous, from delicate terracotta sculptures travelling to America to a drawing in a simple frame going to a London gallery.

For a V&A exhibition, loan objects can be delivered to the museum by art transport companies or they can be collected by the Packing and Transport Team. The objects come from a variety of locations such as private lenders, small businesses, artist studios and other museums.

If an exhibition is travelling on to other destinations, V&A objects must be prepared for transportation. Crates are ordered to specification and then fitted out for the individual object. Risks are minimised to the objects by noting vulnerable areas, for example old breaks and repairs which are still inherently weak, and providing adequate insulation and shock absorbency.

Installation

The Installation Team produces a range of high quality bespoke joinery work including mounts, cases, frames and display systems. As well as a joiners' workshop there is a metal workshop, a paintshop and mill, where raw materials are cut to size, moulded, rebated, planed and bevelled as necessary.

The team leader liaises with exhibition designers, interprets their drawings and produces working drawings which offer design solutions to mounting and display problems. He/she schedules a programme of mount making according to when the objects will be available and when they are scheduled to be installed in the gallery.

Tools, materials, products and manufacturing suppliers are sourced and access to objects is arranged so they can be assessed for customised mounts to be made. Work can also be sent out to external manufacturers depending on workload, resources and degree of specialisation.

Cleaning & Storage

The technicians within these four teams come from a wide range of backgrounds and are trained in the use of a range of specialist handling and access techniques and equipment such as aluminium scaffold, stacking and reach trucks. They receive specialist object handling training so that they develop a clear understanding of the wide variety of objects they are called upon to work with.

A gift in your will

You may not have thought of including a gift to a museum in your will, but the V&A is a charity and legacies form an important source of funding for our work. It is not just the great collectors and the wealthy who leave legacies to the V&A. Legacies of all sizes, large and small, make a real difference to what we can do and your support can help ensure that future generations enjoy the V&A as much as you have.

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Event - Portrait Photography

Sat 09 August 2014 10:30

PRACTICAL WORKSHOP: Improve your portrait photography skills and explore a range of technical and artistic approaches to portraiture.

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