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Autumn 2014 will see the opening of the Weston Cast Court (193 objects) whilst in early 2015 the Europe 1600-1800 Galleries will open. The latter is a space which encompasses period rooms, a new art installation together with a redisplay of some of the V&A’s finest examples of period furniture, metalwork, paintings, leatherwork (Smith) and other decorative arts: a total of 1080 objects. Within both projects the emphasis has been on the cleaning and preservation of original, delicate, decorative surfaces. In 2013, having identified specific cleaning challenges across the Department which could not be resolved by our existing palate of techniques, Richard Wolbers was invited to give a bespoke Masterclass in the use of gel systems to extend the treatment options. These techniques are now embedded into all the different specialisms; Thackray illustrates their use on the metal mounts on historic furniture, whilst Hackett applied them, with excellent effect, to historical shoes being prepared for ‘Shoes: Pleasure and Pain’ (June 2015- January 2016).

Sharing the developing conservation story through blogs and short videos has become an increasingly important part of public engagement, particularly in the lead up to the opening of new galleries and exhibitions. Conservation blogs capture the public imagination. 'Uncovering Michelangelo's David' by Johanna Puisto brings the viewer literally face to face with this sculpture during its conservation whilst ‘Here Come the Brides’ by Keira Miller shared preparations for the major fashion exhibition ‘Wedding Dresses’ 1775-2014. Within the first two months this blog received 16,000 visits, with many people declaring they would certainly be coming to see the show after reading it.

Work for these two FuturePlan projects has provided work-based learning experiences for conservation students and research collaboration with several universities and other museums; students from the Courtauld gave up their Easter holidays to clean parts of a painted room designed by Clerisseau (Richardson et al) whilst the RCA have used their state-of-the-art 3D printing processes to make moulds from which to cast new ceramics pieces to replace the missing areas of a huge and stunning table fountain (Ramakers and Jordan). Shipping in a Calm (Rutka) is a remarkable forensic consideration of original artist’s techniques, the impact of the ageing process on appearance and the ethical dilemma of how far to modify the original to reinstate the aesthetic intent. Karen Jensen, ICON HLF intern, did commendable and invaluable work supporting the Furniture conservation team in the preparation of ‘Small Stories: At Home in a Dolls’ House’ which opens at the Museum of Childhood in December 2014. Students from UCL and City and Guilds of London Art School worked with Sarah Healey on the investigation of original surface finishes on the plaster casts. To all these students (and others who are not specifically mentioned here), I extend our sincere thanks for their invaluable contribution to the delivery of the V&A’s Public Programme. Special thanks also to the Clothworkers’ Foundation for their ongoing support for the succession planning for portrait miniatures (Derbyshire and Button).