We have launched a new website and are reviewing this page. Find out more


Jonathan Ashley-Smith
Head of Conservation

This is probably my last editorial for the Conservation Journal. The notion that the Head of the Conservation Department should write the introduction for each issue started with the first number in 1991. Thirty of the subsequent forty editorials have been written by the Head of Department. Since I have given up that position, it seems reasonable that I should be relieved of the burden of having to think of something to say that is succinct, topical and relevant to the subjects of the articles. The theme of this issue is outreach, and the following contributions describe a few examples of the many ways in which the Department interacts with people who are not members of the Museum staff. The Journal is itself a very successful and cost-effective way of reaching thousands of people around the world. Despite a couple of false starts, we are now very close to making the Journal available on the Web which will further increase its readership and our outreach.

The management restructuring at the V&A, which began three years ago, places the Conservation Department in an organisational grouping of departments whose joint remit is to provide the necessary services that will ensure the delivery of major projects designed to enhance the visitor experience. This renewed emphasis on delivery of gallery and exhibition projects makes it more important to stress that there are ongoing demands from outside the Museum for the skills and expertise of the conservation staff of a National Museum. The Conservation Press is full of encouragement to develop public awareness and public involvement. The criteria for the Conservation Awards make active participation with people other than curators of the conserved object a specific requirement. Yet the number of Museum projects continues to increase and the number of in-house conservation staff continues to decrease. It is far from certain that conservators will feel empowered to develop and strengthen links with interest groups outside the Museum when the pressure of successive deadlines forces them to use up the time they had set aside for this.

I have negotiated my own personal way of achieving greater outreach. After nearly twenty five years as Head of the Conservation Department I have moved to the Research Department at the V&A. My obligations there are to write and to teach. I have a book to write and have teaching assignments in Europe and beyond. I will write articles for future issues of this Journal. So I should be able to contribute to the variety of ways in which Conservation at the V&A reaches the widest possible audience.