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Editorial Comment - Conservation Journal 56

Sandra Smith
Head of Conservation

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Sandra Smith

Welcome to the first edition of the annual, full-colour V&A Conservation Journal. The Journal has changed in content to reflect the length of time between editions. It continues to represent the day-to-day activities of the Conservation Department in relation to priorities created by the Victoria and Albert Museum's strategic plan and the Government agendas that underpin it.  In the Journal, our aim is to highlight aspects of the Department's activities:

  • Practical conservation
  • Research
  • Changes and developments in practice/policy
  • Communication
  • Training and education

Brief articles have been solicited from each of the conservation studios, the Science Section and the RCA/V&A Conservation Programme. The intention is that some of these will be augmented through the Conservation pages of the V&A website where links to further information or related subjects can be explored (Campbell). Whilst the Journal still contains a staff chart, readers are encouraged to use the website for the most up-to-date staffing list and to access new staff and student biographies, feedback from interns and placements and other current news. The Journal continues to contain timely articles relating to current exhibitions such as Hartog's on the preparation of the Dior dress for The Golden Age of Couture exhibition (the exhibition will also go on tour). The work for V&A FuturePlan projects, such as the preparation of collections for the forthcoming Medieval and Renaissance galleries (Kerr), and the Ceramics galleries (Ramakers) is also illuminated.

Making our expertise available to a variety of audiences and providing access to the decision-making process is thought provokingly explored by Kemp in his article on ethics, whilst Battisson highlights the importance of guidelines for good practice in preserving and copying original digital and other time-based media within the collections.

During 2007, the Museum's public programme has seen the Department involved in 13 gallery projects, 19 exhibitions, 26 displays, 14 touring exhibitions (at 24 different venues)  and over 100 loans resulting in over 6000 objects being assessed and treated by the Department. Eatman and Rutherston explore changes in conservation practice within their particular areas of expertise, resulting from the need to increase the efficiency and speed with which we prepare collections for the public.  Other departments, namely Collections and Technical Services, have also contributed articles to provide a broader Museum perspective and examples of collaborative problem solving for mounting collections quickly (Lambeth and Brown). 

Staff have continued to work alongside students to undertake research on the V&A collections (Schellmann, Tallian and Derbyshire) and to collaborate with other external institutions to deliver research on preservation and care which has the potential to benefit collections across the world (Strlic). The Department's other research activities have included: providing speakers for external conferences; co-hosting the ICON Textile Group Spring Forum: Dress in detail; and organising an international conference, Plastics: Looking at the Future & Learning from the Past, the preprints of which should be published in 2008. Concurrently, money has been secured for Christine Powell and Zoë Allen to write a book on the technical aspects of Renaissance frames, due to be published in 2009. The output of the Department this year has been formidable in every area and my thanks go to all members of the editorial team as well as the authors for their contributions to this successful production of the first annual V&A Conservation Journal.