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Sandra Smith
Head of Conservation


Sandra Smith

2012 brings to the V&A a new Director, Professor Martin Roth, and a change in emphasis for the Conservation Department. With a firm vision that there should be a strong, peer relationship between conservation, research and curators, he is already encouraging more active involvement in scientific research and collaborations with external partners. Whilst this role (Gatley, Borges) together with academic understanding of the collections (Heath and Burgio, Macaro) has always been a part of the departmental work, it is likely to have a greater emphasis in the future.

The year has been as busy as ever with the Department continuing to deliver all work required; 35 loans of over 17 objects, 7 large exhibitions (Jordan and Rosser-Owen), 10 gallery projects, 45 displays and 40 touring exhibitions (27 international and 13 UK) (Murray and Wills, Rose and Mifsud) which draw in new audiences and continue to refresh and revitalise the Museum. Delivering this workload whilst also undertaking work on the core collections (Desmond) has required innovative and creative thinking to increase staff capacity through the use of students, interns, volunteers and the continued development of skills through the ACon programme (Joliffe, Smith). Relationships have developed with conservation training courses and we now offer the opportunity for students to work with us on a regular basis, sometimes weekly as part of their course, to develop a greater understanding of museum work. With some projects there has been an opportunity to draw together students from several courses; the result has been the development of relationships between peers which we hope will be of value to them throughout their careers (Chisholm).

During the year, several reviews have been undertaken within the Department: a review of the Science Section re-emphasised its unique role in deepening the understanding of the collections and, reducing risk to them (Pretzel et al); a departmental skills matrix reviewed current skills, identified transferable skills (Jensen) and determined new skills to be developed for the future, such as photography (Fleury) and modern furniture (Wadewitz).

A restructuring and renaming of the Division now means The Conservation Department is part of the ‘Conservation and Collections Management Division’ and the Conservation Admin Section becomes part of a larger centralised team. The Admin section has been invaluable in supporting the conservators and scientists by undertaking work that is not treatment-based, such as maintaining the website, running the interns programme, purchasing and procurement and Health and Safety. Whilst we will still have access to their expertise, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge their tireless commitment and thank them for their unwavering support over the years.

I would also like to thank Louise Egan, Production Editor for the V&A Conservation Journal since 2007, who stood down from this role mid year. Her rigour and clarity ensured quality both in the content and the production of the Journal and has enabled the smooth transition of the new Production Editor, Cherry Palmer, whom we welcome to the editorial team.