conservation, treatment, techniques, object
Textile conservators at work.
At work on the conservation of a Ballets Russes backcloth, possibly the backcloth design for the finalé of the 1926 revival of Michel Fokine`s ballet 'The Firebird'.
Use of x-ray
The X-ray is an essential piece of equipment used in conservation. X-ray examination of objects allows increased understanding of their construction and may identify previous repairs.
The Victoria and Albert Museum has two X-ray systems. A 140kv tube is used for the radiography of low-density objects such as paintings on canvas and wooden panels. A more powerful 220kv set is able to penetrate sculptures and metalwork.
Both systems are incorporated in enclosures that comply with the Ionising Radiation Regulations and are monitored for safety on a regular basis.
Correct packaging, mounting and handling procedures reduce risk of damage during movement and display and conservators frequently act as couriers when V&A objects are loaned to other institutions. These aspects of conservation work are known as 'preventive' conservation. They include activities such as controlling the Museum environment (e.g. temperature and light) and preventing pests (insects) entering the Museum. This type of conservation helps to slow down rates of deterioration.
Other treatments come into the category of 'interventive' conservation. They include cleaning and reintegration, to strengthen fragile objects, reveal original surface decoration or technology, and restore shape. Interventive treatment makes the object more stable, but also more attractive and comprehensible to the viewer. It is usually undertaken on items that are to go on public display. Before embarking on any interventive treatment, the conservator carefully examines the object and records evidence of use, manufacture, materials, techniques or design.