By Stuart Frost
There is a vast amount of work taking place behind the scenes to ensure that the new galleries are ready to open in November 2009. The project architects, MUMA, are about to commence detailed design. Curators at the V&A are researching the objects that will form the new displays and entering the information into the Museum’s digital collection’s database. Some of the curatorial team have even begun to write their object labels. The graphic designers, Holmes-Wood, are working on the gallery panel, object label and subject text formats. These are just a few examples of the diverse range of work that is underway away from the public gaze.
There is major construction work involved in creating the gallery spaces. Before building work can begin the areas that will become the new galleries need to be cleared of objects. This is an enormous task. The removal of objects needs careful planning and highly specialised skills, especially when many of the artefacts are large architectural pieces. The V&A is fortunate to have a very experienced team of technicians, conservators and curators.
Some objects are so large that it isn’t practical to move them. The roodloft (or choir screen) in Room 50 is a good example. This vast piece of architecture was once located in a cathedral. It is adorned with a variety of finely carved sculptures, including figures of saints and four smaller figures who are holding shields once painted with heraldic devices. When the object came to the V&A it was first located in the Cast Courts. Click on the image above for a better view of the roodloft in its previous location at the Museum.
Some of the figurative sculptures will be removed temporarily, so that conservation work can take place, and also so that they can be stored safely during construction work. Once the sculptures are removed the rest of the object will be enclosed with protective hoarding. Scaffolding was recently placed around the roodloft as part of this programme of work. This gave the team here a rare opportunity to view the sculpture up close. It also allowed several of us to climb up onto the platform on top of the screen, and to assess the condition of the set of candlesticks which were originally attached to the balustrade. The image on the left shows staff taking the opportunity to view the object more closely than is usually possible.
I’ll provide a further update about work-in-progress on this object in next week’s blog entry.
Find out more information about the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries Project