Advanced Works Project

August 30, 2017

Early days & Interesting Finds

A blog dedicated to the discoveries and interesting finds during the decant of Blythe House . . .

As most know, the V&A will be vacating Blythe House by the end of March 2023. The Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum Group and the British Museum all store artefacts at Blythe House each needing to plan and prepare their objects to move into new homes by this date. Each Museum is individually planning its own ways to pack and decant its collections. Reviews and audits of collections and non-collections are underway, and the scanning and photographing of material has already started in some areas. Before objects can be moved they all have to be carefully wrapped and packed and the information on our database has to be updated so we have a robust audit trail.

Blythe House and the associated post office were listed grade II in 2004. The V&A have stored objects there since 1979.

For the last 6 months a small team of V&A Technicians, including myself, have begun the lengthy task of assessing objects ready for the move in 2023. Blythe House stores an incredible sum of objects, in terms of style, technique, materials and size. These are the sort of things I am continually thinking about during the decant process here at Blythe.

1930s clerks preparing daily balances when Blythe House functioned as a Post Office

There are many more steps involved than just going ‘from A to B’ to ensure the collections are moved to high standards and with the utmost care. This includes having all digital records up to date and to be fastidious in my object assessments, it’s important to be as detailed as I possibly can be. The decant of the Blythe is a real team effort, which is involving staff from different departments as well as the incredible volunteers.

Blythe House has been a popular location for filmmakers, television shows and fashion photography shoots.

Theatre and Performance

Some of the new hangers volunteers have made for the costumes in Theatre & Performance.

Since the beginning of the Advanced Works project, I have been involved in the packing, auditing and photographing of the extremely varied costume collection in the Theatre and Performance Department currently held at Blythe House. There have been some wonderful objects hidden within the rolling racks and some really exciting finds that I commit to sharing with you via this platform.

Over 800 costumes have now been audited and packed ready for the big move.

As the months have passed by I have become very fond of the objects that surround me in the department. It’s very rare that a day that goes by without learning something new, whether it’s researching theatre genres that were unknown to me, costume making techniques (gunking is a good one!) or standing back in total awe at a costume worn by one of my musical heroes. It is a wonderful collection and I feel lucky to be playing a part in its second big move in the last 15 years.

We have created a small studio to photograph the objects and record them to a high standard. Dress featured is from ‘King Arthur’ S.838-2017 © Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

Fashion and Textiles

The Clothworkers’ Centre at Blythe House, contains hundreds of rolled textiles that are currently being audited and photographed as part of the Advanced Works.
Another notable decant project has been the photography of the vast quantity of rolled textiles in the Clothworkers’ Centre. Each rolled textile is being measured, weighed, condition checked and photographed by the team so it can be linked to the relevant Collections Management System record. It’s a pretty wonderful feeling uncovering a carpet on a roller that has no available dimensions or photography and within a short time of discovery, the object has a face and a name in the digital world that everyone can access and enjoy.

In future posts, I will be giving you a run-through of all the current decant projects happening here at Blythe, showcasing the unique and interesting objects I have discovered in the archives all whilst working towards a substantial decant project that will change the history of the way we preserve and share the V&A’s objects.

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