The secrets in the Cast Courts
One of the joys of working in the Cast Courts at the V&A, is the opportunity to examine the casts up-close. Surprisingly many of them conceal peculiar items which have been hidden inside them for a very long time.
The items we find consist of, fragments of cleaning materials, notes, bits of litter, signatures with dates, and were left behind by our predecessors, who looked after the casts, in the past. Some of the discoveries we find, date back as far as the 1870’s when the galleries were first built, and others go back to the 1980’s, when the last renovation was done.
Hundreds of craftsmen, have over the years, put their stamp on the galleries by either refurbishing their interior, setting up fixtures, installing and dismantling the casts or cleaning them, like we do now.
The signatures and dates are hidden on a number of casts, as well as the fabric of the building, including some of the cornices just below the glass roof. The names and dates are highly significant, as they give us a time line of who worked in the galleries and when, and what was done to each object.
We also come across crumbled-up newspapers which our forerunners tucked behind or inside objects. The newspapers inform us when the objects were worked on, and they also give us a fascinating insight into what types of newspapers the workmen read.
The items we discover are often covered in dust, dirt and cobwebs, and newspapers particularly, can be extremely fragile to handle. They can easily disintegrate at a slightest touch.
We also stumble upon discarded sandwich bags, sweet wrappers, cigarette packages, and cigarette butts which give us an insight into our predecessors eating and smoking habits.
Other things we have found include old coins, maps and bits of paper, which tell us interesting things about the museum’s past.
Finding a newspaper dating back to the Second World War or an empty bag of biscuits tell us about life in the museum during hard times, and gives us an insight into what it was like to work in the galleries during the blitz.
If you are curious to find out what else we have discovered, then tune in to the earlier posts: