Retrieving the collection from storage for V&A East

September 29, 2021

After months of planning, collating of lists, revisions to said lists and meetings between different departments, August finally saw the retrieval of objects from Blythe House in preparation for installation at the two V&A East sites (V&A East Storehouse and the V&A East Museum).

Blythe House is the museum’s current off-site store for objects, and is currently being prepared for moving to our new store V&A East Storehouse (under construction in Hackney Wick and opening to the public in 2024). Before the objects are packed and become inaccessible at Blythe House as we prep for the collection move, objects that will be needed by staff from around the museum have been moved to South Kensington to make sure that they are accessible for a variety of projects. For the V&A East team this was a crucial step in our planning and preparation for the new sites, and one that has made the whole thing feel a little more real.  On paper it seemed like a simple task: move a given number of objects from one location to another. However, the huge array of objects varying in size, material and fragility, time and space restrictions, and of course residual pressures from world events (left unnamed here) meant that this process was definitely not as simple as it may have first seemed.

One of the great pleasures and privileges of working in the technical services team at the V&A is the hands-on exposure to the sheer variety of objects in the collection.  One day you could be installing a Rodin, the next you are making a mount for Queen Victoria’s pencil case, the next you’re working on a new contemporary installation. The retrieval of the wealth of objects planned for the galleries at V&A East from Blythe House was very much like this but times ten! I see it as a testament to the sensitivity and adaptability of my colleagues that they can go smoothly from packing and moving marble tabletops, to 16th century lace work, to the ubiquitous white plastic garden chair all within the space of a few hours and for everything to arrive safely at the other end.

August now seems like a lifetime ago and now that the dust is settling (metaphorically of course – an important part of caring for objects in our collection is to reduce their exposure to damage and degradation!) it is on to the next stage of preparing for and developing the displays. Below are some photographs capturing the process of packing and moving these objects to South Kensington and give a glimpse of the sheer variety of objects planned for inclusion at V&A East.

A wide variety of objects will be included in the V&A East displays. Here are a selection of the beautiful everyday items designed by Sir Kenneth Grange – Kenwood Mixer, parker pens and shopping basket. © Benjamin Brown
Each object has very specific requirements for packing and transport to make sure that it is kept safe during movement. © Benjamin Brown
A lot of work has already gone into preparing Blythe House and the objects ahead of the move to East London. Some of the packing is almost an artwork in its own right, as you see here, the fragile instrument is packed with Plaztazote to support and protect it. © Benjamin Brown
Some of the objects were easy to track down and pack such as these contemporary pieces by Formafantasma (Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin). © Benjamin Brown
Others required support from the whole team to ensure their safe passage. © Benjamin Brown
Each day was planned carefully, and each week scheduled in to ensure that each van trip was as full as possible as any delay could have a knock effect to all the other projects going on at the museum. © Benjamin Brown

Every department in the collection will be represented at V&A East. © Benjamin Brown
© Benjamin Brown
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