When the BBC & V&A’s landmark documentary series Secrets of the Museum first aired in February 2020, little did we know that the last episode would coincide the museum closing its doors as Covid-19 hit.
Over the past year, we have welcomed the cameras back inside the museum to film a new series, taking viewers behind the scenes and bringing the magic of the V&A to life once more. I’m delighted the second series of Secrets of the Museum will start to air on BBC Two at 20:00 next Tuesday, 20 July 2021. For those who can’t wait for each weekly instalment on TV, all six episodes will also be available as a boxset on BBC iPlayer.
Last year was one of the most challenging in our history, as the V&A closed to the public for longer than any other period since our opening in 1857. Filmed during the global pandemic, series two was made through repeated lockdowns and strict social distancing measures, yet as I watch it, what strikes me is the warmth, dedication, resilience and care that our wonderful staff show to both the objects and those around them, and the ability of the arts and culture to bring people together, spark joy, and help us make sense of the world around us.
Just as with series one, the stories behind the objects are told by those working with our historic and contemporary collections from curators to conservators, exhibition managers, designers to museum technicians, and many others. This time around you’ll get to see the team solve the mystery behind a 20th-century Thai Buddhist painting, and uncover a possible thumb or finger print of the Renaissance master Michelangelo on one of his wax sculpture models, shown on camera for the first time. The cameras will also take you inside preparations for our All Will Be Well installation, where you’ll hear from the children whose inspiring pictures of rainbows made at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic joined our collection – with some help from the public. You’ll also go behind the scenes of Alice: Curiouser & Curiouser, one of our most theatrical exhibitions to-date, to see how our interactive Mad Hatter’s Tea Party installation comes to life, dreamt up by theatre designer, Tom Piper.
During this new series, you’ll follow our fashion curators as they acquire a dress by Molly Goddard, the same design worn by Beyoncé in her visual album Black is King, as well as JW Anderson’s crochet cardigan worn by Harry Styles. The cardigan generated a global crochet phenomenon after LA-based TikToker Liv Huffman made her own version and started the home-made craze during the first lockdown.
You’ll also meet our oldest teddy bear Little Tommy Tittlemouse. At 111 years old, he stands at just five inches tall, and you’ll see him prepped ready to move out of the Museum of Childhood as the museum embarks on an exciting redevelopment. We also hear from Yvonne Brewster, one of the founders of the UK’s leading black theatre companies, Talawa Theatre Company, as she looks back at its formation and the challenges faced by young black actors in the 1980s and 1990s as a poster of her production Smile Orange goes on display in our Theatre & Performance galleries.
Throughout the pandemic, so many of us felt the importance of culture and creativity to bring joy, inspiration and connection with one another, and craved the physical experience of being in a museum, gallery or theatre once more. As the world starts to reopen, and our galleries are filled with visitors, we’re delighted that we can bring the V&A to you, wherever you are – and hope that our stories, objects and experts will inspire a visit to the V&A in South Kensington or Dundee in the months to come.
We’ll also be taking you behind the scenes and bringing the series to life online, and would love you to invite you to join the conversation on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and the V&A’s blog over the next few weeks as we reveal more about museum life and the making of Secrets of the Museum. We hope you enjoy the series!