Secrets of the Museum – 2.1 expanded

Digital Media and Publishing
July 21, 2021

Another series of Secrets of the Museum – and another group of posts that help to expand on what you might have seen while watching. This time the programmes are available in full on BBC iPlayer, so of course you can rush ahead if you prefer, but if you’re enjoying the look behind the scenes of the V&A, then I hope there are things here that give a little more information about the work that goes on behind closed doors.

Suit worn by Jim Lea of Slade, 1970s. Museum nos S.166:1 to 3-2020 © Image Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The programme starts with a new addition to the Theatre and Performance collections, a suit worn by Jim Lea of Slade (the outfit apparently comes complete with shoes). As Geoff Marsh notes, one of the challenges for the museum around stage costume is that it’s inherently workwear – designed to be moved in and used. But it’s also often flamboyant, extravagantly decorated and constructed in fascinatingly complicated ways. In this film from our YouTube channel you can see the lengths to which our Conservation Team works to prepare costume for display in the galleries.

For the next few weeks (until 8 August 2021), you can see the Renaissance Watercolours display featured next in the programme. Elania Pieragostini carefully describes how watercolours can be part of an artist’s working process – and how looking at them can bring us closer to an artist’s intention. But the display also highlights the many other ways in which Renaissance artists used watercolour – from manuscript illuminations to capturing the natural world. This slideshow lets you explore some of the displayed works in much greater detail, and this video has more on the wider themes. Elania also contributed to the book published to accompany the display.

Kimono: from Kyoto to Catwalk celebrated kimono as the ultimate sartorial symbol of Japan, from the 1660s to the present day. The exhibition is now closed, but just after the first lockdown, curator Anna Jackson worked with us to create a series of films that give you a personal tour, room by room, of the show.

The final object featured in episode 1 was Michelangelo’s wax model. In June last year, as the temperature rose, a team went in to the museum to check on the welfare of a group of objects that are vulnerable to heat, and this blog post explains their work. As you saw, wax sculptures have to be monitored carefully during the hot summer months. To ensure we can protect it for generations to come, the model in Secrets is taking a break in our cold stores away from the summer heat. It will be back on display this this autumn when it’s cooler.

In the meantime, you can find out more about our Sculpture collection online – and there is more from curator Peta Motture on wax models here:

Finally, it seems very noticeable that the museum feels a little quiet in the recordings. I’d like to say a ‘thank you’ to all the colleagues that made the programmes possible – particularly to those who are now former colleagues.

About the author

Digital Media and Publishing
July 21, 2021

I am Head of Content at the V&A, working across publishing, the website and video.

More from Tom Windross
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