Secrets of the Museum is back for a bumper third series revealing the inner workings of the V&A. As well as going behind the scenes at South Kensington, this series takes viewers out of London to see what’s happening across our family of museums – from V&A Dundee, and V&A Wedgwood Collection in Stoke-on-Trent, to our new sites V&A East and Young V&A.
In the first episode, Curator Simon Sladen brings a touch of magic to a new museum in Blackpool, scouring the Theatre and Performance collections to select a stage prop used by the celebrated British comedian Tommy Cooper. Once conserved, the magic flower-pot prop will be loaned to Showtown Museum, just like that! Find out more about our Tommy Cooper collection, which includes a notebook full of Tommy’s gags, posters, theatre programmes and merchandise charting his long career, as well as his iconic fez hat.
Meanwhile, Curator Annemarie Bilclough is off to Beatrix Potter’s Lake District, on a mission to identify a mystery location featured in one of Potter’s early drawings. If you fancy following in Annemarie’s footsteps, without travelling 300 miles, watch our immersive video taking in the sights and sounds of Potter’s beloved Cumbrian landscape.
Potter’s Mrs Tiggywinkle sketch and the 18th-century silk waistcoat which inspired her story The Tailor of Gloucester can both be seen in the exhibition Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature, on now at the V&A South Kensington. For Potter fans, there’s lots more to explore online, including our interactive which lets you turn the pages of her first sketchbook, produced at age eight.
Back in London, Curator Catherine Ince visits Ridley Road Market in Dalston, East London, to meet Melissa Thompson, the sitter in a contemporary portrait by Los Angeles-born artist Kehinde Wiley. Wiley’s work often depicts African Americans, most famously film director Spike Lee and former US President Barack Obama. This monumental painting is now on display in the British Galleries, where it will stay for the next few years, before moving to our new venue in East London. Find out more about the acquisition of the portrait, and about William Morris’ ‘Wild Tulip’ design from 1884, which inspired the background in Wiley’s painting.
From hazardous hats to poison arrows, we also follow the team preparing to move 250,000 objects, along with 350,000 library books and 1,000 archives across London to their new purpose-built home at V&A East Storehouse (opening 2024), in what will be the UK’s biggest ever house move!
The next episode will be available on BBC iPlayer from Wednesday 13 April at 8pm.