Secrets of the Museum

Secrets of the Museum is a documentary made by Blast! Films for BBC Two. It goes behind the scenes at the V&A – showing the work of our curators and conservators – alongside our preparations for exhibitions and acquisitions.

The films explore the variety of the V&A's collections, and the complexities in preparing them for display in our galleries. UK audiences can see the programme on iPlayer here.

The third series, now available to watch in full on BBC iPlayer, takes viewers out of London and across the V&A's family of museums and partner institutions – from V&A Dundee, and V&A Wedgwood Collection in Stoke-on-Trent, to the development of our new sites V&A East and Young V&A. It also follows objects on loan to Blackpool's new Showtown Museum and traces new acquisitions back to their creative origins. Series highlights include the installation of a section of Robin Hood Gardens, a monumental brutalist housing estate, at V&A East Storehouse, and the acquisition of Kenneth Grange's archive.

Head to our blog to read more about series three.

Curator looking at paintings in the museum stores
Secrets of the Museum (Blast! Films) starts 8 pm, Thursday 7 April, BBC TWO.

The first episode of series 1 traced the care of a perennial favourite from Young V&A, Pumpie the Elephant, along with a look at our preparation for the Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition in 2019.

Pumpie the Elephant was made in about 1900 by the children of the Cattley family, who lived in Ealing, West London. He is currently dressed as a sailor in dark blue wool, and his jacket is decorated with brass buttons – but he has several other outfits for dressing up, including a kilt and a green velvet jacket. He was clearly played with a lot, but has also been attacked over time by moths, and the film traces Pumpie as he is carefully prepared for travel to an exhibition at the Wellcome Collection.

Series 2 returned with an investigation into a possible thumb or finger print of the Renaissance master Michelangelo. Found on a 500-year-old figurine, made as a study for a much larger sculpture planned for St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, which in the end was never fully completed – the mark suggests the physical presence of the creative process of an artist.

Other highlights include the acquisition of two items of major contemporary fashion resonance: a Molly Goddard dress (similar to ones worn by Jodie Comer in Killing Eve, Beyoncé in Black Is King and Rihanna) and JW Anderson’s crochet cardigan worn by Harry Styles, which sparked a global crochet phenomenon after it was duplicated on Tik Tok by a social media influencer in LA.

The second series also featured this three-dimensional peony brooch, made by jewellery designer Cindy Chao.

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Every object tells a story, and each programme follows the V&A’s experts at work. Many of these objects are fragile, and most are extremely rare, presenting new conservation challenges at every turn. Told through the day-to-day lives of our dedicated and world-class team, the hidden history of each object is uncovered, from how it was made and why it matters, keeping these stories alive for future generations.

Exploring further

We would be thrilled to welcome you to see the objects shared in the series. Not all of the objects featured in Secrets of the Museum can be shown in the galleries at all times, and for the latest updates please check Explore the Collections.

To accompany each episode, there are updates on our blog, highlighting ways to continue exploring objects and exhibitions featured.

"A stately, fascinating new series rummaging through the treasures of the Victoria and Albert Museum".

The Daily Telegraph

"Prepare to sigh at the Victoria and Albert Museum’s heavenly constellation of sparkling jewels … in another delightful episode"

Radio Times