Secrets of the Museum is a six-part BBC Two documentary about the V&A, showing the work of the museum’s curators and conservators. It is available to watch for free on BBC iPlayer, in the UK, and while the museum is closed due to Coronavirus, watching the episodes and clips below is one small way to get your museum fix. Of special interest to textile enthusiasts is episode one, covering both the care of a perennial favourite from the V&A Museum of Childhood, Pumpie the Elephant, along with a look at the preparation for the Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition.
Pumpie, as he is known, was made in 1890s for the children of the Cattley family, Maud, Donald, Constance, Helen and Gilbert, who lived in Ealing. The children were all born in Estonia, then part of the Russian Empire, to a British merchant. Due to age and moth damage, Pumpie needed significant restoration by conservator Jo Hackett, who stabilised him so that he can be enjoyed by more generations of children.
Episode three includes the acquisition of Quant objects for the museum's recent Mary Quant exhibition, which was helped by the public #WeWantQuant campaign, and the conservation team’s work on a 19th-century jama. They carefully clean and repair the jama – a style of garment worn by men in India for centuries - which is embellished with gold and pieces of jewel beetle-wing cases. The garment needed delicate conservation before it could be put on display.
Image: Lace dress labelled 'Mary Quant’s Ginger Group', 1964, UK. Museum no. T.58-2018. Given by Jenny Fenwick.
Episode five features a mysterious Louis Vuitton trunk, owned by American socialite Emilie Grigsby (1876 – 1964). Emilie’s dress collection went to the V&A in the 1960s, and includes garments made by some of 20th century fashion’s biggest names.
Watch the series on iPlayer.