Since December I have been volunteering on Monday’s at the V&A, which has been an amazing experience and taught me huge amounts. This week, however, has been a little different – I am part of a volunteer group at the V&A working on the ‘Rolled Storage Objects’ in the prints and drawings department. Its currently stock take week for the libraries so all of them are closed for the next two weeks and they have taken the opportunity to sort out a small collection of rolled pieces that have been in a cupboard untouched, in some cases for up to 100 years!
As you might imagine, it has been fascinating – we have already uncovered a collection of William Morris wallpapers that the V&A didn’t realise they had prints of. The idea has been to get all the pieces out and flatten them through humidification and make any repairs where necessary. As many conservators will know, this always takes longer than expected, as the repairs are always worse than one might think, and the collection larger than previously thought!
I have a few pictures of one particular piece that I have been working, which was really interesting. When unrolled, there were about five or six charcoal drawings, as can be seen here, all grubby, curly and damaged – so we set to work – cleaning both sides and putting repairs on the verso, which in some cases were tears going all across the page. Then we found out that the drawings were study cases for some of the sculptural work of the building itself – Amazing! The sculpture form is called Sgraffito, and originally would have been white lines carved out of black (a bit like scratching colours through a black was crayon drawing!). So dutifully we then went and had a look at the side of the building where they were, and there is was, the piece I had been working on – inscribed in the wall for the past 100 odd years – AMAZING!!