Victoria and Albert Museum 維多利亞與阿爾伯特博物館

Science, History and Craft: A Trinity in Support of Conservation

It has been said that a good conservator needs to possess three key skills; an understanding of science, an appreciation of art history and the context of material culture within history and the artistic ability to make skilful conservation repairs. Using examples from various sections of the V&A conservation department as illustrations, this presentation will explore how science supports the work of the conservator in understanding how artworks are made, what they are made from, how they degrade and how best to conserve them for the future. The first example will describe how the analysis of the pigments used to manufacture painted Chinese export silks determined the appropriate adhesive technique to use to repair splits in two eighteenth-century English dresses. The second example will examine the effectiveness of a collaboration between the conservation science department of the V&A, the School of Science and Technology at Nottingham Trent University and the Royal Horticultural Society in a survey of Chinese export paintings that helped our understanding of early trade in painter's materials between China and Europe. The presentation will also cover aspects of the V&A's extensive and ongoing research into East Asian lacquer, focusing on the technical examination of a seventeenth-century kuan cai (Coromandel) screen which resulted in the identification of a previously unknown pigment and helped to inform which course of conservation was appropriate for the screen.

Finally, the presentation will address the various ways that scientific analysis can be presented to the public in order to enrich their understanding of the art on view in the museum.