Secrets of the Museum

Secrets of the Museum

Conservator Adriana is cleaning a beautiful sculpture thought to have been designed by the Renaissance master Donatello and produced in his workshop almost 600 years ago. Virgin and Child with Saints and Angels is a work known as a relief, in which three-dimensional elements stand out against a flat base. Once a layer of dirt is lifted, Adriana discovers ancient varnish, which she must remove without damaging the paint surface below. And as she cleans, she makes a discovery about the piece which helps to explain how it was originally used.

Theatre and Performance curator Simon has just taken delivery of a costume from the 2013 stage play The Audience, in which Helen Mirren played the Queen across six decades of her reign. The dress, a regal outfit inspired by a 1950s gown from royal couturier Sir Norman Hartnell, has a secret that explains how Mirren was able to undertake up to ten quick changes each night during the show – it zips up at the back like an enormous coat. After conservator Gesa makes a mannequin in the shape of Helen Mirren on which to display the dress, Simon invites its designer, renowned theatrical designer Bob Crowley, to the V&A for a reunion with his royal creation.

In Devon, archivist Christopher is meeting up with a 91-year-old master of his craft, a man whose creations have made all our lives easier. Sir Kenneth Grange designed the Kenwood Chef, the parking meter, the famous blue-and-yellow Intercity 125 train, Parker pens, and a breakthrough Kodak camera – as well as hundreds of other products – in a career as a designer spanning 60 years. Now, he’s donating the archive of his life’s work to the V&A, and Christopher faces the daunting task of selecting just a few key pieces for a display in the new V&A East Storehouse. Sir Kenneth is also donating his sketchbooks to the museum, containing a day-by-day record of his thinking as he set about creating products that many of us have used for decades.

At V&A Dundee, the team have recruited contemporary artist and designer Yinka Ilori to help them fill the enormous entrance hall at the museum, one of the largest exhibition spaces in Scotland. Yinka, a designer famous for filling public spaces with giant and very colourful works of art, is proposing building a 170 sq metre technicolour maze, for children of all ages, filled with zip-up panels to allow you to slip through from one section to another. But will the result meet with the approval of a focus group of local children?

Secrets of the Museum – Wednesday 8pm on BBC2

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