Five-inch-tall little Tommy Tittlemouse is 111 years old and for 50 of those years he’s been on display and looked after by curators at the world-famous Victoria & Albert Museum.
In the latest OU/BBC co-production and second series of Secrets of the Museum, we see the teddy bear undergoing a ‘condition check’ before being packed away into temporary storage as the V&A’s Museum of Childhood in east London gets a refit.
He’s just one of two million items that the V&A harbours and is part of a range to feature in the latest six-part series, which airs on BBC2 on Tuesday 20 July at 8pm. It follows the popular and successful first series, which hit the small screen in February 2020.
Viewers will get to see the restoration work carried out on two attention-grabbing stage costumes: owned by singer Shirley Bassey and Slade’s Seventies glam-rock bass player, Jim Lea.
In addition, we are treated to a unique behind-the-scenes peek at the curators’ work in restoring, conserving and condition checking the wide-ranging historical artefacts this world-famous museum looks after.
Other episodes feature a rare set of Lucian Freud prints and an interview with his daughter, Bella, who shares personal insights into how her father worked; plus examining the red despatch box that once belonged to former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, to make sure it can withstand months on show in the limelight.
Professor and Head of Art History Leon Wainwright, is an OU Academic consultant on the series with colleague, Senior Lecturer, Dr Clare Taylor. They are part of a subject team that deliver modules and qualifications, from undergraduate to postgraduate and doctoral degrees, in Art History and Visual Cultures. Prof Wainwright said:
“The V&A is a vast repository of the many varieties of cultural materials that have shaped our world.
“As a museum of art and design, it allows us to experience and understand visual, material and spatial culture from around the globe: a rich collection that includes ceramics, glass, architecture, theatre and performance, sculpture and painting, furniture and jewellery.”
One of the episodes features the work that goes into setting up the new blockbuster exhibition on Iranian art, including 10-metre long replicas of the painted interiors of mosque domes from central Iran.
“We get to explore the emotional connections felt by curators, conservators and exhibition designers as they handle objects, such as when preparing items before they travel on loan.
“The processes of conservation and exhibition can throw up serious and exciting challenges, with time pressures and unstable and fragile materials.
“In all this, staff demonstrate great care not just for objects in the collection, but for the historical past and how it is remembered and interpreted in the present day,” added Professor Wainwright.
Alistair Pegg, Director of Programmes of Blast! Films, the production company behind the series, said: “The steadfast academic support provided by The OU on Secrets of the Museum provides real rigour, and helps to guarantee that our content is as accurate as possible. The team always offer insights that can take our thinking in new directions.”
The OU has more students studying on Art History modules that any other UK university.
This series was commissioned by Broadcast and Partnerships and is supported by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, with particular relevance to R27 BA (Hons) Art History and Visual Cultures and R14 BA (Hons) Arts and Humanities
- Commissioned by Dr Caroline Ogilvie, Head of Broadcast & Partnerships
- Academic Consultants Dr Clare Taylor and Professor Leon Wainwright
- Media Fellow Dr Joanna Paul
- Broadcast Project Manager Clair Robinson
- Digital Content Producer Alison Tang
Visit our Broadcast pages where you can find extensive resources and information on topics related to this series, including an updated Can you be the curator? interactive, where you can try placing a range of objects in the correct place in the V&A museum.
If you are interested in studying art history, visit the links below.
R14 BA (Hons) Arts and Humanities (Art History) (qualification)
Main image: Copyright Blast! Films