Secrets of the Museum – 4 October 2021 – 4/10/2021 – BBC Four

Series 1 Episode 5 of 6 – Inside every museum is a hidden world, and now, for the first time, cameras have been allowed behind the scenes at the world-famous Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Only a quarter of the museum’s objects are on display to the public – the rest lie deep in the stores. Now, after decades at the same site, the museum’s stores are being relocated to a brand new, high-tech home. It’s the job of curator Jane to make sure the 3,000 costumes in the Theatre and Performance collection are fully catalogued before the move.

First on her list is a costume specially designed by Bob Mackie for Elton John’s Jump Up tour in 1982. She also unearths dresses worn by usherettes at the premiere of The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night in 1964.

Meanwhile, hidden in the stores is one item that has been lying dormant for decades and that has now been summoned to star in a new sci-fi exhibition. Frankenstein’s Monster is a rare survivor from one of early cinema’s greatest movies – The Bride of Frankenstein. Curator Keith needs to find out if Frankenstein can be brought back to life. After a series of X-rays, it seems the 85-year-old monster is held together only by a few rusty nails. And Frankenstein’s clothes – originally worn by actor Boris Karloff – have seen better days. After weeks in conservation trying to breathe life back into this six-foot monster, Frankenstein’s future looks uncertain, and Keith is faced with a difficult decision.

An unusual item has been spotted by curator Lucia – a vintage Louis Vuitton trunk that came to the museum merely as a container for a number of haute couture dresses and was then put aside. Lucia is curating a new exhibition called Bags: Inside Out and wants to unlock the trunk’s secrets. She discovers that it was owned by one of America’s most famous mistresses, a woman named Emily Grigsby, who spent millions of her lover’s money on a lifetime of adventure. Curator Lucia believes the trunk deserves its rightful place in the V&A archive.

The V&A holds over a million precious books, from illuminated manuscripts to first editions. Many of these are loaned out to exhibitions around the world, so every effort is made to keep them in pristine condition. One of the most important books in the collection is an original Shakespeare First Folio. It’s been requested for a new exhibition elsewhere, but before it can leave the building, it’s the job of paper conservator Ruth to ensure the tiny tears in the 17th-century paper are repaired.

The museum’s enormous stores contain many extraordinary collections, but one of its most prized is a treasure trove of early photographs. Curator Kate is interested in photographs taken by Lewis Carroll for a new exhibition about Alice in Wonderland. The Alice of the book was based on a real person, and now Kate has invited in her great granddaughter, Vanessa Tait, to help her chose photographs of her great-grandmother for the exhibition.

About Secrets of the Museum

Secrets Of The Museum invites viewers into the hidden world of the Victoria and Albert Museum, going behind the scenes at the world-famous home of art, design and performance.

This show is broadcast on BBC Two, also known as the British Broadcasting Corporation.

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