This morning, a moving company loaded our London belongings into a shipping container. For the next month we will be traveling while our stuff makes it’s way to our home in Seattle.
Since we decided to move back to Seattle from London, my sightseeing to-do list has become an imperative. At the top of the list has been scheduling a date at the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Prints and Drawings Study Rooms.
The Victoria and Albert Museum of art and design (V&A) is a monument to humanity’s creative efforts, and for nearly two years it has been a short tube ride from my home. I have gone there numerous times, but never feel I have seen all that is on display. I always look forward to discovering something new.
Scheduling an appointment was much easier (and less intimidating) than I expected. Rather than surly guardians of culture, the staff are like friendly librarians. I was afraid that I had waited too long and there would be no sessions available for months, but I got an appointment for the following week. The hardest part was deciding what to request out of the some 750,000 objects in the museum’s prints and drawings collection.
There were five of us waiting at the assigned meeting point outside the V&A National Art Library entrance that morning. We were led by a museum guard through a cordon into a wing of the museum usually closed to the general public.
We trailed behind the guard through hallways lined with boxes and filing cabinets, past offices and copy machines. We rode an elevator and climbed three flights of winding stone steps worn down to a curve from decades of traffic. The old plaster walls were chipped where displays had once hung.
The circuitous journey seemed designed to make sure we could never find our way back. One of the others in the group said something about leaving a trail of breadcrumbs.
The study room itself is large and bright with several long tables. We checked our belongings into lockers before entering. Pencils, paper, computers, phones and cameras are allowed. NO pens.
The first item I had requested was waiting for me. The staff demonstrated how to properly handle the artwork. At first I was afraid to touch anything, but they assured me that the items could withstand my gentle examination.
Thus began one of the highlights of my time in London.
I spent the morning looking at an original textile design by C.F.A. Voysey,
a box and sketchbook of Randolph Caldecott drawings,
and an incredibly beautiful pencil and watercolor “dummy” for A Baby’s Bouquet by Walter Crane.
I refreshed myself with lunch in the William Morris room in the museum café
and repeated the convoluted journey back to the study rooms to continue with sketches for Winnie The Pooh by E. H. Shepard,
and drawings by Arthur Rackham.
Whenever I go to the V&A, I feel happy and excited, but this day was special. This was a Thrill. I couldn’t get over the fact that, not only did I have the opportunity to look closely at drawings by some of my illustrative heroes that are rarely seen, but I could actually touch their work. It was amazing. I was on a high. For the next three days, anyone I spoke to heard all about it.
But that is all I will tell you for now. This is a teaser of sorts. I will continue this post in five weeks when it’s my turn again. By then I will be back in Seattle (just barely). In the meantime, you can peruse the 1,165,712 objects and 624,590 images from the V&A’s full collection online. Have fun!