Explorations of historic and contemporary materials for an effective surface treatment for plaster casts to minimize risks from soiling and incorrect relative humidity

Sarah Healey-Dilkes and Mariam Sonntag


The V&A Museum has two historic galleries built in 1873 to display the Museums large scale works of art and architecture. These spaces were known as the Architectural Court and showed original works alongside plaster casts. Following a 10 year phase of refurbishment to the Galleries and conservation work to the casts various deterioration patterns were realised and subsequently plotted across the Cast Collection. Preliminary work was undertaken to identify and understand the complexity of the materials present and record the interactions of these historic materials with the environment of the Gallery. These findings were considered in our publication for AIC meeting 2020.

The casts were fabricated from composite materials, variable gypsum plasters with sometimes multiple layers of paint and mutable surface coatings. This paper forms a second part to our conservation work in which we undertake to further characterize the historic materials undertaking and sharing material trials and field tests which illuminate the behavior of the materials and assist in further understanding the interactions with the plaster and environment. We hope this will allow us the knowledge and experience to develop compatible surface coatings for vulnerable plaster surfaces.

2021 | Virtual | Volume 28