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Secrets of the Museum – BBC2

Pumpie Secrets of the Museum
(Image credit: BBC/Blast Films/Rob Farquhar)

BBC2’s fascinating new series Secrets of the Museum follows the work of experts preserving the past at London’s V&A Museum

Museums aren’t always full of ancient artefacts and dusty old relics, as we see in BBC2’s new six-part series Secrets of the Museum.

At London’s V&A, Kylie Minogue’s 2007 Wembley dressing room has been preserved as a time capsule.

This episode takes an intimate peek at this personal realm of the pop icon, and its contents.

We also see other glamorous items, including more than 170 dresses by Christian Dior, including some designed for Rihanna and Nicole Kidman.

Behind the scenes is an army of experts, curators and conservators, all beavering away to restore wonders large and small in a bid to bring the past alive.

The series also allows us to take a peek at some of the treasures that have been in storage.

It also reveals the expertise and craftsmanship that goes into conserving, cleaning, mending and displaying some of the museum’s two million works of art and design.

Here, three of the experts guide us through three gems featured in episode one…

Kylie Minogue’s dressing room from her 2006-2007 Showgirl: The Homecoming Tour is particularly poignant.

This tour was the singer’s first after her breast-cancer diagnosis in 2005, when she had to cut short a previous run of shows.

‘There was such a feeling around this tour,’ says the V&A’s rock and pop curator Vicky Broackes, who looks after the 226 objects in the room to make sure they’re standing the test of time.

‘I met her in her dressing room.

‘She’s a real person with shoes on the floor, costumes hanging up and things that looked like they’d been pulled out and put back again!’

Dior dress Secrets of the Museum

Conservators work on a classic Dior dress in Secrets of the Museum on BBC2

Some of the items need painstaking restoration.

Pumpie the toy elephant (pictured top) was homemade from odds and ends around 1900 by a west London family, the Cattleys.

He’s now missing an ear, his trunk is loose and his stuffing is coming out.

However, conservator Will Newton hopes Pumpie can be made presentable enough to go on display.

‘He has signs of damage and he’s been attacked several times by moths!’ says Will.

‘But he’s a real star of our collection.’

One tiny, exquisite likeness of an 18th-century aristocrat, painted on an ornate gold and enamel snuffbox, has seen portrait specialist Charlotte Johnson turn detective.

She seeks to establish the woman’s identity so she can feature it in a book on miniatures.

‘It’s one of my favourite objects in our collection, but we don’t have much information about it,’ says Charlotte.

‘I really want to find out more about who she is!’

For full listings, see our TV Guide.

TV Times rating: ****