At Blythe House

Peter Campbell

Blythe House, a late Victorian pile close to Olympia, was built to house the Post Office Savings Bank. It’s now the V&A’s working store for its art and design collections. Tiled corridors and rooms where thousands worked (male and female clerks carefully segregated) are now filled with racks and lined with cupboards. Through glass doors you glimpse recognisable objects: guns, tiles, pots, table lamps – and nameless parcels. Some walls are lined with plaster casts. I saw only one curatorial huddle, but men and women do work here. All that is not being conserved or packed is ordered, labelled, docketed. A visit was possible because until 27 June Blythe House, which usually allows no visitors, is open to anyone who has reserved a place on a tour. Parties of up to seven people are taken to the roof by lift and led back down by way of stairs and corridors to work spaces filled with packing cases and rolls of plastic wrap, to store-rooms with banks of rolling shelving and, finally, to a coal bunker.

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