Conservation & Preservation

Bayeux Tapestry to be conserved in London?

The British Museum has the space and facilities to restore the embroidery, which is returning to England for first time in 940 years

Bayeux Tapestry Wikimedia Commons

The Bayeux Tapestry could be conserved at the British Museum when it comes to London on loan from France. The museum has the space and facilities to restore the 11th-century embroidery, which tells the story of the Norman victory over the English at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. All conservation decisions, however, will be taken by French experts and officials.

In January, President Emmanuel Macron announced that France would lend the work to the UK. Although he did not specify the venue for the display, it will almost certainly be the British Museum (BM). The question of a loan was first raised a decade ago by the museum’s specialist Michael Lewis, and discussions began five years ago, when it became clear that the Bayeux Museum, where the work is kept, would need to close for renovations. President Macron’s intervention was helpful in securing the loan, as the work is the property of the French state. It was last conserved in the early 1980s.

The BM’s recently built Sainsbury Exhibition Galleries, which have excellent environmental and security conditions, are 70m long, so the work would just fit. Conserving it at the BM would reduce the very slight risks of moving it to another studio. This work would be led by French conservators, with assistance from their peers at the BM.

An international conservation committee is now studying the condition of the Tapestry; its findings are due to be revealed later this year. The display in the UK is likely to take place in 2022 or 2023, possibly lasting for six months. The Bayeux Museum is due to reopen in spring 2024.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper, 299 March 2018