This gallery re-opened in 2007 with new displays of European and Oriental fans. The rotating displays include other delicate objects, such as English needlework, Japanese lacquer boxes and tsuba - or sword fittings - made of ivory.
This is one of the few areas in the museum where access for wheelchair users is difficult. The windowless gallery was created in the 1980s (with the help of the Great Britain-Sasakawa Foundation, amongst other donors) out of a former storage area underneath the staircase. Due to the fragile nature of the works on display - lighting and temperature are carefully controlled.
Most of the fans are from the great Messel-Rosse collection, purchased by the museum in 1985. The majority are exquisitely decorated folding fans with leaves of skin, paper, or silk.There are also brisé fans, made of ivory or wood, and fixed, or screen fans of feathers, buffalo hide or copper.
The needlework includes early samplers bequeathed by J.W.L. Glaisher, who also donated his ceramics collection (Gallery 27). Embroidered samplers
(from the Latin ‘exemplum’) were made by very young girls as a means of learning and recording complex stitches and patterns. Alphabets and inscriptions combined teaching of embroidery with basic literacy skills.
These samplers are also valuable in that they represent high quality work in the museum collection by named children. Until the late 19th century, children as young as 6 were employed in many aspects of the decorative art industries - such as painting on fans, porcelain and pottery.