The V&A thinks selling coffees is more important than their Theatre Collection. Let’s tell them they’re wrong.

This is important.

Those of you who remember the wonderful Theatre Museum in Covent Garden will know what a terrific archive of all things theatrical – from costumes to scripts, advertising to music, and everything theatrical in-between, covering centuries of the world’s most celebrated theatrical successes. When the Museum was forced to close, the collection was entrusted to the V&A who gave a solemn undertaking to protect and enhance the collection, which they have done. Until now.

Now the V&A want to abandon the collection. Under new plans, two thirds of the staff will be axed, greatly reducing access to the collection

Many people remember the horrendous advertising campaign from the 1980s which described the V&A as “An ace caff, with quite a nice museum attached.” That sort of philistinism has sadly raised its ugly head again.

SIBMAS has started this petition because performing the UK’s unique arts heritage is at serious risk.

SIBMAS is the International Association of Libraries, Museums, Archives and Documentation Centres of the Performing Arts. SIBMAS is an ITI-UNESCO supported organisation. (www.sibmas.org)

The UK has an extraordinary theatre and performance heritage. The performing arts objects, archives and library cared for by the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) represent the largest and most important resource in this area, supporting scholarship and learning, providing enjoyment and inspiration for countless people around the world.

The V&A have decided to close the department of Theatre and Performance as part of a massive organisational remodelling of the structure of the museum moving into a new structure. This will have a disproportionate and devastating effect on these collections and on the pool of knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm that underpin them and help to make them accessible. 

They need your help to not only protect jobs at a time of great uncertainty for libraries, archives and museums, but also to support the vital role that heritage collections play in the cultural sector.  At a time, when the Performing Arts have been so badly damaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, this national collection should be given more support to protect the past and record the present in order to inform future generations. This is a serious threat to the history of the British live performing arts. The collection is a vital educational and research resource on an international level.

We call on the V&A to reconsider the scale and scope of its poorly thought-out proposals and to consider in particular the following The unique place that the V&A’s theatre collections have in the landscape of theatre research, public engagement with the history of performance, and the creative industries. 

The collection’s international status and its remit to collect for the nation, acting in effect as the national collection of Performing Arts for all of UK. 

The central place that librarians and archivists and their skills and their commitment play in relation to these collections and the damage to their professions worldwide.

The need to maintain open access to the collections rather than simply put them into storage, against many wishes of donors who have left their collections in safe keeping to the V&A.

The lack of public or stakeholder consultation about the proposed changes.  

When the Theatre Museum was closed by the V&A in 2007 staff, public, donors and the creative industries were assured that the department would flourish in its new home. The V&A is in danger of breaking that promise.

We ask senior management of the V&A to reconsider the position of the Theatre & Performance Department before they rush to close the archives and library and make responsible staff redundant.

An internal consultation runs until the end of March. If they get their way, then we are a few short weeks away from untold damage being done to UK Performing Arts heritage and the loss of many jobs which carry with them great specialisms and expertise which will all be lost forever if this senseless cull goes ahead.

Your help by signing this petition will not just help to protect the jobs of specialised and dedicated staff during a time of great uncertainty, it will also protect access to a world class archive for future generations, to enable our great history of world-leading performing arts to be shared with future generations. Do nothing, and it will be lost forever. If your child or grandchild ever in the future wanted be be a researcher, writer or academician in the performing arts, not supporting this petition will deny them their passion. Could you live with that? Sign.

Sign the petition and support the Theatre Collection here


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.