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Museum invests in science, transfers art of photography collections to V&A

An historic agreement between the Science Museum Group (SMG) and the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) is set to create the world’s foremost single collection on the art of photography, as the National Media Museum launches its new focus on the science and technology of light and sound.

The museums announced that around 400,000 objects from SMG’s three-million-strong photography collection, held at the National Media Museum, will be transferred to the V&A who will combine it with their collection of 500,000 images to create an International Photography Resource Centre, providing the public and independent researchers with a peerless facility to access this consolidated national collection.

The move reinforces Director Jo Quinton-Tulloch’s new focus on STEM (science, technology engineering and maths) at the National Media Museum, heralded by a new £1.5 million interactive light and sound gallery due to open in March 2017.

It also represents a reunion for some of the images, which were once part of a single collection at the 19th century South Kensington Museum before its split into the Science Museum and the V&A.

Jo Quinton-Tulloch, Director of the National Media Museum, said:

“The next 12 months will see the culmination of our shift in focus and the opening of a world-leading new interactive gallery—the result of several years’ work since I became director. Our new mission will concentrate on inspiring future generations of scientists and engineers in the fields of light and sound, as well as demonstrating the cultural impact of these subjects.

“We retain millions of objects in our photography, cinematography and television collections which will help us make these scientific principles tangible and exciting, including hundreds that also have a special significance to Bradford and the region.”

Science Museum Group Director Ian Blatchford said:

“The National Media Museum is shifting its strategic focus to explore the science, technology and culture of light and sound. This re-imagining of the museum is allowing the museum to do even more to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers and to do far more to harness the benefits of being part of the Science Museum Group.”

The transfer of objects will create a comprehensive photography collection at the V&A (including the Royal Photographic Society archive, featuring key historical objects from the medium’s development) with the intention of developing an International Photography Resource Centre to provide access to this peerless national collection.

As part of the agreement, the V&A will ensure that the National Media Museum can continue to access the transferred collections for exhibitions and scholarship. The combined collections will create unprecedented opportunities for collaborative research, programming and education. The V&A is committed to touring and lending its collections around the UK and internationally and over the past seven years, four different V&A photographs exhibition have travelled to 15 locations across the UK including Aberdeen, Newcastle, Coventry, Norwich and Bristol.

V&A Director Martin Roth said:

“The V&A and Science Museum Group have shared origins and uniting our complementary collections will create a peerless historical and artistic photography resource. Our ambitious plans for enhancing digital access, collaborative research, touring exhibitions and creating an International Photography Resource Centre will mean that future generations of visitors and researchers will benefit from these examples of the most important artistic developments in photographic history.”

The National Media Museum will retain collections that support an understanding of the development of photographic processes (the Kodak collection), the ongoing cultural impact of photography (such as the Daily Herald archive) as well as photographic archives that have specific relevance to Bradford (such as the Impressions Gallery archive).

The museum’s increased focus on the STEM agenda has already received support from DCMS (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) and strong local backing, with significant investment in learning programmes by Bradford Metropolitan District Council as well as investment from the Science Museum Group in a new interactive science gallery for families.

In all, this investment amounts to around £2.5 million this year and there will be further investment during the next five years. The museum will maintain its specific interest in film, photography and television, placing particular emphasis on the science of light and sound and the development of technologies in those areas. The National Media Museum will continue to expand its work to become a centre of excellence for engaging disadvantaged young people with science.

The last 12 months has also seen the museum bring new family audiences to science through three successful Contemporary Science Festivals (funded by DCMS and BiS). And in September 2015 the museum was the host venue for the British Science Festival Fringe programme—Europe's longest-standing national event to connect people with scientists, engineers, technologists and social scientists.

Alongside the development of the new interactive gallery—due to open in the spring of 2017—the museum has also used a loan from the Department for Culture Media and Sport to upgrade its digital IMAX theatre, a development that has brought in more than 20,000 visitors since its reopening in August. The museum also plans to create a new permanent gallery to showcase its world-leading science and technology collections relating to sound and the image.


Notes for Editors

The Science Museum Group of four national museums is in the process of pooling collections held across its sites to deliver the highest possible standards of storage—and access—for the millions of historical objects in our care. Our storage site in Wroughton, near Swindon, is increasingly becoming the collection hub for the whole group. However, some individual collections that aren’t currently on display may remain at museum sites based on factors such as local salience, significance and access.

The Group is redoubling its efforts to digitise its vast collections to ensure they reach much wider audiences—adding many millions of virtual visitors to the 5–6 million who currently visit the four museums annually so our objects can be better understood and appreciated by audiences worldwide.

About the V&A

The V&A is the world’s leading museum of art and design, with collections unrivalled in their scope and diversity. It was established to make works of art available to all and to inspire British designers and manufacturers. Today, the V&A’s collections, which span over 5000 years of human creativity in virtually every medium and from many parts of the world, continue to intrigue, inspire and inform. The V&A holds the UK’s national collection of the art of photography, international in scope and ranging from the year of photography’s announcement in 1839 to the present.

Part of the Science Museum Group