The Art Newspaper, February 26, 2021
“The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London will undergo a radical restructuring across its curatorial and research departments in order to reduce costs by at least £10m by 2023 in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. It will also cut dozens of positions across the museum, including some of its curators, bringing the total number of job losses since September 2020 to 140 out of a workforce of 980.
The “mother” of decorative art museums all over the world, the V&A was founded in 1852 and originally called the Museum of Manufactures because it aimed to provide manufacturers and craftspeople with examples of good design for them to emulate, which is why its collections have traditionally been divided up by materials (woodwork, metalwork etc) for ease of consultation.
The proposed overhaul breaks with this approach by creating three new cross-disciplinary, period-based departments for the European and American collections, divided chronologically: medieval through late 18th century; the 19th century to 1918; and Modern and contemporary. Born-digital art, design and performance will also be added as a new area of focus. Another department will be created that covers sub-Saharan Africa and African diaspora art, design and performance and the Asian collections. Material specialisms will be retained across the new departments. “The proposals will enable new, collaborative ways of working and will strengthen our areas of expertise in national collections,” adds the V&A spokeswoman.”