A recent decision by trustees of Britain’s Science Museum Group (SMG) to transfer around 400,000 photographs from the National Media Museum (NMM) in Bradford to the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&H) in London has received outcry from over 80 top photographers, curators, museum administrators, and others, who this week published an open letter in the Guardian, calling the migration “a backward step in our understanding of the importance of visual culture.”
Among the 83 signatories are David Hockney, Martin Parr, David Hurn, and art historian Martin Kemp. The group echoes the concerns many others have voiced since SMG’s announcement, namely that a move to London only centralizes the nation’s art institutions and deprives a small city of a historic trove and cultural attraction.
“Moving most of the museum’s photography collection away from Yorkshire goes against government policy when the museum was opened – to put such facilities outside London – and against the present government’s claimed “northern powerhouse” strategy,” the letter reads.
“A number of us who have deposited our photographs in the museum did so specifically because we wanted our work to be preserved in the north.”
The group also proposed a number of possible alternatives to the plan, including the option to make the museum independent or transfer control to Bradford itself, as the city already “owns the building and has spent considerable sums of money on it over the years,” the letter reads.
The Science Museum Group’s trustees have no plans to change their minds, although they have decided to review 85,000 of the objects expected to move. As The Art Newspaper reported, V&A already has plans to double the size of its currently gallery. In the coming years, it also aims to convert one of its wings into a center dedicated to photography, complete with a library and archive. The transfer of the historic photo collection from Bradford, which is scheduled to occur sometime at the end of 2016, may mean that V&A’s own photography collection will be the world’s largest — another huge draw in London for visitors around the world.
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