News on restructuring of the V&A Theatre & Performance Department. 06 April.

April 6, 2021


I would like to supply an update on the SIBMAS campaign to help save the Theatre & Performance Department at the V&A Museum in London. The Director, Dr Tristram Hunt has now written to me and opened I hope a productive dialogue. The V&A management team have not changed their position fundamentally regarding job losses and cuts, but they have dropped their idea to base the new departmental structure on time and geography. Their current suggestion is to have a department of Theatre & Performance, with Furniture, Textiles & Fashion.

The questions raised in the SIBMAS petition signed by 18+ thousand people remain. We are disappointed to see that theatre and performance, which is internationally recognised as a distinct branch of heritage, is still being treated in line with the V&A’s “materials” based approach. Until recently, the performing arts were well understood by the V&A and had their own branch museum. Now they do not even warrant a separate department, despite covering all material types and relying on specialist curators, archivists and librarians working together. We know that this is not an easy situation, but the V&A has a long-standing commitment to document the UK’s rich performance culture. Which is why an urgent and wide-ranging consultation is needed.

We are calling on the V&A to speak to theatre heritage specialists, to the theatre industry and to theatre researchers and educators. I am encouraged by Dr Hunt’s evident pride in the V&A collections: “The role of Theatre & Performance and its peerless archival collection within the V&A is a source of enormous pride and curatorial excellence across the museum and I fully appreciate my duty in caring for this tangible and intangible heritage, which is such an important component of our nation’s creative patrimony.”

We here in SIBMAS are happy to engage in this conversation.

Alan R. Jones
President SIBMAS

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