Museum of the Year

I went to the announcement of this year’s Museum of the Year Award.   Beforehand, the betting had been on the Bethlem Museum of the Mind and the York Art Gallery as very obviously community-oriented, new building projects.   The one place I didn’t expect to win was the V&A, not because it doesn’t deserve it, but because I thought it was too large and too obviously privileged.   I was wrong.   It won for its wonderful Alexander McQueen exhibition, its new Europe 1600-1815 galleries and its pledge to re-open its Circulation Department which existed from its beginning to tour its collection round the country in innovative, small-scale displays which went to art schools and public libraries and was closed down as a result of funding cuts by the Labour Government in 1977.

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7 thoughts on “Museum of the Year

  1. marinavaizey says:

    The Circulation Department at the the V and A; it was not closed down by the government directly, it was a little more complex than that. At that point Shirley Williams was the Minister of Education; both the Science Museum and the V and A were directly funded by the DES and asked to make cuts, as austerity was the order of the day…. Neither had trustees, both had advisory councils. My understanding, and please correct me if I am wrong which I may well be, that the Science Museum cut across the board, but that the V and A gambled that if they offered to sacrifice the Circulation Department, obviously a department that contributed to the cultural good of the country of the whole, that a Labour government would not let them do so; and the gamble failed.

  2. marinavaizey says:

    I forgot to say that the Circulation Department made its own exhibitions and bought material especially for them often in very enterprising and imaginative ways.

  3. It is indeed excellent to hear Marina Vaizey’s voice contributing to your Blog, and David Gordon’s – a real bonus of The Blog.

    And fascinating to read her take on the demise of the Circulation Department. It was a wonderful initiative and if they can revive it well, will be an excellent addition to Regional Galleries and Museums which have been so damaged by the cuts to Local Government in recent years. I tried to revive it when I was the Minister, and failed – neither the Secretary of State nor the V & A at the time was enthusiastic.

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