The Victoria & Albert Museum Reveals Details of New Photography Center

It will house the collection of the Royal Photographic Society, following its contentious move to London.

Cecil Beaton Queen Elizabeth II, Coronation Day (1953). Courtesy The V&A

The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) has announced that it will open a new photography center in the autumn of 2018. The space will be designed by David Kohn Architects, and will hold and display the V&A’s enormous collection of photographic works, which will also be digitized, in addition to the collection of the Royal Photographic Society (RPS).

Adding the 6,000 pieces of camera-related equipment, 26,000 publications, and 270,000 photographs from the RPS’s collection to the V&A’s already huge collection of historic and contemporary pictures will create one of the most extensive and important photography collections in the world, with work by pioneers such as William Henry Fox Talbot, Hill & Adamson, Roger Fenton and Julia Margaret Cameron; artists like Alfred Stieglitz, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Gertrude Käsebier, Paul Strand, and Ansel Adams.

The center has been on the radar for some time. Last year, the decision to move RSP’s popular, 400,000-piece-strong collection from its former home at the National Media Museum in Bradford, to the V&A in London, reportedly without a consultation with the society itself, caused quite a stir. David Hockney called the move “an act of cultural vandalism,” and more than 80 London cultural figures condemned it.

Nonetheless, the London institution welcomes the addition, and now, the public knows the reason behind the controversial move.

”We have been conserving and interpreting photography since 1852, and we are now delighted to welcome the RPS collection to the Museum. Today, the V&A cares for one of the most important photography collections in the world. We want to share this remarkable resource with audiences and photography enthusiasts on a global scale, both in person and through an unparalleled digital resource,” said Tristram Hunt, V&A director, in a statement.

Established in 1852, the V&A’s collection has developed into one of the largest and most important collections in the world, already standing at 500,000 pieces of work before the addition of the RPS collection.

Martin Barnes, Senior Curator of Photographs at the V&A, says, “We have exciting plans for the combined collections that celebrate the fine art of photography alongside its technology and look forward to working closely with the Royal Photographic Society on this.”

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