The V&A in London has announced plans for a new photography centre, and the expansion of its collection of historic and contemporary photography, with the transfer of the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) collection from the Science Museum Group.
The addition of over 270,000 photographs, 26,000 publications and 6,000 pieces of camera-related equipment reinforces the V&A’s position as one of the most important photography collections in the world.
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The V&A’s newly combined photography collection charts the invention and international development of photography from the early 19th century to the present. The RPS collection includes:
- 270,000 photographs, including the world’s earliest photographic images made in the 1820s, unique daguerreotypes and pioneering colour photographs
- A mile-long library of books and j0urnals
- Cameras and equipment associated with leading photographers
- Work by British pioneers including William Henry Fox Talbot, Hill & Adamson, Roger Fenton and Julia Margaret Cameron
- Major holdings by international artists such as Alfred Stieglitz, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Gertrude Käsebier, Paul Strand and Ansel Adams
- Contemporary photographs by leading British photographers, such as Sir Don McCullin, Martin Parr and Mark Power
The new V&A photography centre
Due to open in Autumn 2018, the new photography centre at the V&A will be accompanied by a Museum-wide photography festival and a new digital resource for photography enthusiasts around the world.
The creation of the Photography Centre will see the V&A more than double its current photography display area in original nineteenth-century picture galleries by 2018. Designed by David Kohn Architects, it will allow the V&A to display a larger number and range of photographs, negatives, camera technology, books and archival materials than ever before.
Phase two of the project will expand the gallery space further and provide a teaching and research space, a browsing library, and a studio and darkroom to enable photographers’ residencies. New purpose-built storage facilities have been created to house the expanded photography collection, and an extensive project to catalogue and digitise the RPS collection is now underway. This digitisation will provide web access and research resources for all audiences and photography lovers around the world. The Museum will also continue its programme of major photographic exhibitions at the V&A and other venues in the UK and overseas.
When not on display, photographs from the V&A’s collection can be accessed in the Prints & Drawings Study Room.
Martin Barnes, Senior Curator of Photographs at the V&A, said: “The transfer of the RPS collection is a catalyst for a dramatic reimagining of the way in which photography is presented at the V&A. It will enable a major expansion of spaces, programme and infrastructure, creating a world centre for our visitors to enjoy, as well as an accessible resource for academic research and scholarship.
"The V&A’s Photography Centre will be one of the few places in the world where a chronological history of the medium illustrated with original photographs, equipment and archive material can always be seen. We want to reach beyond restrictive definitions of photography to embrace the broader cultures of the medium. 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.”
(Images from left - Arrival of the RPS collection © Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Roger Fenton (1819-69) Hardships in the Camp (Colonel Lowe and Captains Brown and George) 1855, Salted paper print © Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Gertrude Käsebier (1852-1934) Portrait of Evelyn Nesbit, 1902, published in Camera Work, issue 1, 1903, Photogravure © The RPS Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) The Steerage, 1907 (photographed); 1915 (published) Photogravure © Victoria and Albert Museum, London/Gift of the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation.