V&A backtracks on chronological restructuring

7 April 2021

Last month, the V&A announced a major curatorial restructuring of its collections as part of its efforts to cut costs by at least £10m annually. The plans, which would largely have seen the collections organised chronologically rather than by material, have now been scrapped.

The V&A has traditionally organised its collections by materials and its curatorial expertise reflects this history. The restructuring announced in March would have seen the European and American collections organised into three new chronological departments: medieval to late 18th century, 19th century to 1918, and modern and contemporary. Another department would merge the Islamic Middle East and Asia sections with a new team dedicated to sub-Saharan Africa and African diasporic art.

Now, the V&A has said that the proposal has been revised and that its consultation period would be extended. A statement reads: “As part of the ongoing consultation process with V&A staff and trade union representatives, we have shared an updated proposal that retains and reforms the V&A’s materials-led approach, creates three new curatorial departments by bringing existing departments together in addition to a department for Asia, delivers the agreed savings, and builds a structure and vision that will connect with the audiences of tomorrow.”

A museum spokesperson added that while the curatorial teams will still be restructured, the materials-led approach will remain.

Disegno’s editors discussed the restructuring and its implications in episode six of its podcast The Crit.