Centralising museum collections

By | Category: Travel rumblings
Bradford's National Media Museum

Bradford’s National Media Museum

This week is the very first National Museums and Wellbeing Week, which will run from 29 February until 6 March.

It seems appropriate this week then to look at the decision by the National Media Museum in Bradford to transfer 400,000 of images in its photography collection to the V&A in London.  When the two are joined it will become the single largest collection on the art of photography in the world. The National Media Museum is part of the Science Museums Group which includes the National Railway Museum sites in York and Shildon, the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester and the Science Museum in London’s South Kensington.

The Science Museums Group is, in the words of the culture minister, Lady Neville-Rolfe, trying to “in order to focus its offering more effectively.” In fairness to the minister, she is in not involved nor is the Department of Culture etc. Museums make decisions on their own and the department was only told towards the end of the decision making process. But should the ministry that includes tourism in its brief have been consulted earlier?

My other question is why couldn’t the collection at the V&A be relocated to the National Media Museum in Bradford rather than centralising things in London?

Admittedly the V&A plan to digitise the images it possesses plus the ones from Bradford as part of its planned International Photography Resource Centre. When digitised, the images will be available to anyone wherever they are in the world. When that is the case, for 95% of the population who might want to view the images, it doesn’t matter where they are stored.

On the contrary, museums are part of the tourism circle and encourage people to visit areas of our countries; they provide employment which tourists help support by their visits and they encourage scholarship in areas that might not have any without those museums.

According to the minister when answering a question from Lord Greaves in the House of Lords, Bradford City Council and the Royal Photographic Society were consulted. But did they consider the tourism angle or only that of rationalisation?

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