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V&A announces plans for new Photography Centre and expansion of its photography collection
Arrival of the RPS Collection at the V&A © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

LONDON.- Today, the Victoria and Albert Museum announced the expansion of its vast 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.

Through its FuturePlan development project, the V&A will establish a new Photography Centre, creating a new public space to celebrate, appreciate and study photography. Due to open in Autumn 2018, it 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. The Photography Centre will also facilitate exciting events and activities. 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.

Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A, said: “Photography is set to become one of the defining collections of the 21st century V&A. 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.”

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.”

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 integration of the RPS collection with the V&A’s photography holdings unites precious objects, such as William Henry Fox Talbot’s first cameras with his handmade prints and 1844 publication, The Pencil of Nature. Julia Margaret Cameron’s camera lens joins her entrancing photographic portraits and letters, while Frederick Scott Archer’s glass-plate camera is reunited with the photographer’s prints. The V&A’s new Photography Centre will showcase these historic stories as well as many modern and contemporary images.

When not on display, photographs from the V&A’s collection can be accessed in the Prints & Drawings Study Room. Professor Elizabeth Edwards, renowned historian of photography and anthropology, has recently been appointed Andrew W. Mellon Visiting Professor at the V&A Research Institute (VARI). In September 2018, the V&A and Royal College of Art (RCA) will launch a new history of photography course as part of the History of Design MA programme.

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