London – The Victoria & Albert Museum in London houses one of Britain’s most eccentric collections of treasures.
Sits in a room at the Museum of Decorative and Applied Arts Ware’s great bed, a 10-foot-wide four-poster bed that was such a popular tourist attraction in 16th-century England that it was mentioned by William Shakespeare in “Twelfth Night”. a little farther away, a couple nike running shoes are on display.
But during several recent visits to the V&A, as the museum is known, some eclectic displays were off limits. On a Sunday in September, a small sign at the entrance announces that its British gallery has been closed. So were the furniture displays. And so was much of the porcelain collection.
The sign offered no explanation, but a museum assistant said that because the museum had put staff into post-lockdown belt tightening, the galleries were often closed.
“If you want to see something it’s best to call ahead,” she said.
for more than 18 months The coronavirus pandemic hit BritainIts long-term effects on the country’s museums are becoming apparent. Months of closure have wreaked havoc with their finances, and as a result, many museums are expected to be strapped for years.
UK government Handed over billions in financial aid While art venues were forced to close. Still, for many venues, the lost exhibition, gift shop and catering is not enough to fill the gap from income. V&A Almost Lost 53 million pounds, or about $73 million, in the year after the pandemic hit.
Since May, museums in England have been allowed to open without restrictions, and visitors have returned – although attendance at many is not even half pre-pandemic levels.
“We are still seeing the impact of the pandemic,” said Sharon Heal, director of the Museum Association, a trade body. “It’s not normal at all.”
According to research by the association, Around 4,700 staff members have been furloughed In Britain’s museum area since the pandemic began. The Bronte Parsonage Museum, the home where the writer sisters lived, has lost 12 employees in the past year. The Royal Collection Trust, which manages the Queen’s art collection, lost 165 including a surveyor of the Queen’s paintings, a role that dates back to 1625. Last year, due to extensive job cuts at the retail and catering arm of the Tate Museum Group Protest outside Tate Modern.
But it is at the Victoria and Albert Museum that the impact of the pandemic is most evident.
Last August, V&A director Tristram Hunt began planning to save around £10 million, or about $13.7 million, each year. He asked the museum departments to plan a budget cut of up to 20 percent. He also proposed that the curatorial and research departments of the museum be rearranged so that they were not organized by materials such as glass or metal. Instead, they should be arranged according to historical era.
the plan didn’t end well When it became public knowledge in February. A union representing some of the museum’s employees started an online petition against planned change at the National Art Library located in the V&A; A France-based organization representing performing arts museums started another. Academics denounced proposals in newspaper opinion essays and in art publications. Christina J. Faraday, an art historian, wrote in the Daily Telegraph That plans are at the heart of the museum’s identity.
“Tristram Hunt is in danger of becoming the director who found the V&A marble and left it brick,” she said.
Within weeks, Hunt abandoned the plan. Through a spokesperson, he declined multiple interview requests for this article, but in August he told the Daily Telegraph that he could “see the power of their reasoning.” The museum still cut the department’s budget by 10 to 12 percent. And continues to limit the days it is open to five a week as opposed to the seven days before the pandemic.
Even with those shortcomings, museums often do not have enough staff members to open all of their galleries. Of the 166 assistants who guarded the collection before March 2020, only 93 remain. Steven Warwick, a representative for the Public and Commercial Services union, which represents several museum staff members, said assistants must now double the floor space and that it is finding it difficult to deter visitors from “interfering with objects.”
The cuts in other departments at the V&A, like the education and conservation teams, will potentially have long-term effects, according to three former staff members.
Tessa Murdoch, the museum’s former custodian of sculpture, metalwork, ceramics and glass, said the loss of expertise in curatorial teams could hurt the quality of the museum’s exhibition labeling and its ability to process loans. Eric Turner, former curator of Metalworks, said the museum’s curators and conversation workers would be under greater pressure to produce more during the same working hours.
In an email to The New York Times, V&A spokesperson, Phoebe Moore, said that “no areas” of the museum’s curatorial work were at risk. “We do not anticipate any impact on the care of the collection,” she said, adding that some galleries were closed due to “unforeseen levels of illness and absenteeism, not as a result of reorganization.”
“We expect to be back to normal very soon,” Moore said.
Several other major British museums, including the Tate, have said they will now offer fewer temporary exhibitions each year to keep costs down and give visitors more time to watch the show. Moore said the V&A was still working on its post-pandemic exhibition plan, but that its 2022 Show, which includes a major exhibition on African fashion, will proceed as originally planned.
On a recent Sunday at the museum, a handful of visitors said they felt strongly that all of the V&A’s galleries should remain open. “I think England has come out of the pandemic,” said 17-year-old Sofia Viola.
But several others said it seems V&A is doing its best. 58-year-old Farhat Khan, who was visiting the museum with her grandson, said that while she missed seeing some items, the gallery closure did not bother her. “Of course it was annoying,” she said, “but we have to support everyone.”
Adam Melor, 43, expressed a similar sentiment as he stood in front of the Great Bed of Ware with his family. “I’ll come here and keep the museum half open than it was closed,” he said, just before he encountered a blocking barrier, preventing him from seeing more of the galleries above.
“Oh, that’s a shame,” he said. “It’s really good there,” he added with a sigh, as he carried his children in the opposite direction.