V&A to launch Photography Centre as part of long-term expansion plan

Architectural practice David Kohn Architects is designing the building exterior and interiors, which will house 270,000 photographs, camera equipment and archive materials.

Arrival of the RPS Collection at the V&A

The Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum has revealed plans to expand its historic and contemporary photography collection with the announcement of a new dedicated Photography Centre.

Funded through the V&A’s ongoing FuturePlan redevelopment and expansion project at its site in Kensington, West London, the Photography Centre will see the museum more than double the size of its current photography display area.

It is set to be one of only a few places in the world where a chronological history of the art form will be permanently displayed, according to senior curator of photographs at the V&A, Martin Barnes.

David Kohn Architects

The building exterior and interiors are currently being designed by architectural practice David Kohn Architects. While the design is still in its early stages, the museum says that the architect’s approach to the interior design will be to “create a rich variety of atmospheres across the new galleries through modulating natural and artificial light”.

A modular system of display cases will also be incorporated to allow for varied and changing displays of a wide range of exhibition material.

The new centre will enable the V&A to display more than 270,000 photographs, 26,000 publications and 6,000 pieces of camera-related equipment, thanks to the museum acquiring the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) collection from the Science Museum Group.

“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,” adds Barnes.

Opening autumn 2018

Set to open in autumn 2018, the launch of the centre will be accompanied by a photography festival at the museum and a new digital resource for photography enthusiasts.

The second phase of the building project will see further expansion of the gallery space to provide more teaching and research facilities, a browsing library, and a studio and darkroom where different photographers will be able to carry out residencies. A date has not yet been set for the completion of the second phase of building work.

New storage facilities within the V&A have already been built to house the expanded photography collection, and the museum is currently undertaking a project to catalogue and digitise the RPS collection ahead of the new centre opening.

Arrival of the RPS Collection at the V&A
Frederick Scott Archer’s wet-collodion camera, 1853
© The RPS Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Julia Margaret Cameron’s camera lens, about 1860
©The RPS Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Tim Walker (b. 1970)
Lily Cole with Giant Camera, 2004
C-type print
© Tim Walker/Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Nermine Hammam (b. 1967) The Break, 2011
Archival inkjet print
© Nermine Hammam/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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