Union demands government funding to prevent permanent loss of V&A collections

19 May 2021

The world’s leading art and design museum the Victoria and Albert (V&A) is embarking upon a series of redundancies which will result in the loss of over 1,000 years specialist experience. This series of redundancies are on top of those previously announced affecting employees in the visitor experience, catering, shops and other areas.

Prospect union, which represents V&A staff in roles such as curators, archivists and many more, is launching a campaign for the government to make good on its apparent commitment to the preservation of culture by increasing grant in aid for the museum, thus preserving the expertise which is otherwise going to be lost.

Many roles have already been lost due to voluntary redundancy. Each role lost is a set of specific expertise which will lead to the loss of access to collections within the V&A. If the expertise is not there to preserve, explain and curate the collections then they will not be shown and so will be lost to the public.

Some illustrative curatorial, archiving and conservation roles being lost include: Head of Objects Conservation, Head of Paper (Paintings & Books Conservation), Head of Science, Head of Textile & Fashion Conservation, Principal Paintings Conservator, Senior Curator of Stained Glass 3 Photographers and many more.

Prospect analysis also shows that DCMS funding of V&A (the museum is funded partly as an arm’s length government body through Grant in Aid, and partly through self-raised funds from donations, sponsorship, sales and so on) has fallen by 22% in real terms since 2010/11 (this is core funding and does not count ring-fenced funding for some capital projects).

Museums reopened their doors to the public on 17th May, Prospect is also calling on the government to launch a public campaign to encourage people to visit heritage attractions and boost their commercial revenue.

Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy said:

“The heritage sector has been badly affected by the pandemic which has shone a light on the vulnerability created by the current funding model. Nowhere is this more apparent than at the V&A where the response to Covid-related loss of earnings is resulting in the loss of more than 1,000 years of specialist knowledge.

“The government talks a good game on the importance of our culture but refuses to back it up with funding. We are now going to lose experts with unique insights into the collections they oversee and make no mistake – if you lose those experts the public loses access to those collections forever.

“The V&A is the leading art, design and performance museum in the world. The government must step up and increase grant-in-aid funding so that its position as world leader can be preserved.”