Theatre Museum loses battle to stay open as rescue plan collapses - Museums Association

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Theatre Museum loses battle to stay open as rescue plan collapses

The Theatre Museum is set to take its final bow as the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) blamed a lack of finances for its impending closure.
Felicity Heywood
The V&A, which runs the Theatre Museum, announced at the end of September that its proposed partnership with the Royal Opera House (ROH) had collapsed. The V&A and ROH were planning a new look for the existing museum in Covent Garden.

Both the ROH and the V&A said investors were not forthcoming because of the impracticability of the museum building; one of the reasons the Heritage Lottery Fund previously gave for turning down an application from the museum.

The Theatre Museum is expected to close in January 2007 unless it gets a last-minute reprieve. Museums Journal understands that the Theatre Museum Committee (which advises the trustees) is attempting to pull together a package to present to the V&A trustees. Ten operational posts have already been made redundant with the possibility of seven more posts going.

At last month's Culture, Media and Sport select committee inquiry into museums and collection care, Mark Jones, the director of the V&A, told the committee: 'It has never proved possible to raise substantial sums for the Theatre Museum.

'I am afraid that one of the reasons for that, and the donors have told us this, is that the potential major donors do not believe that those premises are capable of making a really good museum.'

John Whittingdale MP, the chairman of the culture, media and sport inquiry, was sympathetic towards the V&A's position. He told Museums Journal: 'I fully accept that if it is the case that no offer of any kind came forward, it has put the V&A in an extremely difficult position.'

The V&A and the ROH were expecting to raise £4m to develop the Covent Garden site. John Levitt, the chairman of Save London's Theatres Campaign, was against the partnership and said that the fact that it collapsed proved it was poorly researched. 'The deal would have been very disadvantageous for the future and integrity of the Theatre Museum collection. It would have given dominance to the ROH.'

Levitt further criticised the V&A for expecting the theatre profession to bail out the museum: 'The V&A is putting out [the message] that unless showbiz pays for a museum then there isn't one,' he said.

Felicity Heywood

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