Royal Photographic Society collection will move to London - Museums Association

Royal Photographic Society collection will move to London

Transfer of 400,000 objects from NNM in Bradford to the V&A decribed as "cultural vandalism"
Nicola Sullivan
The Royal Photographic Society’s collection at the National Media Museum (NMM) in Bradford will be moved to the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London.

The move will see 400,000 objects, including the 270,000 that make up the society’s collection held by NMM, join the V&A’s existing collection of 500,000 photographs. This will form the International Photography Resource Centre, which will become the world’s largest collection on the art of photography.

The images are part of the Science Museum Group’s (SMG) photography collection, which has around 3 million items.

SMG acquired the Royal Photographic Society’s collection in 2002 and a number of images being moved from Bradford were once part of the collection at the 19th century South Kensington Museum before it was divided into the V&A and the Science Museum.

Among the items being moved are vintage prints, the world’s first negative, early colour photographs and works by British pioneers, including William Henry Fox Talbot.

However, the decision to move the collection has been condemned as an “appalling act of cultural vandalism” by Simon Cooke, the leader of the Conservatives on Bradford council.

Cooke told the Guardian that the new resource centre could have been based in Bradford “where it would have been cherished in a way that you in London could never understand.”

An online petition to stop the move has attracted almost 8,000 signatures. Campaigners said the relocation of the collection would further concentrate the nation's cultural treasures in London.

A spokesman from SMG said the transfer of objects was part of the NMM's new focus on Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects – a change backed by the council and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

He said: “It’s part of a refocusing of the museum’s purpose, which secures further investment in the museum to secure its future in the coming years."

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