The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) has rowed back on a proposed restructure that would have organised its curatorial teams around time period and region rather than material specialism.
The proposal was widely criticised as a radical move away from the founding basis of the museum, which was formed out of holdings organised around materials. The reorganisation was described by one staff member as a “complete ideological change for the museum and its structure”.
In a statement this week, the V&A confirmed it had revised the proposal and would extend the consultation period for the restructure. It is still proposing to cut around 10% of conservation roles and 20% of curatorial roles as it tries to find £10m in savings a year due to the financial impact of Covid-19.
The statement said: “As part of the ongoing consultation process with V&A staff and trade union representatives, we have developed and shared an updated proposal that reforms the V&A’s materials-led approach, delivers the agreed savings and builds a curatorial structure and vision that will connect with the audiences of tomorrow.”
The V&A said it remained committed to establishing a new, centralised research, National Art Library and archive service, and increasing resources focused on Africa and the diaspora.
The statement said: “As agreed with trade union colleagues, the internal consultation period will been extended to enable us to work together on the revised proposal, and to seek further feedback from staff. The final structure will be confirmed once the consultation has completed and all feedback has been reviewed.”
A spokeswoman for the V&A said: “The chronological approach will no longer be going ahead. Consulting meaningfully with staff has been our highest priority, and as a result of ongoing discussions, we have agreed an updated proposal with V&A keepers.”
Museums Journal understands that the U-turn is viewed as a step in the right direction by V&A staff who had opposed the proposal, but concerns remain about the impact of job losses on the museum.
Final redundancy numbers will be determined once the consultation process has been completed and the final structure has been agreed.