The Theatre Museum in London, run by the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), is expected to close in January. As The Art Newspaper revealed earlier this year (March 2006, p26), it was under threat, after Lottery money was refused for a major upgrade of its Covent Garden building.
On 25 September, the V&A announced that its proposed rescue plan involving the Royal Opera House was being dropped, with the sticking point being “the investment necessary to transform the current building into a suitable space for the future and the ongoing running costs.” Three problems had emerged during the summer. The Royal Opera House became increasingly cautious about the proposed funding commitment. The Society of London Theatres initially supported the partnership, but then pulled out. Finally, despite protests from the theatre community, no significant financial pledges were offered.
V&A director Mark Jones described the decision to drop the partnership with the Royal Opera House as “extremely disappointing”. V&A trustees were due to have a final discussion on the Theatre Museum on 26 October (just after we went to press), and it seems likely that the closure of the Covent Garden building will proceed. Plans are therefore being made for a gallery space at the V&A in South Kensington, touring shows, educational activities and a major exhibition in 2009 on Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes costumes. The V&A currently spends around £2.5m annually on the Theatre Museum, and there may be discussions with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on the financial implications of caring for the theatre collection after the closure.