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V&A embarks on big loan show to Baltimore on the history of the museum itself

It will be the first time that an institution has allowed the story of its acquisitions to be subjected to such intense inquiry

An ambitious exhibition of outstanding works from the Victoria and Albert Museum is to tour North America, before returning to London in 1999 to celebrate the centenary of the renaming of the museum by Queen Victoria. The show, which tells the story of the museum by examining the growth of its collection, opens at the Baltimore Museum of Art in October 1997 and will then go to four other North American venues.

According to Baltimore organiser Brenda Richardson, the show will subject the V&A to a degree of scrutiny that no American museum would ever permit. “It will be the first time that an institution has allowed the story of its acquisitions to be subjected to such intense inquiry. American museums are so dependent on political and corporate support that they could never even consider allowing this. But it is extremely important for the public to understand why objects enter a museum”.

The exhibition is to be divided into six sections: “Industrial Arts and the Exhibition Ideal” (large works shown at the great exhibitions of nineteenth-century Europe); “Teaching by Example” (the V&A’s educational mission); “An Encyclopaedia of Treasures” (masterpieces from the collection); “The Engagement of the Orient” (Asian Art); “The Essence of Englishness” (works from the Tudors to the Pre-Raphaelites) and “The Problem of Modernity” (collecting in the twentieth century).

The 200 works on loan will span the museum’s collection interests, including masterpieces and more mundane objects. Among the most important loans will be Giovanni Pisano’s ivory of the crucified Christ, a fourteenth-century Nepalese Bodhisattva, the Marie de Medicis cabinet, the Tor Abbey Jewel, the Grinling Gibbons cravat once owned by Horace Walpole, Boucher’s “Marquise de Pompadour”, Constable’s “Salisbury Cathedral”, and Rossetti’s “Daydream”.

After the five North American venues, the exhibition will return to London in late 1999 to celebrate the centenary of the renaming of the South Kensington Museum, as well as the start of the new millennium.

o The V & A has announced a major computerisation project to record more than 1.5 million objects in the museum. The contract for the Collections Information System, which will be accessible to both curators and visitors, has been awarded to ICL Enterprises.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘V&A turns its eyes on the US'

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 59 May 1996