Theatre Museum To Close: The Final Decision

By Hazel Last edited 142 months ago
Theatre Museum To Close: The Final Decision

So. Farewell then

You were the V & A's Theatre Museum in Covent Garden

You struggled to stay open and get in visitors

But in the end

You’re going to have to close

It’s final: the decision has been made to close the V & A’s Theatre Museum Covent Garden site at the end of this year or beginning of next year. The Museum’s collection will be re-absorbed into a permanent exhibition at the V & A in South Kensington with touring exhibitions going around the country. Luvvie-ish lamentations can be heard ululating around the stage doors of Shaftesbury Avenue at the loss of a national museum dedicated to theatre based in the very heart of London’s Theatreland – but this wailing is muted by the large-scale indifference from the rest of the arts world. Hey, even the Society of London Theatre declined to take part in the rescue operation.

The decision to close took a long time and involved a lot of earnest people but the result is the correct one: close the Covent Garden site that was always inadequate and inappropriate and give the collection a new lease of life in an environment that suits both the collection and its visitors much better.

As cultured types who attend both theatre and museums, Londonist cannot see the fuss about maintaining a Covent Garden site for the Theatre Museum collection. Visiting a museum and seeing a show are two very separate things: a museum is a museum whatever its subject and though the subject may be relevant to where it is placed ie. a theatre museum in the heart of Theatreland, the act of visiting it there just isn’t relevant to those who want to go to a good museum or to those who want to get a feel for London’s Theatreland.

There is merit in keeping them geographically separate in order to keep the experiences separate. We go to the West End to see West End shows, for the famous West End experience; we wouldn’t go there to see exhibitions about the history of the West End experience – if we want to see exhibitions, we go to Exhibition Road and make a day of it at the V & A.

So. Goodbye Theatre Museum. See you in South Kensington. (And we mean it – we might actually visit you there…)

Last Updated 26 September 2006


"We go to the West End to see West End shows, for the famous West End experience; we wouldn’t go there to see exhibitions about the history of the West End experience"

What kind of logic is that? Of course it belongs in the West End.


There is logic in the above: we are happy to see exhibitions documenting East End slums of the Victorian era in a Camden gallery and don't feel the power of it any less because of where the exhibition is held - if it is a good exhibition, curated carefully and conscientiously and displayed in an accessible and pleasant environment, then where it is within London is irrelevant. Relevancies still occur: in some cases, the museum is enhanced by links between its subject and its local environment but sometimes it is also a victim to it.

The Theatre Museum in its current location is victim to its local environment: it just isn't the best space for a collection of its kind. It could be better attended, better curated and better cared for elsewhere, in an area that is less cramped and more capable of handling exhibitions and displays.

It is worthless to sacrifice the quality of the exhibition in order to keep a Covent Garden postcode - it is, after all, a museum and should be treated as such. Let it be the best museum it can be in the best of museum sites - give it a home in the V&A.