Courtesy of Benjamin Narvey of the Institute of Musical Research, I received the distressing news this morning that the Victoria and Albert Museum is to close its permanent collection of musical instruments. It seems that the collection will be split up and distributed among a number of smaller museums, depriving the capital of a central repository for this important collection.
Guy Dammann voiced his concerns about the dismantling of the collection in yesterday’s Evening Standard, but it seems that the V&A’s decision is final.
Unlike Brussels, Paris and New York, where national instrument collections are displayed centrally, London’s rich store of instruments is distributed among several smaller collections. The V&A’s collection, of international significance purely by itself, gains in importance in this respect because it is the only collection of historical musical instruments to be housed in a major national museum, thereby attracting general as well as specialist visitors.
Update (3 February): Richard Morrison furthers the debate in today’s Times:
The vital thing about having instruments on show at the V&A is that it draws the general public into the world of music and music history. And it also emphasises the vital connection between the visual arts and the aural arts. … the decision suggests that its bosses have an ignorant disdain for the history of the performing arts. Unless, of course, the performers are Kylie Minogue and Grace Kelly.