V&A UK 2005/06 – 2006/07

2nd Report of the V&A UK Steering Group

Table of contents

Section / Page
1 / Introduction / 2
2 / Sheffield Galleries & Museums Trust Partnership / 3
3 / V&A UK Partnership / 6
4 / Subject Specialist Networks / 10
5 / Access to collections: off-site exhibitions and loans / 12
6 / MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund / 19
7 / Training and Development / 21
8 / Research / 21
9 / V&A UK infrastructure and profile / 21
10 / Other national working / 22
Annex A / Origins of visits to London sites / 25


National working helped the V&A to extend its reach to 14.7 million users in 2005/06 and in 2006/07 t0 22.8 million visits to V&A sites, websites and touring exhibitions. There were around 300,000 visits to V&A touring exhibitions in the UK each year. Many more people will have seen some of the 2,200 - 2,500 V&A objects on long-term and short-term loan in the UK each year.

2005/06 was the second year of operation for the V&A UK Strategy that was agreed in September 2004. It was a period of consolidation in many ways, with new activities such as the V&A UK Partnership bedding down, the first raft of Subject Specialist Networks being initiated and ongoing activities continuing to successfully deliver a range of projects and programmes which continued in 2006/07. Many of these had public-facing outcomes, with people around the country able to access V&A collections or participate in partnership events but just as important were the behind-the-scenes connections and collaborations. These help to build strong relationships between individuals and organisations, increasing professional capacity within the UK museums sector and delivering long-term, sustainable benefits to the public.

One of the visible outputs of the Museum’s national working was the report V&A UK 2004/05, the first time that various elements of our activity throughout the UK had been brought together in this way. It was extremely gratifying and demonstrated the breadth, the longevity and the strength of the V&A’s commitment to nationwide working. While some projects have been funded from external sources, a very significant proportion of our national work is funded from our own core budgets. This is right for a truly National Museum, but it must be noted that Museum funding is stretched increasingly thinly. V&A Grant-in-Aid has not kept pace with inflation as we experience it (related to the Average Earnings Index) and the Museum has not been able to invest as much as it should in certain key areas that must be priorities, currently and in the foreseeable future: these include acquisition, building maintenance, IT and security. If the V&A is to sustain its productive national working, let alone realise some of its own and others’ ambitions it is essential that increased funding be found, ideally as long-term, core Grant-in-Aid, but also from project-funding from public and private sources.

2Sheffield Galleries & Museums Trust Partnership

2.1The long-term partnership between the V&A and the Sheffield Galleries & Museums Trust (SGMT) is formalised in a ten-year contract with Sheffield City Council that began in 1999. Contacts between the two organisations range over several areas of activity and the partnership has started to feel truly embedded. A joint action plan for the future has been produced following an evaluation of the first five years of the partnership. The highlight of the period was undoubtedly the exhibition, Palace and Mosque: Islamic Treasures from the Victoria and Albert Museum which ended its international tour at the Millennium Galleries in Sheffield. As well as being a highly successful exhibition in its own right, Palace and Mosque was used by SGMT as the basis for an extensive community and education project under the umbrella of the Image & Identity programme (see section 3.2), and as the launch event for the regional Festival of Muslim Culture.

2.2Palace & Mosque: Islamic Treasures from the Victoria and Albert Museum

Millennium Galleries, 14 January-16 April 2006

This major exhibition enabled some of the V&A’s most valued objects to remain in the public arena while the Museum re-developed its Islamic Middle East Gallery, made possible by the generosity of Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel. The exhibition was opened by the Minister for Culture, David Lammy, and was visited by HRH Prince of Wales. At 18,900, the visit figures exceeded targets by 72%. The exhibition also provided an opportunity for SGMT to generate exceptional press coverage.

Organising the exhibition highlighted some differences in perceptions and expectations between the Partners, but the SGMT/V&A Steering Group proved an effective forum for addressing these and drawing out lessons for the future. These fed into the joint Action Plan described below. The main lesson was the importance of clarity about responsibilities in the early stages of planning a project and the necessity of recording discussions and decisions.

2.3Image & Identity

SGMT is a partner in this DCMS/DfES-funded Strategic Commissioning project (see section 3.2). Outputs in 2005/06 included: an Object Dialogue Box, created by artists to support the Palace and Mosque exhibition and SGMT collections; a screen of images showcasing workshops and art works and three giant wallpaper banners. In 2006/07 SGMT worked with over 40 young people to produce art works, gallery displays, films, and a web-based teaching resource.

2.4SGMT/V&A Steering Group

The Group met in April 2005 (V&A), September 2005 (V&A), January 2006 (Sheffield), May 2006 (V&A) and December 2006 (Sheffield). From 2006, SGMT took over the Chair and Secretariat. The V&A nominated Eric Turner as the prime contact point in Collections. The standing members in 2005-2007 were:

Helen Jones, Head of Planning / Caroline Krzesinska, Creative Director
Janet Davies, Head of Regional Liaison Team / Ceris Morris, Development & Partnerships Manager
Poppy Hollman, Assistant Head of Exhibitions / Adam Lumb, Marketing Manager
Eric Turner, Curator (Metalwork) / Kirstie Hamilton, Exhibitions Manager
Diane Lees, Chair, V&A UK
  • Sheffield / V&A Partnership Evaluation 1999-2004

This document, to which both Partners contributed, was signed off by the Steering Group in October 2005.

  • Action Plan

One outcome of the five-year evaluation was the need for a joint action plan to define and guide Partnership activity until the end of the formal contract in 2009. This was agreed by the Steering Group in May 2006. The main priorities are: more effective access to V&A Collections (both objects and expertise); higher profile of the V&A in Sheffield; matching need to opportunity in training and development; and agreeing the nature of the Partnership post 2009. The Action Plan has proved a useful way of monitoring the Partnership, forming part of the agenda at Steering Group meetings.

2.5SGMT Board

David Anderson, V&A Director of Learning & Interpretation, continued to represent the V&A on the Board of SGMT.

2.6Training and development

  • Discussions between the relevant staff took place with the aim of matching needs to provision. The outcome of a needs analysis at SGMT in 2006/7 will inform progress.
  • Twenty V&A staff (from Gallery Services, Development, Collections, Conservation, Directorate, Records, V&A Enterprises, Learning & Interpretation and Property Services) visited SGMT and the newly-opened Weston Park Museum, the Graves Art Gallery and the Millennium Galleries on 6 November 2006.
  • A 2-week placement in the V&A Metalwork Department for an SGMT curator, Rachel Conroy, took place in March 2007, supported by a successful SGMT bid to the Designation Challenge Fund.
  • Damien Whitmore, V&A Director of Public Affairs, continued to mentor a member of SGMT staff.

2.7Exhibitions planning

Plans and discussions for the following V&A exhibitions were a significant part of the Partnership work:

  • Vivienne Westwood, Millennium Galleries, late 2008
  • Where Are We? Questions of Landscape, Graves Art Gallery, Sep 2007 – Jan 2008
  • Seeing Things, Graves Art Gallery, Aug – Nov 2008
  • Space Age, Weston Park Museum, May-Aug 2008
  • Medieval & Renaissance Treasures, Jan – May 2009
  • Out of the Ordinary: Spectacular Craft, Jun – Sep 2009
  • Long-term planning for events to commemorate in 2013 the centenary of the discovery of stainless steel.
  • Discussions over exhibition/events on the theme of dining.


  • V&A and Sheffield curators liaised over the acquisition by the V&A of three important teapots designed by Christopher Dresser and made in Sheffield. Two of them were lent for display at the Millennium Galleries in an exhibition about the maker, James Dixon in July 2006.
  • The V&A was a major lender to Art at the Rockface, an exhibition jointly mounted by SGMT and Norfolk Museums Service.
  • A team from SGMT visited the V&A Museum of Childhood to discuss the development of the Weston Park Museum.
  • Following discussions about research and display of SGMT’s collection of Chinese ivories (the Grice Collection), former V&A curator, Rose Kerr, was appointed by SGMT. This will lead to a display in Sheffield in 2008.

3V&A UK Partnership

3.1Key strategic V&A UK Partners

Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery (BMAG)

Brighton & Hove Galleries & Museums (B&HM)

Manchester City Galleries (MCG)

Sheffield Galleries & Museums Trust (SGMT)

Tyne & Wear Museums (TWMS)

3.2Image & Identity

Image & Identity (I&I) is a collaborative museum education initiative, led by the V&A, with the five UK Partners and NCH, the children’s charity. The project seeks to engage and inspire new audiences, particularly young people, in responding creatively to museum collections and displays of popular modern culture through the performing and visual arts. It aims to increase participants’ self-esteem, confidence, sensitivity to cultural difference, and sense of entitlement to take part in cultural activities as well as to improve their performance, behaviour and attitudes to learning across the curriculum.

In 2005/06 (year 4 of I&I ), there were over 2,000 direct participants, making an estimated total of 8,000 ‘participations’. A further 20,000 people used I&I resources and many other people (c. 215,000) enjoyed the young people’s work in the form of displays, performance, videos, gallery tours etc. In 2006/07 (year 5) there were 964 direct participants.

I&I also benefits teachers and youth workers by providing resources and opportunities for continuing professional development (CPD). This latter aspect was evaluated by the National Foundation for Educational Research and built upon in 2006/07 by research into how to sustain teachers’ and others’ use of museums and the I&I theme after projects were complete. The overall project was evaluated by Glasgow Caledonian University.

The relationships with NCH and Local Authority Looked After Children (LAC) Units have been especially rewarding. The I&I project led Sheffield, Tyne & Wear and Birmingham to work with local NCH centres for the first time, increasing the inclusion of under-represented groups across the Partnership. Manchester City Galleries has built sound partnerships with LAC Units.

There is a lasting legacy in that some of the work produced has entered the museums’ collections. David Lammy, Minister for Culture, spoke at the culminating Young People’s Conference and Exhibition at the V&A in March 2006.

Image & Identity 2005/06 and 2006/07 statistics

Participants / 05/06 / 06/07 / Participations (estimate) / 05/06 / 06/07 / Participating venues / 05/06 / 06/07
School pupils / 1,087 / 345 / School pupils / 4,300 / 1,514 / Schools / 41 / 11
NCH/LAC young people / 543 / 120 / NCH/LAC young people / 2,150 / 664 / NCH Projects / 32 / 7
Teachers / 164 / 36 / Teachers / 660 / unknown / LAC Units / 5 / 2
NCH/LAC staff / 223 / 28 / NCH/LAC staff / 870 / unknown / Other / 0 / 3
Total / 2,017 / 529 / Total / 7,980 / 2,178 / Total / 78 / 23
Programme / 05/06 / 06/07
Number of projects / 78 / 30
Number of teachers’ INSET days / 14 / 3
Number of participants in NFER seminar / 49 (teachers, youth workers, museums workers, artists) / _
Number of on- and off-site sessions / 390 / 184
Number of sessions using resources / unknown / 24 (1,602 users)
Number of visits to displays / 214,723 / 352,800

3.3Every Object Tells a Story

Every Object Tells a Story (EOTAS) was a DCMS Culture Online project that aimed to help people recognise and understand the personal meanings and narratives of objects. Large numbers of people from varied backgrounds were encouraged and enabled to explore the creative potential of interactive technology for storytelling inspired by museum and personal objects. The project began in 2003 with core project partners Ultralab and Channel 4, and three V&A UK Partners (TWMS, BMAG and B&HM) joined in 2004/05. Some other regional museums participated in 2005/06. The full site, with the capacity to accept online contributions, was launched in January 2005. The project was, essentially, completed in spring 2006, but the site remains live with basic maintenance:

To quote the evaluation report by Audience Focus:

‘Every Object Tells a Story’ is a unique, ground-breaking initiative with a multitude of benefits to diverse end-users. It shows proof of the way in which new technology can be used in the Museums and Galleries sector to reach new audiences and engage these in personal meaning making around objects. This report also shows that staff participating in the project learned new skills and gained new experiences. However, due to a range of factors relating to cultural differences between partners, and the complexity of contracts and project management, EOTAS was sometimes a “rollercoaster ride” for participating staff. It was reported that both communication and confidence developed as the project progressed, highlighting the importance of allowing time and nurture in order for partnerships to develop. Participating staff should be congratulated on their bravery, determination, patience and exceptionally hard work in delivering this project.

EOTAS statistics July 2003 - June 2006

Number of website participants / 1,261,800
Number of participants in events / 13,500
TWMS users / 2,100
BMAG users / 2,200
B&HM stories collected / >1,020

3.4Inspired by

TWMS and MCG have participated since 2004/05 in this V&A annual competition for adult part-time learners who produce work inspired by objects in museum collections.

The numbers of participants in regional museums increased in 2005/06 with 47 entrants at South Shields Museum (TWMS) and 166 entries (up 50 on the previous year) at Manchester Art Gallery. Participants came from even more diverse backgrounds this year, particularly at Tyne and Wear where there were several entrants from prisoners, including the overall winner.

In 2006/07 Manchester Art Gallery received 64 entries and Tyne and Wear Museums had 25 entries. The fall in participation compared to the previous year was due to the number of classes and workshops being cancelled in the local institutions.

3.5V&A touring exhibitions (for details see section 5.1)

  • 2005/06

Cinema IndiaSunderland Museum & Winter Garden (TWMS)60,600 visits

Black British StyleManchester Art Gallery30,200 visits

Palace & MosqueMillennium Galleries (SGMT)18,900 visits

  • 2006/07

Black British StyleSunderland Museum & Winter Garden (TWMS)57,200 visits

Black British StyleBirmingham Museum & Art Gallery11,500 visits

Must-have ToysSouth Shields Museum (TWMS)29,500 visits

3.6V&A Medieval & Renaissance Galleries

Sara Holdsworth, Head of Public Programmes at Manchester City Galleries, was a member of the Advisory Group for the £31.75 million redevelopment of the V&A Medieval & Renaissance Galleries.

3.7Workforce development

  • BMAG enrolled 8 technicians on the V&A Technical NVQ
  • A training programme on customer care for front-of-house staff was devised with Brighton & Hove Museums
  • Two networking days were held at the V&A in 2006/07 to promote links between V&A UK Partners: one on Retail and one on Development.

3.8Other contacts:

  • Head of Regional Liaison Team participated in consultation on BMAG re-structuring and future plan
  • Head of Regional Liaison Team and Curator of Far Eastern led a session in a ‘knowledge café’ on national/regional museum partnerships run by the West Midlands Hub
  • Head of Conservation and Head of Planning visited Manchester Art Gallery to discuss a proposed display on conservation
  • The V&A began to consult with the UK Partners when seeking potential storage sites outside London.
  • Letter of support provided for TWMS funding bid for development at the Shipley Art Gallery.
  • Sue Prichard (V&A Crafts Champion and Curator of Contemporary Textiles) was appointed to the Acquisition Panel of the Shipley Art Gallery (TWMS)
  • Curators at Brighton & Hove and the V&A liaised over preparations for B&HM’s forthcoming exhibition Chinese Whispers, a major exhibition on Chinoiserie.

3.9Nature of Partnership

Consultation with the V&A UK Partners by email and in person early in 2005/06 showed that they were, by and large, happy with the way the Partnership was working and felt that the V&A tried to be responsive to their needs: as one would expect, though, there were occasional glitches in communications and processes. The Partnership was maturing and becoming widely embedded across museum practice. Partners did not consider a rigid joint plan to be necessary, though it was agreed that a degree of formality in the relationship could be advantageous, e.g. through memoranda of understanding.

Priorities for all Partners included staff development and making loans processes simpler and cheaper and these areas will be addressed in future. The V&A is also keen to maximise the impact of national working by using the partners as a route to their wider regions, and also by working with other national museums.

The Partnership proved useful when a touring exhibition venue was unable to take a show at short notice: the Partnership was a pool of potential alternatives the Exhibitions team could call on and, with a great deal of effort and goodwill, the show was mounted at a Partner venue where it proved highly successful.

At the V&A UK Partner meeting on 10 May 2005 it was agreed that there would henceforth be one annual meeting of the Partner Directors. This would set the strategic direction for collaborative working and take place in spring. Accordingly, the first such meeting took place on 20 March 2007.

4Subject Specialist Networks (SSNs)

The V&A believes partnerships based on collections and subject to be an important way of sharing and extending skills, expertise and information. The MLA supported SSN development through further rounds of its grant scheme to explore the feasibility of networks and to implement subject network projects.

4.1Performance (Theatre Information Group (TIG))

The Theatre Museum-led implementation project on documenting performance received an MLA grant of £23,000 which enabled preparatory work for the establishment of a TIG website to share information with and about its membership and a feasibility study for the creation of a UK performance database. This will merge object level records across collections enabling a comprehensive search about productions and casts. A further £24,125 was awarded in March 2007 to implement the proposals defined in the feasibility report.