I have been at the V&A since 1990. The first memo I wrote to the then Director, was a request that we should build an education centre. Ever since then, an education centre has been part of our plans, but lack of funds, and the need to find the right space, have always stood in our way.
Now the project will happen. We at last have spaces for learning that are appropriate for a world-class museum. The location we have chosen is beside the Museum's Exhibition Road entrance. The new centre is part of the V&A's Futureplan, a ten year plan to improve the visitor experience. For me it is very important that the centre is not, like so many education spaces in museums, tucked away in a dark basement in a far corner of the building.
It is appropriate that the Sackler Centre will be in a building named after Henry Cole, the founder and first Director of the V&A. When it opened in 1857, Henry Cole said 'This museum will be like a book that is open and not shut'. His aim was to attract everyone to the Museum - rich and poor, children as well as adults, designers and manufacturers as well as consumers. He had great faith in the power of museums to help people change their lives for the better. The world itself has changed a lot in the last 150 years, and our understanding of what museums can and can't achieve is based on research that wasn't available to him. But I admire Henry Cole's ambition. Opening the new Sackler Centre is a wonderful opportunity to restate the significance of design in the twenty-first century, and for a new generation of visitors to engage with it creatively.