Today, 9 June, is International Archives Day, one aim of which is to ‘promote and bring to the attention of the larger public unique, extraordinary and rare documents preserved in archival institutions’. This year’s theme is ‘Archives, Harmony and Friendship’ – but as you’ll see, I’ve strayed off-piste…
A couple of months ago I received the following enquiry from a colleague:
I am trying to determine if there was ever a gallery or room 130? It seems a strange omission in the first floor run 127 (landing, formerly French enamels), 128 (Architecture formerly French ceramics), 129 (new glass) and 131 (glass).
I confess that I was (until that moment) completely oblivious to the absence of Gallery 130 from the Museum’s gallery numbering scheme but, sure enough, a quick check of the current floor plan confirmed this curious omission. Had someone simply forgotten to assign this number to a gallery? Or had it once existed but been displaced for some mysterious reason?
Where to start? As this run of galleries occupies part of the iconic building designed by Aston Webb, it seemed logical to seek out a copy of the original 1909 floor plan.
If you click on the above image, you’ll notice that according to this plan, Gallery 130 did once exist and that Galleries 129 and 130 were different halves of the same space. I’m not sure if the black spot above the ‘3’ is significant; perhaps it represents the column (see photograph below). Successive V&A maps confirm that this numbering remained undisturbed for the next 50 years.
By the 1979, however, we see that Gallery 130 has shrunk to a small space at the bottom of the staircase leading up to Gallery 144.
In the 1980s, Gallery 130 vanishes (inexplicably) altogether from the floor plans.
If you look closely at this photograph taken in November 2006, you’ll see (just) that Gallery 129 has been painted on to the wall beyond the display case; according to the 1909 Scheme this section of the room used to be Gallery 130.
So – we now know that there was originally a Gallery 130 (it wasn’t omitted on account of some clerical error) and that it survived, albeit on a reduced scale, until 1979. Sadly the V&A Archive’s records are silent on the matter of its disappearance so quite why it was displaced by Gallery 129 remains a mystery; however, with the impending relocation of the Members’ Room from an unnumbered room at the end of Gallery 131, perhaps Gallery 130 will be restored to the museum map in 2017. Watch this space (pardon the pun).
If you’d like to learn more about the complex evolution of the Museum’s wayfaring, check out Best laid plans: mapping the V&A
Happy International Archives Day!