Behind the Scenes

March 30, 2009

By Stuart Frost

Regular visitors to South Kensington will have become used to the brightly coloured hoarding that currently runs along a major part of the V&A’s Cromwell Road facade. The hoarding is decorated with striking large colour images of objects from the medieval and Renaissance collections. Behind the hoarding nine different space are being transformed into the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries and a new day-lit gallery is being constructed.A glimpse through the hoarding into Room 50 at the V&A, 12-03-2009.

Visitors to the V&A have been provided with one or two strategic peep holes that offer glimpses through the hoarding into the new gallery spaces. For the benefit of those of you who are not able to visit the Museum physically I took a picture, to the right, last week from Room 117 through the viewing window in Room 50. In November 2009 the hoarding will come down and visitors will be able to walk from the Grand Entrance into the new display, The Renaissance City 1350-1600.

I recently visited the construction site with a number of colleagues from the Learning and Interpretation division. Work is underway on shaping the events programme that will accompany the galleries throughout the first year of opening. It is remarkable to see how the gallery spaces have been transformed and how rapidly they are changing and taking shape.

I regularly meet friends and colleagues in the Grand Entrance of the building. I often take then to the viewing holes so they can look into the new spaces. They are always impressed by how much work has taken place with such a limited impact on the rest of the public areas of the Museum. I’m sure that The Renaissance City 1350-1600 will be one of the most impressive of the new eleven rooms. The vast size of the space and many of the objects within it will create a dramatic space that will be beautifully lit. It will also be a wonderful space for a wide range of events and for simply sitting, relaxing and contemplating. 

The internal deadline for final content related to the events programmes is at the end of May 2009 so my colleagues are busily pulling together their plans for activities for different audiences. Time is running away so rapidly that the opening will soon be upon us but I’m more excited than anxious. I am looking forward to watching visitors walk through the new displays and seeing how they respond to them. It will be fascinating to discover how different audiences begin to use the collections for their own creative journeys and enjoyment.

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