During the second lockdown, I wanted to reflect on how everyone has been starved of culture recently. I started at the V&A in 2019 during the incredibly successful Dior exhibition when I would be visiting the museum 3 if not 5 times a-week, often meeting up with different friends on a whim.
Although it has been a year like no other (the V&A has not closed since the Second World War) I am confident that the museum will bounce back as strong as ever.
Having Aspergers in a pandemic in some ways felt like an evening out of the playing field. Suddenly everyone’s life was disrupted in all aspects. For me, the museum is a huge part of my life as I am sure it was for many other volunteers.
At times like these, one needs to remember there is no ‘I’ in team. There is a special kind of magic in my volunteer group as we all get along so well and share a passion for the museum. In August, in the heat of the summer, my team and I booked tickets and – after months of not seeing each other –agreed to reunite in the fantastic V&A courtyard. We looked at the church pulpit that Ruskin brought back from Venice, followed the one-way system to the Japanese gallery, and onward to the South Asian gallery (Room 41). It was a great reunion between objects and volunteers. One of my particular passions is are the Cast Courts.
A highlight of the visit for me was being reunited with the copy of Trajan’s Column, which also happens to be the largest object in the museum. It was acquired and made in 1864 after Napoleon III commissioned several copies of the original in 1861. The little door where you can go and sit inside the column and while away time reading about Roman history is a fantastic addition. As Dr Hunt writes in The Lives of the Objects, the column is an excellent example of technological innovation, skill and changing taste throughout history. looking up at the column, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between this famous copy and the astounding level of innovation and pooling together of skills which our country and the world has demonstrated during this challenging year.
The word pandemic stems from the Greek prefix pan, meaning ‘of everything’ and demic, ‘of or pertaining to a distinct population of people’. Henry Cole, the V&A’s first director declared the museum to be a ‘schoolroom for everyone’. 2020 has been the year of the great equaliser, and I believe the founding principles and modern-day mission of the museum is more vital than ever.
Many thanks to Alice Marsh and Helen Cameron for their help writing this post.