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London’s Victoria & Albert Museum.
London’s Victoria & Albert Museum.

Major Layoffs Expected at Victoria & Albert Museum

Deep cuts are expected to touch a number of departments at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, considered to be the world’s top decorative arts museum, as the institution struggles to trim roughly $14 million from its budget by 2023. The V&A will additionally restructure and in some cases combine its departments in an attempt to create a leaner operation in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, which proved catastrophic for institutions worldwide.

The curatorial and research departments are said to be slated to bear the brunt of the blow. According to The Art Newspaper, 20 percent of the current 980 staff will lose their jobs, with thirty curators being made redundant and 110 more staff in various departments being laid off as well. A museum spokesperson confirmed that the union had been consulted regarding the cuts.

Breaking with tradition that dates back to its founding in 1852, the V&A will step away from its regular method of organizing objects according to material—wood, metal, porcelain—and will instead combine its American and European departments into a single department comprising three chronological subdivisions. These will encompass, respectively, the medieval era through the late eighteenth century, the nineteenth century through 1914, and modern and contemporary. Sub-Saharan and African diaspora art will become a subdivision of the Asian collection, and the V&A Research Institute, the National Art Library, and the V&A Archives will be combined to form a centralized research unit.

Speaking with The Guardian on Thursday, one insider described the curatorial cuts as “hollowing out the expertise of the museum” and thus especially deleterious. V&A director Tristram Hunt admitted that the remaining curators would be “stretched” but insisted that the institution was “not retreating from any part of the collections,” noting that even after the cuts, the museum would have more curators than either the British Museum or the Tate.