The Smithsonian in Washington has officially announced plans to cooperate with London’s Victoria and Albert Museum on a major international joint venture in London. The proposed site situated in front of the London Aquatics Centre and a few hundred yards from the former Olympic Stadium.
The permanent gallery space will become part of V&A East, a cultural complex created in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. It will be the first time in its 170 year history that the Smithsonian has opened a long-term exhibition venue outside of the US.
The permanent collection held by the Smithsonian consists of 137 million artefacts. “We will be able to inspire and educate more people than ever before,” said Smithsonian secretary David Skorton. “With the V&A in London, we can build bridges to other countries and continents and share our work with the world.”
“It would be a collaboration with the V&A, giving both of us opportunities to engage with diverse audiences in innovative ways. What we learn through this collaboration will enable us to better tell our stories not only in London, but in the United States and around the world.”
The V&A’s deputy director and chief operating officer Tim Reeve added: “Working very closely with the Smithsonian, as well as the other partners in and around the Olympic Park, is one of the key reasons the V&A is committed to developing a new museum, and this proposed collaboration represents an exciting opportunity for us to explore the synergies between two world-class institutions and their collections and knowledge.”
The Smithsonian was founded by British chemist James Smithson – the illegitimate son of the first Duke of Northumberland. When he died in 1829 a clause in his will bequeathed his fortune to the United States to create in Washington “an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men”. Smithson had never visited the US but in 1904 Alexander Graham Bell, a regent of the Smithsonian, brought his remains to Washington where they were re-interred at the institution that bears his name.
The announcement is the product of a January 2015 initiative between the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) – which is overseeing the development of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – the V&A and the Smithsonian. Mayor Sadiq Khan said growing London’s cultural sector was one of his core priorities
Mayor Sadiq Khan and former London Mayor Boris Johnson have been heavily involved in the implementation of the project.”Growing London’s cultural sector is one of my core priorities as mayor, so I welcome this trans-Atlantic collaboration between two of the world’s most prestigious institutions,” Khan said.
“These plans would create an exciting new cultural destination in East London, which will help many more people enjoy the extraordinary collections managed by the Smithsonian and the V&A. “It is great news for everyone who wants to see London’s cultural and creative sectors even bigger and better.”