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Not a museum, simply a place of storage.

March 4, 2017

With the V&A having one of the largest collections of any museum in London, it’s definitely not somewhere you can fully explore/appreciate within one day. Viewing a section of the museum however, will give you a sense of the museums quality, character and voice. After visiting the museum myself, it led me to consider the functionality and purpose of the displays, taking me to different opinions and questions of the general museum experience/concept.

Whilst wandering around the 3rd floor I came across The ‘Star of Brunswick’ Table placed within the ‘Crystal Palace’ section of the museum. Consumed by the beautifully detailed aesthetics you almost forget to consider that the table has no link to any of the surrounding objects, besides the fact that at one point in time they were all displayed in the Crystal Palace museum itself. With the link being very vague and uncertain it made me consider that perhaps this was done on purpose.

Sketching the table allowed me to consider angles and perspectives, leading me to question the positioning of the table on the display unit. The top surface physically moved 90 degrees to allow the viewers to see the detail on the top of the table. The object described as a table was no longer able to fulfil its intended purpose. The piece has clearly been purposefully positioned in this way by one of the curators in the museum , but why change the functionality of the table simply for viewing purposes. Destroying the nature of the table just for our visual benefits. Defeating the motto of museums, supposedly ‘preserving’ artefacts, when in reality, they’re destroying them.

The main role of a museum is the preservation of artefacts, however, once it has been manipulated into the exhibition you begin to wonder whether they were actually the artefacts that they said they were anymore. Taken out of context and placed amongst unrelated objects. The distortion of the piece itself ensure that the piece is no longer this desired object due to manipulation, distortion and loss of context.

After looking around sections of the museum I came to see a pattern in the ways that they display pieces of work. Larger sculptures tend to be displayed with a 360 view available, whereas objects that were possibly displayed within a (historical) household tend not to have this level of public viewing. In my opinion the placement of objects tends to be fairly sporadic and tightly packed, almost over powering you with information. Perhaps this has been done purposefully, to try and distract the viewers from the purposeful physical distortion of the objects, and the removal of their purpose simply by them being on display.

My opinions of the V&A’s voice/experience has altered due to these considerations. Museums are defined as a building for the preservation of a collection of artefacts, however all museums tend to manipulate or remove the context of each piece. Making it in my eyes no longer a desired artefact to go and see, simply a distorted version of something that once was.

Not a museum, simply a place of storage.

Xanthe Cook


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