Museum boss wants 'snappy' new name for V&A
Sunday 30 August 1998
Alan Borg has written to the Friends of the V&A that its name is "uncommunicative". It "does not tell you about what we actually do, and quite a lot of first- time visitors come expecting to find a museum devoted to the life of the Queen and the Prince Consort, or perhaps one devoted solely to the Victorian age." The universal form "V&A" was even more opaque, "risking confusion with C&A or even DNA".
He invited suggestions for a new name which encapsulates every facet of the museum's attractions, with a bottle of champagne for the best one.
Dr Borg cites "The Met", the affectionate diminutive for New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, as a perfect name for a cultural institution. But any move to change the existing title could land him in as much trouble as his predecessor, Elizabeth Esteve-Coll, famed for the campaign describing it as "an ace caff with quite a nice museum attached".
Yesterday, former director Sir Roy Strong said he sympathised. "We were always aware there was some confusion and that was why I introduced the subtitle The National Museum of Art and Design. "
Outspoken art critic Brian Sewell was appalled. "For heaven's sake, is he bonkers? The Victoria and Albert Museum is known throughout the world. If this is all the director can come up with I think he should be sacked." The museum insisted that its undescriptive title has been a constant source of confusion. And the V&A was not alone in trying to change its image. Spokeswoman Tracy Williamson said: "Every museum is going through a process of preparing itself for new audiences. There was not the same level of technology before."
Redevelopment might not be solely technology-driven. Admission figures for 1997 fell by 13 per cent to a shade over a million - the decrease coinciding with the introduction of a compulsory pounds 5 entry charge.
The former Geological Museum is now known as the Earth Galleries and visitors have increased by 19 per cent, despite the pounds 6 entry fee. Caroline Shaw for the Natural History Museum, which now owns the galleries, said: "When we took it over we thought it was too academic and rather boring, so it was our mission to change it. We presented some exciting exhibitions and redeveloped it."
Visitors to the V&A were unimpressed. Guillame Rovet from Paris said: "Everyone knows about the museum and its name is well known so why change it? The Louvre doesn't describe anything either but we would never consider changing that."
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