The V&A is set to dispense with display cases at its new museum site in bid to be more inclusive.
Museum bosses are looking to create an “open and inclusive” institution at a planned location in east London’s Olympic park which is “engineered to attract young, diverse audiences”.
V&A East will dispense with the “starchiness” of glass display cases as part of the philosophy of inclusion, its director has said.
Visitors will be able to get up close to 250,000 objects in an open-plan “Storehouse” space, and “socialise, meet and relax” at an adjoining museum pitched at those who might not usually visit cultural institutions.
Director Dr Gus Casely-Hayford unveiled the vision for the museum, saying: “I have early memories of pressing my nose up against the glass of museum cases, unable to get close to objects and artworks that I was so desperate to see .
“But at the V&A we will offer a kind of unprecedented access, removing the starchiness, the barriers, and the glass, and transforming the ways in which you can encounter our objects.”
The director of V&A East outlined plans for an open-plan, accessible space
A guiding principle of the new site’s design will be to create “relaxed and inclusive spaces to welcome people who may not have felt museums were for them”.
Compared to traditional museums, the number of display cases will be reduced, allowing visitors to get closer to objects in the galleries, which will include an entire 15th century palace ceiling from Spain, and ancient Egyptian shoes.
Some objects will be set on wooden pallets, and some behind glass to control dust and lighting, but museum bosses will be putting their trust in the public not to touch.
Project manager Claire McKeown said the ability to access the V&A’s vast collection of objects was “fundamental to the design development”.
She added: “We’ve looked in detail at how we care for our objects, but also how we provide the access that is part of our vision.
“We can make it into a public space. We need to ensure that there is a trust element. We want people to come in an explore as freely as we can
“We’re trying to do something new, we’re being ambitious. We’re working together to test the boundaries and look at what we can do.”
The V&A East project is part of a £1.1 billion cultural investment at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic park in Stratford.
The museum and Storehouse will aim to serve the younger, more diverse communities in Newham, Waltham Forest, Tower Hamlets, and Waltham Forest, which Dr Casely-Hayford said had a “compelling demographic complexity”.
Visitors will be able to have almost full access to the museum’s collection at the new Storehouse, which will function like a walk-in warehouse containing V&A treasures from Nepalese arrow heads to costumes from the Ballet Rus.
Behind-the scenes work usually carried out in backrooms, like changing displays and restoring objects, will be in public view at V&A East, with an open-plan design allowing visitors to peer into the working areas of the museum.
In addition to housing a full interior designed by US architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and leading examples of British fashion design, V&A East also have on-site youth workers to help engage the local community in east London.
The V&A’s primary site in west London’s Kensington was founded in 1852.