The Science Museum must back a way of keeping the national photography collection in the north of the country
Sir, This week’s decision by the Science Museum to relinquish the major part of the photography collection now in the National Media Museum, Bradford, is a backward step.
The National Museum of Photography, Film & Television (its name until 2006) began assembling its world-ranking collection 33 years ago. It built a team of experts from a wide spectrum of photographic art and science. For its first decade, many leading photographers from Britain and abroad exhibited there, and the museum attracted eight million visitors. At the time, this was more than any other museum outside London, and more than all but the big five in the capital.
Less than three years ago, the Science Museum opened Media Space — a £4.5 million gallery designed as a London showcase for the Bradford collections. The museum’s director said that there was “a definite correlation between art and science,” but the closure of Media Space this year suggests that he has changed his mind. The present move to separate the art and science of photography reverses prevailing worldwide practice.
Moving the collection away from Yorkshire goes against the then government policy — to put such facilities outside London — and against the present government’s “northern powerhouse” strategy. A number of us who have deposited our photographs in the museum did so specifically because we wanted our work to be preserved in the north.
These proposals have consequences too great to be left to the Science Museum group. Has it explored making the museum independent? Or handing it over to the city of Bradford, which has spent considerable sums of money on it? Photography in Britain needs a national home and identity.
Many of us would welcome the opportunity to be involved in trying to retain the collection in a national home for photography — preferably in the north of England.
Laura Ager, museum educator; Clive Barda, photographer; Fozia Bano, festivals and events producer; Els Barents, founding director, Amsterdam photography museum; Ian Beesley, photographer, course leader MA in photography; Catalin Balog Bellu, director, Photo Romania Association; Barbara Binder, administrator; Dorothy Bohm, photographer; Jo Booth, lecturer in photography; Joe Brook, galleries, media and design manager; Barbara Brown, head of photograph conservation, University of Texas; Mirjam Brusius, research fellow in photographic history, University of Oxford; David Burder, 3-D Images; Neil Burgess, agent and editor; John Chillingworth, photojournalist; Susie Clark, photographic conservator; John Davies, photographer; Caroline Dempsey, conservator; Tony Earnshaw, programming and festivals director; Roy Flukinger, senior research curator, University of Texas; Colin Ford, founding director, NMeM; Richard Fowler, museum designer; Janine Freeston, photohistory researcher; Judy Goldhill, photographer; Paul Graham, photographer; Michael Gray, ex-director, Fox Talbot Museum; Sue Grayson Ford, ex-director, Photographers’ Gallery; 8 Martin Gresswell, ex-curator, National Media Museum; Brian Griffin, photographer; Dr Juliet Hacking, photographic historian; Michael Hallett, photohistorian and critic; Peter Hamilton, photographic curator and historian; Professor John Hannavy, photohistorian and photographer; Ruth Haycock, exhibition and event co-ordinator; Nick Hedges, photographer; Paul Hill, photographer, author and teacher; David Hockney, artist and photographer; Francis Hodgson, Professor in Culture of Photography, Brighton University; Nancy Honey, photographer; Michael Hoppen, Michael Hoppen Gallery; Graham Howe, Curatorial Assistance; David Hurn, photographer; James Hyman, Hyman Gallery and Hyman Collection; Pete James, independent photography curator; Paul Joyce, photographer and film-maker; Martin Kemp, Emeritus Professor of History of Art, University of Oxford; Bill Lawrence, former head of film, National Media Museum; Dewi Lewis, publisher of photography books; Andrea Livingstone, trustee, Kraszna-Krausz Foundation; Mike Leigh, film-maker; Michael Mack, publisher of photographic books; David Mallinson, grandson of Horace Nicholls; Connie McCabe, head of photograph conservation, National gallery of Art, Washington DC; Eamonn McCabe, photographer; Don MCullin, photographer; Daniel Meadows, photographer; David Mellor, Professor of Art History, University of Sussex; Johanna Melvin, artist/editions consultant; Terry Morden, former head of exhibitions, NMeM; Iga Niewiadomska, photohistorian; Sean O’Hagan, photography writer, The Guardian; Richard Ormond, ex-museum director; Martin Parr, photographer; Ian Potter, TV historian, writer documentary maker; Grace Robertson, photographer; Prunella Scales, actor; Emma Shaw, heritage AV specialist; Sven Shaw, assistant gallery developer; Kathleen Soriano, independent curator and broadcaster; Jen Skinner, film consultant; Neal Slavin, photographer; Sara Stevenson, hon senior research fellow, Glasgow University; John Taylor, editor and curator; Emma Thom, web content designer and strategist; Denis Thorpe, photojournalist; John Trenouth, television curator; Sebastian Vaida, artistic director, Photo Romania; Sheena Vigors, ex-television curator, NMeM; Tom Vincent, ex education and film departments, NMeM; Simon Wallis, director, Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield; Roger Watson, curator, Fox Talbot Museum; Timothy West, actor; Professor Val Williams, London College of Communication; Philippa Wright, curator