MPs for Bradford East, Imran Hussain and Bradford South, Judith Cummins met with bosses of National Media Museum recently to see if the controversial decision to transfer around 400,000 objects from Science Museum Group’s (SMG), Bradford based National Media Museum’s (NMM) three-million-strong photography collection to the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) could be overturned. Also in the pipeline were plans to to drop the Bradford International Film Festival and a name change to Science Museum North, as part of a new focus on STEM (science, engineering, maths & technology) at the National Media Museum, heralded by a new £1.5 million interactive light and sound gallery due to open in March 2017.
The decision has been met with anger from the local community, who took to Twitter to express their disappointment and have labelled the move as cultural vandalism.
One tweet read, ‘So sad that this collection is moving out of
#Bradford The #NMM is being whittled away to serve #London #V&A.’ Whilst another tweet read: ‘ #Bradford is being put done here. This must be stopped.’
MP for Bradford East, Imran Hussain told Asian Sunday: “I am deeply concerned that during the decision-making process on these changes to the National Media Museum, not only were no MPs consulted, but no Bradfordians were consulted either.”
Naz Shah MP, for Bradford West has also stepped into the argument and has asked for an immediate select committee investigation into the V&A proposal and hopes to write to Jesse Norman MP, the chair of the Department of Culture Media and sports Select committee (DCMS), to investigate the agreement to move over 400,000 treasured images from Bradford to London.
Bradford West MP Naz Shah said:
“I am today calling on the Culture select committee to investigate the decision to move over 400,000 photographs out of Bradford to London. This decision has been taken with no consultation I am aware of and is a fundamental shift in what the museum is supposed to be.
“The loss of these images in Bradford is not just a loss to the city, but marks a fundamental turning point in what the museum is supposed to be. It was always intended and set up to be the national photography museum, one that studied and displayed the art and science of photography.
“Without doubt the museum has had its challenges over the last few years, but was at one point a world renowned, and celebrated museum of photography. It was the standard, not just of how a museum can survive out of the capital, but also how a museum can be successful.
“I have grave concerns about the direction the museum is taking. Losing the specialism that has made it unique can only put more pressure on its continued success.
“I am led to believe the V&A has turned down this collection in the past, the collection belongs in Bradford and belongs at an institution that was set-up and funded to specialise in photography. As I have said before this is cultural vandalism.
“I want firm reassurances that a consultation will take place before Bradford loses this national treasure for which it has been an excellent custodian. This decision will have consequences on the cultural importance of Bradford, and I fear it may impact on our UNESCO status and our iconic relationship with photography, television and film.
“This is why the select committee need to investigate immediately. I will also be urging the minister Ed Vaizey to intervene and keep his commitment to protect the museum. Otherwise I fear a backdoor closure of the Museum and our cultural landscape.”
The decision was originally taken with Director of NMM, Jo Quinton-Tulloch’s new focus on STEM (science, engineering, maths & technology). When the news of the controversial move to London was first announced Jo Quinton-Tulloch, said: “The next 12 months will see the culmination of our shift in focus and the opening of a world-leading new interactive gallery – the result of several years’ work since I became director. Our new mission will concentrate on inspiring future generations of scientists and engineers in the fields of light and sound, as well as demonstrating the cultural impact of these subjects.