The world-renowned Victoria and Albert Museum (known as the V&A) is a leading institution for art and design. With an extensive permanent collection of over 2.27 million objects, its legacy transcends borders. It was founded in the city of London in 1852 and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. As a non-departmental public body of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, entry to the V&A (and other national museums) has been free of charge since 2001.
As one of the biggest museums in the world, it has various collections incorporating and representing a variety of countries and cultures. The V&A owns the world’s largest collection of post-classical sculpture, with the holdings of Italian Renaissance items the largest outside Italy. The Asian collections include works from South Asia, China, Japan, Korea as well as the Islamic world. The Islamic collection is amongst the most extensive in the Western world and the East Asian collections feature ceramics and metalwork.
In addition to numerous departments dedicated to maintaining and preserving the millions of objects, extensive archives are open to the public for educational and research purposes, curated by leading thinkers and researchers in their designated fields. The V&A opened up its Theatre and Performance Archive to the RomArchive Dance section and allowed the team to include relevant items from the database.
As the V&A website states ‘the V&A’s Theatre & Performance Archives are the national collection of performing arts documenting current practice and the history of all areas of performing arts in the UK, including drama, dance, opera, circus, puppetry, comedy, musical theatre, costume, set design, pantomime, popular music and more. […] The V&A’s Theatre and Performance collection encompasses the history of dance from the 17th century to the present day. It includes many different forms of dance from music hall to ballet and also covers the history of Black and South Asian dance in the UK. […] The collection was founded in the 1920s when private collector Gabrielle Enthoven donated her extensive collection of theatrical designs, memorabilia, books and photographs to the Museum. Since then the collection has continued to grow. Particular strengths are the archives of key theatres, theatre and dance companies, 20th-century stage designers, actors and directors, photographers and government bodies such as the Arts Council. Typically, the archives contain a wide range of materials such as diaries, correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, business papers, and designs.’
The items included in the RomArchive include several images showcasing the world famous ballet dancer Fanny Essler, as well as theatre costumes and prints. All of the items from the V&A are extremely rare and form an important part of the Roma dance narrative.