bradfordVery sad to learn that the National Media Space is going to end its commitment to photography in another attack on the regions. The collection is to return to London and be placed under the auspices of the V and A. What a loss, not only to Bradford, but to the support of British photography. After Birmingham’s closure of its photography department under Pete James, this represents another attack on the photography community in Britain and another great loss of knowledge, acquired over decades by great curators.

I was pleased to be a signatory to the recent protest letter in the Guardian, organised by Colin Ford, but it is hard to believe that it will have any effect. It is clearly all about cost-cutting and the Science Museum’s lack of commitment to art, or to the relationship between science and the arts.

Here’s a link to the letter:

Here’s the text:

“The sudden and largely secret decision by the trustees of the Science Museum to relinquish the major part of the photography collection now in the National Media Museum, Bradford (Bradford rages at museum’s ‘cultural vandalism’, 4 March) is a backward step in our understanding of the importance of visual culture. The National Museum of Photography, Film & Television (its name until the ill-judged change in 2006) began assembling its world-ranking collection 33 years ago. It made this known throughout the world and built a team of experts from a wide spectrum of photographic art and science. But it has now made most of its remaining experts redundant, thus apparently abandoning scholars and scholarship in the region.

For its first decade, and for some years thereafter, the front doors of the museum announced that it was “about the art and science of photography”. In that decade, when many leading photographers – from Britain and abroad – exhibited there, the museum attracted 8 million visitors. At the time, this was more than any other museum outside London and more than all but the big five in London. The International Herald Tribune called it “the world’s most popular institution devoted to photography”.

Less than three years ago, the Science Museum opened Media Space – a £4.5m gallery designed as a London showcase for the Bradford collections. At the time, the Science Museum’s director was quoted as saying that there was “a definite correlation between art and science”, but the planned closure of Media Space later this year suggests he has changed his mind. The present move to separate the interdependent aspects of the art and science of photography reverses prevailing worldwide practice, and takes the study of photo history in Britain back several decades. Moving most of the museum’s photography collection away from Yorkshire goes against government policy when the museum was opened – to put such facilities outside London – and against the present government’s claimed “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 new proposals have consequences too great to be left to internal decisions within the Science Museum Group – as this appears to have been; then merely announced as a fait accompli. Has the Science Museum explored other options, such as making the museum independent? Or handing it over to the city of Bradford, which owns the building and has spent considerable sums of money on it over the years? Photography in Britain unquestionably needs a national home and a national identity. Many of us who have been involved in the founding and development of the museum would welcome the opportunity to be involved in trying to solve whatever problems are being encountered in retaining 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, Oxford University
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, National Media Museum
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
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 coordinator
Nick Hedges Photographer
Paul Hill Photographer, author, teacher
Francis Hodgson Professor in culture of photography, Brighton University
David Hockney Artist and photographer
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, Oxford University
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, Sussex University
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
Philippa Wright Curator