Magazine
Latest Issue

Museum as memory bank

The main purpose of museums is neither to educate nor to entertain. Charles Saumarez Smith, director of the National Portrait Gallery, says museums are places of memory

One of the most memorable lectures I heard when I was on the staff of the Victoria and Albert Museum was a training talk given by Valerie Mendes, about her experiences of collecting examples of contemporary dress for the museum. She brought along a rail of 20th century frocks. To look at, they did not seem particularly interesting, rather like items of salvage from an expensive West End Oxfam shop. But, as she talked about them in turn and how she had acquired them, they became intellectually engaging. Each item ceased to be a bit of old fabric wrapped in…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to letters@prospect-magazine.co.uk

More From Prospect