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Smithsonian announces partnership with V&A East


The Smithsonian Institute has announced a new partnership with the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) that will see the curation of a new gallery at its V&A East campus.

The new campus will form part of East Bank, an upcoming cultural and educational development, worth a reported £1bn (US$1.4bn, €1.2bn), in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in East London, UK.

Expected to open in 2023, the new gallery will explore the impact human life has had on the world around us and how humanity’s relationship with nature has evolved, through the topics of art, design, science and the humanities.

The gallery will be open for two years, following its opening, and will feature items, including previously unexhibited objects, from the collections of both institutions.

“The V&A’s new museum in East London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is a magnificent achievement for London, and I am honoured for the Smithsonian to be a part of this project,” said Smithsonian secretary Lonnie Bunch.

“I have no doubt that this mutually beneficial collaboration will allow us to share innovative programming on education, diversity and inclusion, and museum leadership development with a truly international audience,” he added.

The Smithsonian will also work alongside communities in East London, as well as the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), the Foundation for Future London (FFL) and the Mayor of London to further STEP (Shared Training and Employment Programme), an international leadership and cultural exchange programme for young adults from East London and Washington D.C. that aims to equip young people with the skills and connections they need to begin a career in cultural organisations.

Designed for 18 - 30 year olds, and led by the LLDC and the FFL, STEP see’s participants travelling to the US for an immersive experience at the Smithsonian, where they will explore topics such as popular culture, natural history, graphic design and photography, global art and African American history. They will also have access to daily seminars and will be able to attend meetings with consevators, curators, historians and administrative staff.

Participants will also spend a year in East London, working with the East Bank and it’s partner organisations, including UCL, Sadler’s Wells, BBC Music, and the London College of Fashion.

“The young people’s leadership programme aligns with my priorities of education programmes, diversity and inclusion and museum leadership development,” Bunch added.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “East Bank will inspire a whole new generation of Londoners as we bring world-leading culture and education together at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.”

“It is the most ambitious project of its kind for decades and this partnership between the Smithsonian and the V&A will give Londoners and visitors to the capital the opportunity to experience a unique collection.”

“We’re also delighted that we will be extending the STEP programme, allowing the next generation of talent in East London and Washington D.C., to benefit from an unparalelled opportunity,” he added.

V&A director Tristram Hunt, said: "It’s great to have Secretary Bunch’s endorsement of our vision for V&A East - a hugely ambitious project, with national and international partnerships at its core.

“Our collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution has created unique opportunities for both organisations and we’re looking forward to bringing our collections, research and expertise together, and to building on our relationship over the coming years.”

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