The Royal Opera House may provide a more certain future for the under-funded Theatre Museum in Covent Garden (pictured) by pooling the resources of the two venues.

After a meeting of Theatre Museum trustees last week to discuss the possible closure of the building (See The Goss, 23 Mar 2006), it has emerged one solution might be to move the archive material from the ROH, including valuable costumes from operas and ballets performed there, next door into the Theatre Museum.

The museum has been under threat of closure since Heritage Lottery Fund turned down two grant applications from the owner, the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington, for redevelopment. Since opening 20 years ago, the venue in Tavistock Street has kept a valuable record of the arts, including theatrical memorabilia and video archives.

The V&A Trustees met on Thursday (23 March 2006) and considered the future of the Theatre Museum following the failed bid for financial support. In a press release issued today, a Theatre Museum spokesperson said: “The Trustees believe the Theatre Museum needs significant investment to fulfil its potential. The building has severe limitations and, without investment, the Museum will be unable to develop first class displays, exhibitions, education, digital access and touring programmes.”

Two solutions are on the cards: one is to move the Theatre Museum’s collection and activities to the V&A in South Kensington, which would give the material a permanent display space and continue to provide “major exhibitions, educational activities, significant investment in digital access and a touring programme of exhibitions as well as collaboration with theatres in London and around the country.”

However, many industry figures fear a move will mean far fewer visitors. In a letter to the trustees, SOLT president Rosemary Squire said the location of the museum, in the heart of London’s Theatreland, plays a vital role in attracting the public. The second option is for the museum to work in partnership with the Royal Opera House.

Mark Jones, director of the V&A, said: “We understand the concern within the theatrical world over the future of the Theatre Museum and are considering several options to ensure that the collections remain as widely seen and used as possible.”

Chris Millard, director of communication at the Royal Opera House, told today: “We feel that the Theatre Museum is a terrific facility, we think it’s an essential part of Theatreland. We are located next door and we do not want to see it disappear. We work with them on projects all the time, and we feel, by sitting down with them and coming up with ideas, we may very well come up with a proposal about how we may save the Theatre Museum and how it will be run in future.”

The V&A Trustees will meet again on 18 May 2006 to assess the situation, when a decision is expected to be taken.

- by Caroline Ansdell