The Victoria and Albert Museum has signalled it might be willing to accept a collection of clothing owned by Margaret Thatcher after all, following criticism of the institution for declining an earlier offer.
The museum’s apparent change of position came on Tuesday, as Tory MPs and admirers of the former prime minister weighed in to call for the items to be saved from being auctioned off to foreign buyers.
“No formal offer of this collection has yet been made to, or considered by, the museum, and so it has never been discussed at a senior level or with trustees,” said a V&A spokesperson.
“The V&A is a constantly evolving institution, and if we were approached today it is perfectly possible that discussions might develop in a different direction, and we welcome public interest and debate in how we collect and how we research and display our collections to the widest audience.”
An auction of items from the wardrobe of the former prime minister, who died in 2013, is still scheduled to go ahead. Christie’s said on Tuesday that iconic handbags owned by the former Tory leader would be among 350 “historic and personal lots” – including clothes, signed copies of speeches, her wedding dress, her red prime ministerial dispatch bag and items of jewellery – offered at its London showroom on 15 December and later online.
The business secretary, Sajid Javid, was among those who intervened on Tuesday:
Javid’s comments were echoed by fellow Conservatives including mayor of London, Boris Johnson, although there was also criticism of the V&A’s original decision from commentators outside of Tory ranks, including the designer Vivienne Westwood.
She told the Daily Telegraph she was not a “fan” of the former prime minister, but added: “She was certainly in her lifetime the best-dressed woman. She had terrific taste. It would be lovely if the V&A showed her clothes.”
The museum said earlier this week that it had “politely declined” the offer of Thatcher’s clothes, “feeling that these records of Britain’s political history were best suited to another collection which would focus on their intrinsic social historical value”.
In its statement on Tuesday, it indicated that the original offer, believed to have come from the Thatcher family, had come about during an “informal discussion” that happened several years ago.
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