The V&A’s beloved Cast Courts re-opened on December 1, 2018, marking the end of the second and final phase of redevelopment, returning these iconic galleries to their original Victorian splendour. Collecting plaster cast reproductions and electrotypes reached the height of popularity in the mid to late 19th century when only a select few could afford to travel outside of the UK.
The largest object in the museum at 35 metres high is the awe-inspiring cast of Trajan’s Column, which sits at the heart of the Ruddock Family Cast Court. The cast of this famous Roman memorial was transferred to the V&A in 1873 and displayed in two separate sections as the gallery was unable to accommodate its full height. For the first time, the base of Trajan’s Column will be permanently opened, enabling visitors to step inside providing a new perspective on its internal construction.
The Central Gallery, renamed the Chitra Nirmal Sethia Gallery, and provides a new interpretation space exploring the importance of copies. Many of the casts on display now offer the only the true record of important monuments, some of which have deteriorated due to weathering or have been destroyed during conflict.
The Cast Courts redevelopment project is supported by Garfield Weston Foundation, Ruddock Foundation for the Arts, N. Sethia Foundation, American Friends of the V&A, American Express, DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund, and many other generous donors.
Image: The Ruddock Family Cast Court. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.