What are museums for in the 21st century?

28 Sep 2018

Event times

7.20pm to 8.45pm

Cost of entry

Free for Ri Members and Ri Patrons
Ri Young Members £7
Standard £20
Concession £15

The Royal Institution

England, United Kingdom


Travel Information

  • There are numerous bus stops along Piccadilly which runs along the entrance to Albemarle Street. Bus numbers: 9, 14, 19, 22 and 38
  • The closest tube station to the Royal Institution is Green Park on the Jubilee, Victoria and Piccadilly lines. The Royal Institution is a five minute walk from the station. Also within a ten minute walking distance is Piccadilly Circus tube station, on the Piccadilly and Bakerloo lines, or Oxford Circus tube station on the Victoria, Central and Bakerloo lines.

Save Event: What are museums for in the 21st century?

I've seen this

People who have saved this event:


Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum and former MP, Dr Tristram Hunt will be discussing how museums can retain their relevance and purpose in our contemporary age, and why the V&A is as focused on curating the future as preserving the past.


The V&A is a museum with a rich history. From its Victorian roots in the Design School Movement of the 1830s to its collections from the 1851 Great Exhibition, its establishment as the Museum of Manufactures in 1852 to the foundation stone laid by Queen Victoria in 1899. But the past doesn’t insure us against the future. Tristram Huntwill explore how museums can retain their relevance and purpose in our contemporary age. For an institution enmeshed in collections going back 5,000 years, the V&A is as focused on curating the future as preserving the past.

About the speaker

Dr Tristram Hunt is the Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London – the world’s leading museum of art, design and performance. Since taking up the post in 2017, Dr Hunt has prioritised support for design education in UK schools, expansion of the photography department, and encouraging debate around the history of the museum’s global collections. He has overseen the opening of the new Exhibition Road Quarter and record visitor numbers to its South Kensington site. In the near future, Dr Hunt’s priorities are focused on the opening of V&A Dundee, the redesign of the V&A Museum of Childhood, and the development of a new museum partnership with the Smithsonian Institution and open access collections centre in Stratford, East London. 

Prior to joining the V&A, Dr Hunt was Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent Central and Shadow Secretary of State for Education.  He has a doctorate in Victorian history from Cambridge University and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.  In addition to numerous radio and TV programmes for the BBC, he is the author of Building Jerusalem: The Rise and Fall of the Victorian City (2005); Friedrich Engels: The Frock-Coated Communist (2009); and Ten Cities That Made an Empire (2014).

More about Discourses

Discourses are one of the Ri’s oldest and most prestigious series of talks. Since 1825, audiences in the theatre have witnessed countless mind-expanding moments, including the first public liquefaction of air by James Dewar, the announcement of the electron by J.J. Thomson and over 100 lectures by Michael Faraday. In more recent times, we have had Nobel laureates, Fields medal winners, scientists, authors and artists – all from the cutting-edge of their field. Discourses are an opportunity for the best and brightest to share their work with the world.

Steeped in nearly two centuries of tradition, a Discourse is more than just a lecture. To keep the focus on the topic, presenters begin sharply at 7:30pm without introduction and we lock the speaker into a room ten minutes ahead of the start (legend has it that a speaker once tried to escape!) We also ask guests to dress smartly to add to the sense of occasion.

Find out more about the history of the Friday Evening Discourses on our blog.


Have you been to this event? Share your insights and give it a review below.