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RIBA's special collections become museum pieces

riba president David Rock has ended 20 years of institute hand-wringing and wrangling over its special collections by sending more than a million drawings, manuscripts and archives to the Victoria & Albert Museum site.

He described the move as 'one of the most exciting developments' in the archive's 160-year history as he signed the agreement in principle with v&A director Dr Alan Borg this week. The bulk of the £350 million special collections will move to South Kensington in a deal giving free access to the whole of the v&A and riba collection to institute members and employees.

Running costs of the centre in the Henry Cole wing will be split between the two organisations with riba paying for the fit-out. It will include a mezzanine, reading room, study centre and more display space. The photo collection will remain at 66 Portland Place at present and riba retains ownership of the entire archive.

Rock said the move and fit-out would cost up to £1.5 million and both organisations may have a competitive interview with three architects. 'The v&A isn't just giving us a home, it wants to emphasise the joining together of the historic and modern architecture material,' he said.

The team of five staff, still headed by Charles Hind move to the v&A site, which will have separate riba branding. The move is expected around September 2000 and to last a minimum of 25 years, and up to 99 years.

It will end a 20-year debate on the future location, said past president Max Hutchinson, chairman of the British Architectural Library for the last 10 years, describing the move as a 'dream outcome.'

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