Very rich tones

January 30, 2014

Re: Patricia Smyth’s letter “High and arbitrary fees” (23 January) about the British Museum’s practice of charging steep fees for the use of images it holds.

We have experienced this in relation to the Victoria & Albert Museum. Our research involves making films with people who live with dementia, for which we use still images. The project is purely educational in purpose, aiming to find out if this process benefits participants and helps to improve the quality of care for those living with dementia.

One participant – a man in his mid-eighties living in residential care – was reminded of a positive time in his life when he saw a painting of a place where he had lived as a boy. The artist who created the work died more than 50 years ago. The V&A now holds the rights, and it wanted to charge us a usage fee of £50 (later “reduced” to £40 when we reiterated the nature of our project). It is not possible for us to pay such fees for images on our modest budget. How frustrating that the V&A was determined not to support our work.

Katherine Ludwin, research assistant
Andrea Capstick, lecturer in dementia studies
University of Bradford

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