Taylor Swift Is in Her Museum Era

The singer’s costumes and memorabilia are the subject of an upcoming exhibition at London’s V&A Museum

Taylor Swift singing Willow
A still from Taylor Swift's "Willow" music video TAS Rights Management, LLC

Taylor Swift may have said “So Long, London,” but that was before she became the subject of an exhibition at one of the city’s most famous museums.

Taylor Swift: Songbook Trail,” which delves into the musician’s pop stardom, opens at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) later this month. Divided into 13 “stops” (that’s Swift’s lucky number, as devoted Swifties know), the exhibition brings together some of the musician’s instruments, awards and other archival materials—including 16 outfits from between 2007 and today.

“We are delighted to be able to display a range of iconic looks worn by Taylor Swift at the V&A this summer, each celebrating a chapter in the artist’s musical journey,” says Kate Bailey, a senior curator at the museum, in a statement. “We hope this theatrical trail across the museum will inspire curious visitors to discover more about the performer, her creativity and V&A objects.”

The exhibition will place Swift memorabilia in dialogue with the museum’s art and architecture. “Taylor Swift’s songs, like objects, tell stories,” Bailey adds, “often drawing from art, history and literature.”

That is particularly true of Swift’s latest album, The Tortured Poets Department, a lengthy, loquacious collection of songs brimming with literary references. “You’re not Dylan Thomas, I’m not Patti Smith,” she sings on the title track, naming two writers who once frequented the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan. “Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?” nods to Edward Albee’s 1962 play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, while “The Bolter” is a reference to a character in Nancy Mitford's 1945 novel The Pursuit of Love, as Town & Country’s Emily Burack notes. “Clara Bow,” meanwhile, was the name of one of Hollywood’s first starlets.

When the album dropped in April, Swift was in the middle of her Eras Tour, which revisits each stage of the singer’s career. The concert series is an international sensation that has boosted local economies and generated seismic activity.

Taylor Swift singing Fortnight
A still from Taylor Swift's "Fortnight" music video TAS Rights Management, LLC

Much like the tour, “Taylor Swift: Songbook Trail” will cover the entirety of the pop star’s career. Items on display range from a pair of custom cowboy boots she wore during her breakout success as a country singer in 2007 to a Victorian mourning gown with ruffled shoulders she donned in the music video for “Fortnight,” the lead single from The Tortured Poets Department.

Designed by Tom Piper, best known as a theater designer for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the exhibition will feature 13 theatrically staged areas, each with its own set, sound and video.

Back in February, the V&A announced it was hiring five Taylor Swift “Superfan Advisors” in preparation for the exhibition. Successful applicants would meet with the museum’s curators to “share their knowledge of Swift, including fan culture and the memorabilia,” per Forbes’ Emma Kershaw.

Soon, all interested Swifties will have the chance to see the show for themselves. Those who poured hours of time and thousands of dollars—or pounds—into attending the Eras Tour can rest easy: “Taylor Swift: Songbook Trail” is free, and no booking is required.

It’s not the first time Swift has inspired a museum exhibition. Last year, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City opened “Taylor Swift: Storyteller,” another showcase of outfits from throughout the musician’s career. She’s also been the subject of college classes and an academic conference, and she has inspired at least one cruise.

Taylor Swift: Songbook Trail” will be on view at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London from July 27 through September 8.

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