The Victoria and Albert Museum – Description:
The Victoria and Albert Museum, affectionately known as the V&A, is the largest museum of decorative arts and design in the world with a permanent collection of 4.5 million objects from every age and nation.
Named after Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert the museum covers 5,000 years of art in 145 galleries. Subjects for the collections include: architecture; books; china; drawings; furniture; metalwork; photography; textiles; artists and designers; ceramics; conservation; dance; fashion; glass; jewellery; paintings; prints; sculpture; theatre and performance.
Periods and styles include Art Deco; Baroque; Contemporary; Gothic; Medieval; Modernism; Neo-Classicism; Renaissance; Rococo and Surrealism.
The Victoria and Albert Museum – History:
The museum was founded in 1852 following the success of the Great Exhibition the previous year. The exhibition was a celebration of the arts, crafts and industrial products of the British Empire. Prince Albert was the driving force behind the exhibition and wanted it to become a permanent collection as a source of inspiration to future generations. The Museum of Manufacturers was founded on the site and this became the Museum of Modern Art and finally the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Over the years the museum has extended and now occupies more than 7 miles of gallery space on six floors around a central courtyard. The foundation stone was laid by Queen Victoria in 1899 in her last official public engagement and the building was completed in 1909.
The main entrance in the Cromwell Road facade is topped with a great cupola modelled on the Queen’s imperial crown and statues of Victoria and Albert preside over the entrance. The central garden has been redesigned and opened in 2005; the new layout is formal with a blend of the traditional and modern and includes an elliptical water feature surrounded with stone and with steps around the edge, this can be drained to allow the area to be used for functions.
The Victoria and Albert Museum – Highlights:
Among best of the museum’s must see exhibits are: the collection of paintings by John Constable; the national collection of watercolours; the 7 Raphael Cartoons painted in 1515 as tapestry designs for the Sistine Chapel; the Fashion Room with displays ranging from Elizabethan costumes to Vivienne Westwood gowns; the Jewellery Gallery which includes examples dating from early Egypt to the present day; the magnificent Ardabil Carpet which is the world’s oldest floor covering; the massive Hereford Screen – a choir screen designed for Hereford Cathedral; Henry VIII’s Writing Box – the decorative motifs include Henry’s coat of arms flanked by Venus and Mars; the ancient, enormous and extravagantly carved Great Bed of Ware; and Tipu’s Tiger which is a large model tiger portraying a British Army Officer being eaten by a tiger – when the handle is turned the automaton emits the cries of the dying man.
The Victoria and Albert Museum – Layout:
The museum is set out on four levels as follows-
Level 1: Grand entrance; Gift Shop; Raphael Cartoons; South Asia Gallery – Tipu’s Tiger; Islamic Middle East Gallery – Ardabil Carpet; cafe; Fashion Room; Refreshment Rooms; Bookshop; Photography Collection; Cast Courts; Japan Gallery; Medieval and Renaissance Galleries; T. T. Tsui China Collection.
Level 2: British Galleries – Henry VIII’s Writing Box, Great Bed of Ware.
Level 3: Materials and Techniques – The Jewellery Gallery; The Theatre and Performance Gallery; The Gilbert Collection; The Hereford Screen; The 20th Century Gallery.
Level4: The Architecture Gallery; The Contemporary Glass Gallery.
The Victoria and Albert Museum – Website:
The Victoria and Albert Museum – Opening Hours:
The Victoria and Albert Museum is open every day (except 24-26 December) and entry is free. Charges may apply to special exhibitions.
Opening hours are:
- 10:00 to 17:45 daily
- 10:00 to 22:00 Fridays
The Victoria and Albert Museum – Getting There:
Address: The Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Rd SW7 2RL
Nearest Underground Station: South Kensington (2 minute walk)
(click on station name to find other places to visit nearby)