Victoria and Albert Museum
Learn more about Victoria and Albert Museum
|Established||1852, as the South Kensington Museum - renamed 1899 in honour of Queen Victoria and her late consort Albert|
|Location||on the corner of Cromwell Gardens and Exhibition Road in South Kensington, west London.|
|Nearest tube station(s)||South Kensington. A tunnel links the station to the museums; in 2005 a new entrance was opened linking the V&A's basement directly to the tunnel.|
The Victoria and Albert Museum (often abbreviated as the V&A) is on the corner of Cromwell Gardens and Exhibition Road in South Kensington, west London. It specialises in applied and decorative arts. Entrance has been free since November 22, 2001, following a short period when the Conservative government had imposed first voluntary and then compulsory charges.
The museum was established in 1852 as the South Kensington Museum under the control of the Science and Art Department, following the success of the Great Exhibition of 1851, along with the Natural History Museum, Royal Albert Hall, Albert Memorial and the Science Museum - together they form a cluster of cultural sites known informally as Albertopolis. Its first director was Sir Henry Cole, a utilitarian and joint organiser of the Great Exhibition who acquired some of the objects from the exhibition for the collection. Over the years the museum attracted many important collections to it. Originally, it contained both arts and sciences and was designed to inspire visitors with examples of achievement in both fields. It was believed at the time that this would help improve the tastes of consumers, manufacturers and designers, creating a virtuous circle that would benefit the culture and the economy.<ref>Royal Engineers Museum Royal Engineers' role in the Museum's construction</ref>
The museum's bronze front doors (found in the Pirelli Garden) placed James Watt on an equal footing to Titian and Humphry Davy with Michelangelo. However, in 1913, the scientific collection was split off and formed the core of the Science Museum. Since then the museum has maintained its role of one of the world's greatest decorative arts collections.
 Since 1950
In the 1980s Sir Roy Strong renamed the museum as "The Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Museum of Art and Design". Strong's successor Elizabeth Esteve-Coll oversaw a turbulent period for the institution in which the Museum's curatorial departments were re-structured leading to public criticism from some staff. Esteve-Coll's attempts to make the V&A more accessible included a criticised marketing campaign emphasising the cafe over the collection.
In July 1973 the V&A became the first museum in Britain to present a rock concert as part of its outreach programme to young people. The V&A presented a combined concert/lecture by British progressive folk-rock band Gryphon. During the event, organized by then newly-appointed V&A Director Roy Strong and music producer Martin Lewis, the musicians explored the lineage of mediaeval music and instrumentation and related how those contributed to contemporary music 500 years later. This innovative approach to bringing young people to museums was a hallmark of the Directorship of Roy Strong and was subsequently emulated by some other British museums.
The museum has a huge range of collections of European, Indian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Islamic decorative arts, totalling 4 million items. It has galleries for sculpture, glass, jewellery, church plate, armour, weapons, costume, textiles, musical instruments, wrought iron, stained glass, metalwork, ceramics, furniture, architecture, photography, British watercolour artists and much more.
The V&A also houses:
- Britain's national collection of sculpture up to 1900, including Bernini's fountain of Neptune and Triton and Canova's The Three Graces
- the national collection of Photography
 Cast courts
One of the most dramatic parts of the museum is the Cast Courts in the sculpture wing, comprising two large, skylighted rooms two storeys high housing hundreds of plaster casts of sculptures, friezes and tombs. One of these is dominated by a full-scale replica of Trajan's Column, cut in half in order to fit under the ceiling. The other includes reproductions of various works of Italian Renaissance sculpture and architecture, including a full-size replica of Michelangelo's David. Replicas of two earlier Davids by Donatello and Verrocchio, are also included, although for conservation reasons the Verrocchio replica is displayed in a glass case.
The two courts are divided by corridors on both storeys, and the partitions that used to line the upper corridor were removed in 2004 in order to allow the courts to be viewed from above.
The building is Victorian and Edwardian. It covers 11 acres (45,000 m²) and has 145 galleries.
Recently, controversy surrounded the museum's proposed building of an £80 million extension called The Spiral, designed by Daniel Libeskind, which was criticised as out of keeping with the architecture of the original buildings. The Spiral's design was described by some as looking like jumbled cardboard boxes. In September 2004, the museum's board of trustees voted to abandon the design after failing to receive funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.<ref>Website with image of Spiral and BBC story on axing of Spiral extension</ref>
In 2005 some of the sculpture galleries were closed in preparation for a major reorganisation which, it is claimed, will better allow the works to be viewed in their historical context. The ceramics exhibits are currently closed for "redevelopment", and no date for reopening has been announced. Certain prearranged tours of the ceramics exhibits are possible, however. In July 2006 the new Neo-Classical Sculpture Gallery and Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art opened as the first stages of that project.
 The Galleries
The Museum has around 150 galleries that are divided into the following areas:
The only permanent displays in the country that cover the general history of architecture, using models, photographs, elements from buildings and original drawings, are to be found in a new V&A gallery which opened on Thursday November 18, 2004.
This covers India, China, Japan, Korea, South East Asia and the Islamic world which includes North Africa and Turkey.
 British Galleries
These fifteen galleries - which opened in November 2001 - containing around 10,000 items, including whole rooms from demolished buildings covers the period 1500 to 1900.
This is the largest and most comprhensive collection in the world, covering the entire globe, every populated continent is represented.
These galleries are dedicated to temporary exhibits showcasing both trends from recent decades and the latest in design and fashion.
 Fashion and Jewellery
The costume collection is the most comprehensive in Britain.
 Furniture and Furnishings
Covers Britain, Europe and America from the Middle Ages to the present. The collection contains over 14,000 items that include tapesteries, carpets, complete rooms as well as furniture.
Covers four thousand years of glass making, and has over 6,000 items covering Britain, Europe, America and Asia.
 Periods and Styles
These Galleries cover an entire period in western design, covering all areas of the Museum's collections relevant to that period, these are: Medieval & Renaissance; Baroque & Rococo; 18th Century; 19th Century; 20th Century.
Covers decorative ironwork both wrought and cast, silverware, arms & armour, pewter, brassware & enamels.
 Paintings & Drawings
Includes 2,000 British & European oil paintings; British water colours, pastels & minatures; and includes the Raphael Cartoons, the seven full scale surviving designs for tapesteries in the Sistine Chapel.
The collection contains over 500,000 images dating from the advent of photography.
 Prints & Books
The print collection has over 500,000 items, covering posters, greetings cards, as well as prints from the renaissance to the present.
This the most comprehensive collection of post classical sculpture in the world, the Italian Renaissance sculpture (both original and in cast form) being unequalled outside of Italy.
 External links
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