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Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London is the world's largest museum for decorative arts and design. Founded in 1852 and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, it’s one of the three major museums situated along South Kensington’s Exhibition Road with the others being the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum. Entry to the museum is free.

The museum has a comprehensive collection of decorative art that includes over 6.5 million items spanning from the ancient times to the modern era. Collections are from various cultures that include Europe, North America, Asia and North Africa. Furthermore, the museum is home to the world’s largest Italian Renaissance collection outside of Italy with some of the museum’s greatest treasures from the period. Collections from Asia and the Islamic world are some of the largest and the finest in the world.

Victoria and Albert Museum by David Castor

About

Housed in a grand Victorian building, the Victoria and Albert Museum comprises of 16 display areas divided into themed galleries totalling 145. Collections include ceramics, glass, textiles, costumes, silver, metalwork and jewellery. Other items include furniture, medieval objects, sculpture, prints and printmaking, drawings and photographs. The museum also houses the National Art Library with over 700, 000 books, manuscripts, photographs, drawings, paintings and prints dedicated to the study of decorative art.

British Galleries

There are 15 British themed galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum with around 4,000 items on display. The galleries cover popular designs from 1500 to 1900 and subdivided into three major phases in British history including Tudor and Stuart Britain (1500 to 1714), Georgian Britain (1714 to 1837) and Victorian Britain (1837 to 1901). Designs include Medieval, Renaissance, Elizabethan, Neoclassicism, Regency, Classical, Gothic Revival and Renaissance Revival to name a few. Exhibits are not only by British artists and skilled crafters but include works either commissioned or purchased from European artists by British patrons.

Asian Galleries

The Victoria and Albert Museum has one of the largest collections of artwork in the world from Asia. There are over 160,000 items from various regions of Asia including South Asia, East Asia (China, Japan and Korea) and Southeast Asia. There are also works from the Islamic world dating from the early 7th century to the early 20th century and include items from Spain, North Africa, Middle East and Central Asia. Exhibits include ceramics, glasswork, tiles, sculptures, embroidery, costumes, carpets, screens and woodblock prints.

Decorative tiles from 17th century Iran by Michel Wal

Costume Exhibits

The costume collection is the largest and most comprehensive in the UK. There are over 14,000 outfits and accessories in the museum’s collection dating from the 17th century to the present. Some of the oldest collections include religious garments from the medieval period and a wedding suit worn by James II who was King of England in the late 17th century. Talbot Hughes (1869–1942) was a British painter who collected over 750 costumes and accessories dating from the 15th to 19th centuries and his collections are now on display.

Art Exhibits

There are over 20,000 sculptures dating from the 5th century to early 20th century. Sculptures include Byzantine, Anglo Saxon, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Neo-Classical, Victorian and Art Nouveau. Materials used include ceramics, marble, alabaster, stone, terracotta, wood, ivory, plaster, bronze and lead. The art collections also include oil paintings, watercolours, drawings and miniatures by British and European artists totalling nearly 4,000. There is a good collection of 19th-century British paintings and watercolours as well as French paintings and miniatures.

Sculptures by Rept0n1x

Other Exhibits

The Victoria and Albert Museum has one of the world’s largest collections of ceramics and glass, totalling over 80,000 items from various cultures around the world. The furniture collections are mainly from the Middle Ages to the present and the oldest item is a chair leg from Ancient Egypt dated around the 3rd-4th century. The jewellery collections date from Ancient Egypt to the present and include traditional African and Asian jewelleries. The textile collections are from the 1st century to the present and include silk, weaving, quilts, embroidery, lace, tapestry and carpets. There are also photographic images collected since the invention of photography with the oldest dating to 1839.

Ceramics by Johnbod

Visiting the Victoria and Albert Museum

Admission to the Victoria and Albert Museum is free but there are charges for special exhibitions and events. The museum opens daily (closes on 24th, 25th and 25th December) from 10:00 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. but closes at 10:00 p.m. on Fridays.

The nearest London Underground station is South Kensington Station (serving the District, Circle and Piccadilly Lines) and about 5 minutes walk from the museum. A pedestrian subway connects South Kensington Station near the museum’s main entrance. Slightly further is Gloucester Road Station (serving the District, Circle and Piccadilly Lines) and about 15 minutes walk from the museum.

Victoria and Albert Museum on the Map

Cromwell Road, Kensington, London SW7 2RL, UK

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