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The Victoria and Albert Museum (often called the V&A), is the world’s largest museum of Decorative Arts and Design, housing a permanent collection of over 2.5 million objects.
The Museum owes its existence to the success of the Great Exhibition of 1851, profits from the Exhibition were used to establish the Museum of Manufactures and provide money to purchase exhibits.
The Museum moved to its present site in 1857 and was renamed the South Kensington Museum. The Museum buildings grew rapidly as did the collections including many forms of decorative art from all periods. It also acquired fine art especially paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture.
In 1899, Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone of a new building designed to give the Museum a grand façade and main entrance. To mark the occasion, it was renamed the Victoria and Albert Museum, in memory of Prince Albert.
Throughout the 20th century, the collections continued to grow until the present day and the Museum’s collections of ceramics, glass, textiles, dress, silver, ironwork, jewellery, furniture, sculpture, paintings, prints and photographs are considered some of the most important in the world.
The museums incredibly diverse collections are not all related to the past, contemporary design is an important part of the V&A’s newer collections and exhibitions by modern designers are very popular.
The Museum is vast and full of interesting objects, therefore it is worth going on a guided tour to discover some of the museums highlights.
Tipu’s Tiger is one of the V&A’s most popular exhibits. The wooden model of a tiger attacking a European was made for Tipu Sultan, ruler of Mysore in India, in the 1790s.
The Luck of Edenhall is a 13th-century Syrian glass beaker
Famous 12th-century Gloucester candlestick
A writing box which belonged to Henry VIII and was made in 1525.
There are approximately 16,000 objects from China including a spectacular Qing dynasty carved lacquer imperial throne.
The Ardabil carpet at the V&A is the world’s oldest dated carpet (made in Iran in 1539)
The ‘Three Graces’ sculpture by Antonio Canova
The Great Bed of Ware is Britain’s most famous bed; made in the 1590s, it is over 11 feet long and ten feet wide, and is mentioned in Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’.
The museum has around 20 works by the sculptor Rodin, making it one of the largest collections of the sculptor’s work outside France; these were given to the museum by the sculptor in 1914, as acknowledgement of Britain’s support of France in World War.
One of the most unusual collections is the Cast Courts, two very large rooms that houses hundreds of plaster casts of sculptures, friezes and tombs. One of the rooms is dominated by a full-scale replica of Trajan’s Column, cut in half in order to fit under the ceiling.
The V&A Café
The V&A Café is a popular spot for lunch with hot dishes, salads, sandwiches, pastries and cakes, as well as hot and cold drinks, wine and beer. it is located in the V&A’s original refreshment rooms, the Morris, Gamble and Poynter Rooms. These three rooms formed the first museum restaurant in the world. In the summer there is a Garden Café for drinks and snacks.
The V&A Shop
Equally popular is the V&A Shop which offers a wide range of unusual products inspired by the V&A’s extensive collections. It has a series of gifts to suit all ages and pockets which include Jewellery, furniture, books, prints, textiles, toys, ceramics, fashion, design, glass and accessories.
Admission to the V&A is free
Although some exhibitions and events may carry a separate charge.
Museum opening hours
10.00 to 17.45 daily
10.00 to 22.00 Fridays (selected galleries remain open after 18.00)
Closing commences 10 minutes before time stated
Closed 24, 25 and 26 December
For more information about the V and A Museum, visit their website here
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