With nearly seven miles of galleries in several different buildings, and over 2.3 million objects covering 5,000 years of fascinating history; to say that the Victoria and Albert Museum covers it all is an understatement.
Not only is the V&A Museum the largest museum of both decorative and applied arts in the world, it's also the world's leading museum of art and design, and houses a variety of items which range from architecture, ceramics, art and furniture, to fashion, sculptures, jewellery and even theatre and performance.
When the museum was founded in 1852 it was originally known as the South Kensington Museum, but was eventually renamed the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1899 thanks to Queen Victoria's relentless efforts in expanding the museum into what it is today.
But the Victoria and Albert Museum isn't just a museum. It's an ever-evolving and constantly changing venue, where visitors can not only learn more about the history of the world through its millions of objects, but also expand their own skills as well.
Not only is it home to millions of objects, artefacts and paintings, the museum also hosts free talks and tours by experts, family and membership events, and even courses and classes on a wide range of topics and subjects. There are also a variety of workshops held at the museum throughout the year, which focus on everything from modern calligraphy to book illustration, and even iPad sketching classes!
V&A Museum Highlights
The collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum are separated into different categories which focus on different areas of the world (South Asia, the Islamic Middle East, Europe from 1600-1815 and Japan), or specific areas of interest such as architecture, jewellery, glass, ceramics, paintings, photographs, textiles and theatre and performance.
Some of the most notable items and/or exhibitions held at the Victoria and Albert Museum include:
- Tipu's Tiger (a wooden model of a tiger with a mechanical organ that dates back to the 1790s).
- The entire jewellery section (which is home to over 3,000 jewels dating from ancient times to the modern era).
- An Ox's Head sculpture (which was sculpted in Italy during the 17th century).
- A cameo portrait of Elizabeth I (dating from between 1575-1580).
- The earliest known photograph of London (circa 1839).
- Elton John's spectacles.
- The Great Bed of Ware by Hans Vredeman de Vries (a 1590s carved oak bed which was mentioned by William Shakespeare in Twelfth Night).
- A unicorn tapestry (dating back to the 1500s in Flanders).
- Raphael's Cartoons (a series of tapestries which were commissioned by Pope Leo X, circa 1515).
- A plaster cast of Michelangelo's David.
There are also a variety of temporary exhibitions held at the V&A Museum throughout the year, so make sure you check the official website before you visit in case there is anything that interests you.
- Make sure your flash is off on your camera at all times when taking photos of objects in the museum
- Weekends tend to be more crowded, so if you want to avoid the crowds try to visit during a weekday, or late on a Friday.
- If you want to join in on the Late Night Fridays festivities, try to arrive as early as possible as the events are on a strict “first come first serve” basis.
- If you want to check out some other museums and/or landmarks and save money on transportation costs, the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum are both only a one-minute walk away, and Hyde Park is an eight-minute walk away.