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Victoria and Albert Museum

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This post covers the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington, a world-renowned institution dedicated to the arts, design, and culture.


THE VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM

The V&A is made up of a handful of museums, including V&A South Kensington (in London), V&A Wedgwood Collection (in Staffordshire), V&A Dundee (in Dundee, Scotland), with two others, Young V&A and V&A East (in London), currently in the works.

First established in 1852 as the Museum of Manufacturers in Marlborough House, the museum was moved and eventually renamed after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1899. 

Both of them were passionate advocates of the arts and design.

Tomb effieiges, Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Photo by: Rept0n1x |  3.0 Unported

The V&A today is home to a collection of over 2.8 million objects, ranging from ancient artifacts to modern design objects.

This makes it one of the largest and most diverse museums in the world.

It houses millions of objects covering 5,000 years of human creation.

In addition to its permanent collections, the V&A also hosts a variety of temporary exhibitions, which showcase the work of contemporary artists and designers.

It is a true treasure trove of knowledge and inspiration, offering visitors the opportunity to explore the rich history and culture of the arts and design.


THE V&A SOUTH KENSINGTON

The Victoria and Albert Museum South Kensington is located in the heart of London's cultural district.

It is situated in close proximity to other major museums such as the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, as well as numerous cultural attractions, restaurants, and shops. 

The V&A is easily accessible by public transportation, with the nearest underground stations being South Kensington, Knightsbridge.

And a bit further away is the Sloane Square and Gloucester Road tube stations. 

Several bus routes also stop outside.


Address

Cromwell Road

London, SW7 2RL


Hours

The museum is open daily from 10:00 - 17:45 (5:45 pm) - except for Fridays when it is open until 22:00 (10:00 pm).


How Long Is Needed For a Visit

Honestly, one could spend days there and not see it all.

Many folks recommend visits in two to three-hour increments, so items can be fully observed and enjoyed.


Museum Map

A layout of the V&A can be found here, searchable by levels.

And a PDF map of the museum can be downloaded here.

There are also foldable maps to be had at the V&A near the Grand Entrance, for a requested donation of £1


Cost

Admission to the V&A Museum South Kensington’s permanent collection is free.

Some special exhibits have an entrance fee.


Facilities

Facilities include cloakrooms where you can check your items for between  £3 and £7 each, depending on the size.

There are also lifts throughout the building for those who need them.

There are three museum shops where items such as jewelry, homewares, scarves, books, and prints, can be purchased.

The Main Cafe sits in elegant rooms designed by artists William Morris and Edward Poynter. 

It’s open each day from 10:00-17:00 (5 pm) and serves beverages, cakes and pastries, and hot and cold meals.

The Garden Cafe is open all year round during the same hours, although its opening is weather dependent during December and January.

It serves beverages, cakes, salads, and sandwiches.


Buildings and Gardens

The Victoria and Albert Museum South Kensington is housed in a series of historic buildings, including the main museum building, which was designed by Sir Aston Webb and completed in 1909. 

The V&A's buildings are a beautiful blend of historical and modern architectural styles and are an integral part of the museum's appeal.

The main building is an example of Edwardian Baroque architecture and is characterized by its grand entrance, impressive dome, and ornate decorations. 

The building is constructed from Portland stone and features a number of intricate details, such as carved figures, reliefs, and mosaics. 

The museum also includes the Henry Cole Wing, which was completed in 1857, home to the museum's architecture and design collection, as well as the Sackler Centre for arts education, completed in 2001. 

The museum's John Madejski Garden is a peaceful oasis in the heart of London, with an oval elliptical pool and water jets, planters with trees that change throughout the seasons, and a tranquil courtyard.

Outdoor exhibitions and events, such as sculpture displays and open-air concerts, often take place in this beautiful outdoor space.


Offerings

The V&A's educational programs and events include talks, workshops, guided tours, evening lectures, concerts, and film screenings.

These are led by knowledgeable experts and are designed to help visitors learn more about the museum's collections and the history of art and design.

The V&A also has a number of interactive exhibits, which allow visitors to engage with the museum's collections in a hands-on way.

Read more about tours below.


WHAT CAN BE FOUND AT THE V&A SOUTH KENSINGTON

Its collections are divided into several categories, including ceramics, fashion, jewelry, furniture, textiles, prints, and drawings. 

The V&A's collection is vast and diverse, with objects ranging from ancient Egyptian artifacts to modern design objects.

It also covers periods and styles such as Medieval, Modernism, Renaissance, Baroque, Art Deco, Aestheticism, and so much more.

All of the items on display showcase the skills of some of the finest craftsmen and designers in history.


Textiles and Fashion

The V&A’s collection of textiles and fashion is impressive, with over 75,000 individual objects covering thousands of years.

It has a wide range of fabrics, including embroidered pieces, lace work, tapestries, and more.

Its fashion collection is also noteworthy, with garments dating back to the 16th century and including pieces by some of the most famous designers in history.

The museum's temporary exhibitions are another highlight, with past exhibitions showcasing the work of contemporary artists and designers such as Alexander McQueen and Jean Paul Gaultier.

There is also a collection of over 2,000 pairs of shoes dating back 3,000 years.


Jewelry

The museum's collection of jewelry is another highlight, with pieces ranging from ancient Egyptian artifacts to modern pieces by contemporary designers. 

Over 3,000 jewels fill their collection including hair ornaments, earrings, necklaces, brooches, and more.


Furniture

The V&A also has a large collection of furniture, ranging from antique pieces to modern designs. 

Their collection covers six centuries of British and international furniture production. 

Here you’ll find items such as a Maharaja’s throne chair, a Charles and Ray Eames storage unit, a Columbian cabinet from the 17th century, and much more.


Ceramics

The museum's collection of ceramics is also noteworthy, dating back to 2500 BCE.

It has a wide range of objects, including ancient Chinese porcelain and European pottery.


Paintings, Prints, and Drawings

The museum also has a large collection of works by some of the most famous artists in history.

The paintings collection includes European oil and watercolor paintings.

It also has thousands of miniatures, including portraits of historical figures such as Anne of Cleves and Catherine de Medici. 

The V&A's prints and drawings collection is another standout feature.

The prints collection has about 500,000 objects covering fine arts items and commercial production.

Here you’ll find works by some of the most famous artists in history, including Rembrandt and Michelangelo.


Architecture

The museum carries such items as entire historic rooms, large-scale architectural fragments, models, drawings, and more.

This covers works by some of the best British and international architects over the past 600+ years.

Visitors will find such items as a model of Albert Hall from 1864, a print of Petronas Towers by their architect, wallpaper designs for the Houses of Parliament, an entire housefront from London from the 1600s, and so much more.


Sculpture

Sculptures can be found throughout the museum. 

There is a gallery holding sculptures that represent mythological or allegorical subjects.

Another holds garden sculptures.

A third holds funerary monuments and portrait busts. 

There are religious sculptures from throughout Europe dating back to the 1300s.

Most fascinating are the Cast Courts, a display that dates back to 1873.

Here you’ll find “some of the world's most significant works of art reproduced in plaster, electrotype, photography, and digital media”.

Included in this gallery are plaster casts of the statue of David, tomb details, tabernacles, and much more. 


Other

Also found in the V&A are rooms dedicated to works from Islamic Middle East, China, Japan, and South Asia.

There are also galleries dedicated to the Medieval and Renaissance periods, Sacred Silver and Stained Glass, Raphael Cartoons, and Buddhism.


TOURS OF THE V&A SOUTH KENSINGTON

There are an incredible number of tours offered by V&A, both free and paid, some set and others bespoke. For detailed information, visit the V&A Tours webpage.

Free tours can be chosen from areas such as “Female Voices”, “Fashion”, “Highlights of the V&A”, and more.

Private set tours cost £10 per person and can have up to 25 guests. Bookings should be made at least a month in advance. 

These tours can cover such topics as “The 20th Century”, “Eastern Art & Craft”, “Interiors” and much more.

There are also private tailor-made tours, permanent collection private group tours and talks, exhibition-related private tours and talks, and private intercultural tours on offer.


TIPS FOR VISITING THE V&A SOUTH KENSINGTON

  • Weekdays are less crowded than weekends. 
  • Exhibits close 15 minutes before the museum closes.
  • Refunds for special exhibits are not given.
  • Wheelchairs can be borrowed from the museum and need to be pre-booked.
  • There is a family page on the V&A website that provides treasure hunts and others ideas for keeping kids engaged during a visit to the museum.
  • For families with prams, the side door on Exhibition Road is recommended as the cloakroom and buggy park are nearby.
  • Some folks suggest planning which collections or exhibits one wants to see ahead of time so as not to become overwhelmed by options.
  • Wear good shoes! The museum has over 7 miles of galleries.

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