Housing a permanent collection of 4.5 million objects, the Victoria and Albert Museum also known as the V&A, London, is the world’s largest museum dedicated to Decorative Art and Design. The museum was built in the year 1852 and was christened thus after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The V&A is located in the Brompton district of the royal borough of Kensington and Chelsea, in an area that has become known as ‘Albertpolis’ due to its association with Prince Albert. Albertpolis houses the Albert Memorial as well as other cultural institutions such as the Natural History Museum, the Albert Hall and the Science Museum.
The museum spreads across an area of 12.5 acres, has 145 galleries and is sponsored by the Department of Culture, media and sports. It is a home to a collection spanning 5,000 years of art, from ancient times to the present day, telling stories from cultures of Europe, Asia, North America and North Africa. The holdings of glass, textiles, metalwork, ironwork, jewelry, furniture, medieval objects, sculptures, prints & printmaking, drawings and photographs are among the largest and most comprehensive in the world.
The architecture of the museum is a mélange of Victorian period, Edwardian period, the post war period and also the recent years.
The Victorian architecture came into being during 1837 and is characterized by patterned bricks, stained glass, terraces, barge roads, decorated roof lines and slates, bay and sash windows, floor tiles, fireplaces, porches and date stones.
The Edwardian architecture was a style that gained popularity during King Edward the 7th of the United Kingdom’s reign. This type of architecture is characterized by light colors, use of gas and later electric lights, plain wallpapers and curtain designs and very less clutter.
The V&A is split into four collection departments Asia; furniture, textiles & fashion, sculpture, metal work, ceramics & glass and word & image.
The collection departments are further divided into 16 display areas, who’s combined collection numbers over 6.5 million objects. The collections on display are under the following headings- Architecture, Asia, British galleries, Ceramics, Metal work, Fashion & jewelry, furniture, glass, sculpture, paintings & drawings, photography, Prints & books, textiles and theatre.
The V&A has covered the history of architecture with displays using models, original drawings, photographs and elements from buildings. The V&A forms the world’s most comprehensive architectural resource with over 600,000 drawings, over 750,000 papers and paraphernalia and over 700,000 photographs from around the world. The works of many major, British, European and architects have been displayed in the architectural collection.
The V&A collection of art from Asia is one of the largest in existence, as it houses 160,000 objects. The museum covers items from South & South East Asia, Himalayan kingdoms, china the Far East and the Islamic world.
There are around 19,000 items from the Islamic world, ranging from the early Islamic period to the early 20th century. Items such as exquisite calligraphy, carpets, crystal ware, ceramics etc.
The Museum holds around 60,000 objects including about 10,000 textiles and 6000 paintings from South & south East Asia.
The far eastern collection houses more than 70,000 works of art from the countries of East Asia: China, Japan and Korea.
The Museum’s National Art Library also known as the Word & Image Department, houses around 750,000 books, photographs, drawings, paintings and prints. It is one of the world’s largest libraries dedicated to the study of fine and decorative arts. One of the great treasures in the library are some of Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebooks. The diverse paper collection of the library consists of papers written by various writers including Beatrix Potter and Charles Dickens.
The museum has a collection of ceramics and glass with over 80,000 objects from around the world. The collection consists of Chinese and British porcelain.
While the glass collection covers 4000 years of glass making and houses around 6000 items from America, Europe, Britain, Africa and Asia. The earliest glassware on display comes from ancient Egypt including medieval renaissance, ancient Rome up until the recent periods that include Art Nouveau glass.
The Drawing section houses a collection of over 10,000 British and 2,000 Old Master works and displays works of about 20 to 30 world famous artists.
The Costume collection consists of over 14,000 outfits plus accessories and is the most comprehensive collection in Britain. These costumes mainly date from the 1600 to the present century. The collection is dominated by fashionable clothes made for special occasions.
The Furniture collection covers Europe and America from the middle ages to the present but is dominated by British furniture dating from 1700 to 1900. The furniture and Woodwork collection also includes complete rooms, musical instruments and clocks.
The jewelry collection houses over 6000 items and is one of the finest collections in the world. The collection includes works dating from ancient Egypt to the present day. The museum also collects jewelry from modern designers and also African and Asian traditional Jewelry.
The Print collection has more than 500,000 items and includes posters, greeting cards, book plates as well as works from the Renaissance to the present.
There is a lot more that the Victoria and Albert museum has in store for history lovers and people who have a craze for antique jewelry and furniture. A trip to the V&A, London, is a total value for money, time and energy. Do visit.