Victoria and Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum (often abbreviated as the V&A), set in the South Kensington district of The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London, England, is the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design, housing a permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects. Named after Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, it was founded in 1852, and has since grown to now cover 12.5 acres (51,000 m 2) and 145 galleries. Its collection spans 5,000 years of art, from ancient times to the present day, in virtually every medium, from the cultures of Europe, North America, Asia and North Africa. The museum is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The holdings of ceramics, glass, textiles, costumes, silver, ironwork, jewellery, furniture, medieval objects, sculpture, prints and printmaking, drawings and photographs are among the largest and most comprehensive in the world. The museum possesses the world's largest collection of post- classical sculpture, the holdings of Italian Renaissance items are the largest outside Italy. The departments of Asia include art from South Asia, China, Japan, Korea and the Islamic world. The East Asian collections are among the best in Europe, with particular strengths in ceramics and metalwork, while the Islamic collection, alongside the Musée du Louvre and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, is amongst the largest in the world. Alongside other neighbouring institutions, including the Natural History Museum and Science Museum, the V&A is located in what is termed London's " Albertopolis", an area of immense cultural, scientific and educational importance. Since 2001, the Museum has embarked on a major £150m renovation programme which has seen a major overhaul of the departments including the introduction of newer galleries, gardens, shops and visitor facilities. Following in similar vein to other national UK museums, entrance to the museum has been free since 2001.

History

Foundation
The V&A has its origins in The Great Exhibition of 1851, with which Henry Cole the museum's first director was involved in planning; initially it was known as The Museum of Manufactures, first opening in May 1852 at Marlborough House, but by September had been transferred to Somerset House. At this stage the collections covered both applied art and science. Several of the exhibits from the Exhibition were purchased to form the nucleus of the collection. By February 1854 discussions were underway to transfer the museum to the current site and it was renamed as The South Kensington Museum. In 1855 the German architect Gottfried Semper, at the request of Cole, produced a design for the museum, but was rejected by the Board of Trade as too expensive. The site was occupied by Brompton Park House, this was extended including the first refreshment rooms opened in 1857, the museum being the first in the world to provide such a facility. The official opening by Queen Victoria was on 22 June 1857. In the following year, late night openings were introduced, made possible by the use of gas lighting. This was to enable in the words of Cole "to ascertain practically what hours are most convenient to the working classes" " this was linked to the use of the collections of both applied art and science as educational resources to help boost productive industry. In these early years the practical use of the collection was very much emphasised as opposed to that of "High Art" at the National Gallery and scholarship at the British Museum. George Wallis(1811”“1891), the first Keeper of Fine Art Collection, passionately promoted the idea of wide art education through the museum collections. This led to the transfer to the museum of The School of Design that had been founded in 1837 at Somerset House, after the transfer it was referred to as the Art School or Art Training School, later to become the Royal College of Art which finally achieved full independence in 1949. From the 1860s to the 1880s the scientific collections had been moved from the main museum site to various improvised galleries to the west of Exhibition Road. In 1893 the "Science Museum" had effectively come into existence when a separate director was appointed. The laying of the foundation stone to the left of the main entrance of the Aston Webb building, on 17 May 1899 was the last official public appearance by Queen Victoria. It was during this ceremony that the change of name from the South Kensington Museum to the Victoria and Albert Museum was made public. London Gazette of the time ended "I trust that it will remain for ages a Monument of discerning Liberality and a Source of Refinement and Progress." The exhibition which the Museum organised to celebrate the centennial of the 1899 renaming, "A Grand Design," first toured in North America from 1997 ( Baltimore Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco), returning to London in 1999. To accompany and support the exhibition, the Museum published a book, Grand Design, which it has made available for reading online on its website.

1900”“1950
The opening ceremony for the Aston Webb building by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra took place on 26 June 1909. In 1914 the construction commenced of the Science Museum signalling the final split of the science and art collections, since then the museum has maintained its role of one of the world's greatest decorative arts collections. At the outbreak of World War II most of the collection was packed away and sent either to an underground quarry in Wiltshire, Montacute House in Somerset, or to a disused tunnel near Aldwych tube station with larger items remaining in situ being sand bagged and bricked in. During the war some of the galleries were used between 1941 and 1944 as a school for children evacuated from Gibraltar. The South Court became a canteen, first for the Royal Air Force and later for Bomb Damage Repair Squads. Prior to the return of the collections after the war, the Britain Can Make It exhibition was held between September and November 1946, attracting nearly a million and a half visitors. This was organised and held under the auspices of the Council of Industrial Design which had been established by central government in 1944 "to promote by all practicable means the improvement of design in the products of British industry"; the success of this exhibition led to the planning of the Festival of Britain. By 1948 most of the collections had been returned to the museum.

Since 1950
In July 1973 - as part of its outreach programme to young people - the V&A became the first museum in Britain to present a rock concert. The V&A presented a combined concert/lecture by British progressive folk-rock band Gryphon, who explored the lineage of mediaeval music and instrumentation and related how those contributed to contemporary music 500 years later. This innovative approach to bringing young people to museums was a hallmark of the Directorship of Roy Strong and was subsequently emulated by some other British museums. In the 1980s Sir Roy Strong renamed the museum as 'The Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Museum of Art and Design'. Strong's successor Elizabeth Esteve-Coll oversaw a turbulent period for the institution in which the museum's curatorial departments were re-structured leading to public criticism from some staff. Esteve-Coll's attempts to make the V&A more accessible included a criticised marketing campaign emphasising the cafe over the collection. In 2001 "Future Plan" was launched, which involves redesigning all the galleries and public facilities in the museum that have yet to be remodelled. This is to ensure that the exhibits are better displayed, more information is available and the Museum meets modern expectations for museum facilities; it should take about ten years to complete the work. The museum also runs the Museum of Childhood at Bethnal Green and used to run the Theatre Museum in Covent Garden and Apsley House. The Theatre Museum is now closed and the V&A Theatre Collections are now displayed within the South Kensington building. Regional partnerships The V&A has no museums or galleries of its own outside of London. Instead it works with a small number of partner organisations in Sheffield, Dundee and Blackpool to provide a regional presence. The V&A is in discussion with the University of Dundee, University of Abertay, Dundee City Council and the Scottish Government with a view to opening a new £43m gallery in Dundee which would use the V&A brand although it would be funded through and operated independently. The V&A Dundee, which will be on the city's waterfront and will focus on fashion, architecture, product design, graphic arts and photography. It is planned that it could open within 5 years. Plans for a new gallery in Blackpool are also under consideration. This follows earlier plans to move the theatre collection to a new £60m museum in Blackpool, which failed due to lack of funding. The V&A exhibits twice a year at the Millennium Galleries in partnership with Museums Sheffield. International partnerships The V&A is one of 17 museums across Europe and the Mediterranean participating in a project called Discover Islamic Art. Developed by the Brussels-based consortium Museum With No Frontiers, this online 'virtual museum' brings together over 1200 works of Islamic art and architecture into a single database.

Architecture of the museum

The Victorian period
The Victorian areas have a complex history, with piecemeal additions by different architects. Founded in May 1852, it was not until 1857 that the museum moved to the present site. This area of London was known as Brompton but had been renamed South Kensington. The land was occupied by Brompton Park House, which was extended, most notably by the "Brompton Boilers", which were starkly utilitarian iron galleries with a temporary look; they were later dismantled and used to build the V&A Museum of Childhood. The first building to be erected that still forms part of the museum was the Sheepshanks Gallery in 1857 on the eastern side of the garden; its architect was civil engineer Captain Francis Fowke, Royal Engineers, who was appointed by Cole. The next major expansions were designed by the same architect, these were the Turner and Vernon galleries built 1858-9 (built to house the eponymous collections, which were later transferred to the Tate Gallery, now used as the picture galleries and tapestry gallery respectively), then the North and South Courts, both of which opened by June 1862. They now form the galleries for temporary exhibitions and are directly behind the Sheepshanks Gallery. On the very northern edge of the site is situated the Secretariat Wing, also built in 1862 this houses the offices and board room etc. and is not open to the public. An ambitious scheme of decoration was developed for these new areas: a series of mosaic figures depicting famous European artists of the Medieval and Renaissance period were produced. These have now been removed to other areas of the museum. Also started were a series of frescoes by Lord Leighton: Industrial Arts as Applied to War 1878”“1880 and Industrial Arts Applied to Peace, which was started but never finished. To the east of this were additional galleries, the decoration of which was the work of another designer Owen Jones, these were the Oriental Courts (covering India, China and Japan) completed in 1863, none of this decoration survives, part of these galleries became the new galleries covering the 19th century, opened in December 2006. The last work by Fowke was the design for the range of buildings on the north and west sides of the garden, this includes the refreshment rooms, reinstated as the Museum Café in 2006, with the silver gallery above, (at the time the ceramics gallery), the top floor has a splendid lecture theatre although this is seldom open to the general public. The ceramic staircase in the northwest corner of this range of buildings was designed by F.W. Moody; all the architectural details are produced in moulded and coloured pottery. All the work on the north range was designed and built in 1864”“1869. The style adopted for this part of the museum was Italian Renaissance, much use was made of terracotta, brick and mosaic, this north façade was intended as the main entrance to the museum with its bronze doors designed by James Gamble & Reuben Townroe having six panels depicting: Humphry Davy (chemistry); Isaac Newton (astronomy); James Watt (mechanics); Bramante (architecture); Michelangelo (sculpture); Titian (painting); thus representing the range of the museums collections, Godfrey Sykes also designed the terracotta embellishments and the mosaic in the Pediment of the North Façade commemorating the Great Exhibition the profits from which helped to fund the museum, this is flanked by terracotta statue groups by Percival Ball. This building replaced Brompton Park House, which could then be demolished to make way for the south range. The interiors of the three refreshment rooms were assigned to different designers. The Green Dining Room 1866”“68 was the work of Philip Webb and William Morris, displays Elizabethan influences, the lower part of the walls are panelled in wood with a band of paintings depicting fruit and the occasional figure, with moulded plaster foliage on the main part of the wall and a plaster frieze around the decorated ceiling and stained glass windows by Edward Burne-Jones. The Centre Refreshment Room 1865”“77 was designed in a Renaissance style by James Gamble, the walls and even the Ionic columns are covered in decorative and moulded ceramic tile, the ceiling consists of elaborate designs on enamelled metal sheets and matching stained glass windows, the marble fireplace was designed and sculpted by Alfred Stevens and was removed from Dorchester House prior to that building's demolition in 1929. The Grill Room 1876”“81 was designed by Sir Edward Poynter, the lower part of the walls consist of blue and white tiles with various figures and foliage enclosed by wood panelling, above there are large tiled scenes with figures depicting the four seasons and the twelve months these were painted by ladies from the Art School then based in the museum, the windows are also stained glass, there is an elaborate cast iron grill still in place. With the death of Captain Francis Fowke, Royal Engineers the next architect to work at the museum was Colonel (later Major General) Henry Young Darracott Scott, also of the Royal Engineers. He designed to the north west of the garden the five-storey School for Naval Architects (also known as the science schools), now the Henry Cole Wing in 1867”“72. Scott's assistant J.H. Wild designed the impressive staircase that rises the full height of the building, made from Cadeby stone the steps are 7 feet (2.1 m) in length, the balustrades and columns are Portland stone. It is now used to jointly house the prints and architectural drawings of the V&A (prints, drawings, paintings and photographs) and Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA Drawings and Archives Collections); and the Sackler Centre for arts education which openned in 2008. Continuing the style of the earlier buildings, various designers were responsible for the decoration, the terracotta embellishments were again the work of Godfrey Sykes, although Sgraffito was used to decorate the east side of the building designed by F.W. Moody, a final embellishment were the wrought iron gates made as late as 1885 designed by Starkie Gardner, these lead to a passage through the building. Scott also designed the two Cast Courts 1870”“73 to the southeast of the garden (the site of the 'Brompton Boilers'), these vast spaces have ceilings 70 feet (21 m) in height to accommodate the plaster casts of parts of famous buildings, including Trajan's Column (in two separate pieces). The final part of the museum designed by Scott was the Art Library and what is now the sculpture gallery on the south side of the garden, built 1877”“83, the exterior mosaic panels in the parapet were designed by Reuben Townroe who also designed the plaster work in the library, Sir John Taylor designed the book shelves and cases, also this was the first part of the museum to have electric lighting. This completed the northern half of the site, creating a quadrangle with the garden at its centre, but left the museum without a proper façade. In 1890 the government launched a competition to design new buildings for the museum, with architect Alfred Waterhouse as one of the judges; this would give the museum a new imposing front entrance.

The Edwardian period
The main façade, built from red brick and Portland stone, stretches 720 feet (220 m) along Cromwell Gardens and was designed by Aston Webb after winning a competition in 1891 to extend the museum. Construction took place between 1899 to 1909. Stylistically it is a strange hybrid, although much of the detail belongs to the Renaissance there are medieval influences at work. The main entrance consisting of a series of shallow arches supported by slender columns and niches with twin doors separated by pier is Romanesque in form but Classical in detail. Likewise the tower above the main entrance has an open work crown surmounted by a statue of fame, a feature of late Gothic architecture and a feature common in Scotland, but the detail is Classical. The main windows to the galleries are also mullioned and transomed, again a Gothic feature, the top row of windows are interspersed with statues of many of the British artists whose work is displayed in the museum. Prince Albert appears within the main arch above the twin entrances, Queen Victoria above the frame around the arches and entrance, sculpted by Alfred Drury. These façades surround four levels of galleries. Other areas designed by Webb include the Entrance Hall and Rotunda, the East and West Halls, the areas occupied by the shop and Asian Galleries as well as the Costume Gallery. The interior makes much use of marble in the entrance hall and flanking staircases, although the galleries as originally designed were white with restrained classical detail and mouldings, very much in contrast to the elaborate decoration of the Victorian galleries, although much of this decoration was removed in the early 20th century.

The post-war period
The Museum survived the Second World War with only minor bomb damage. The worst loss was the Victorian stained glass on the Ceramics Staircase which was blown in when bombs fell near by; pock marks still visible on the façade of the museum were caused by shrapnel from the bombs. In the immediate post-war years there was little money available for other than essential repairs. The 1950s and early 1960s saw little in the way of building work, the first major work was the creation of new storage space for books in the Art Library in 1966 and 1967. This involved flooring over Aston Webb's main hall to form the book stacks, with a new medieval gallery on the ground floor (now the shop, opened in 2006). Then the lower ground floor galleries in the south west part of the museum were redesigned, opening in 1978 to form the new galleries covering Continental art 1600”“1800 (late Renaissance, Baroque through Rococo and neo-Classical). In 1974 the museum had acquired what is now the Henry Cole wing from the Royal College of Science. In order to adapt the building as galleries, all the Victorian interiors except for the staircase were recast during the remodelling. To link this to the rest of the museum, a new entrance building was constructed on the site of the former boiler house, the intended site of the Spiral, between 1978 and 1982. This building is of concrete and very functional, the only embellishment being the iron gates by Christopher Hay and Douglas Coyne of the Royal College of Art. These are set in the columned screen wall designed by Aston Webb that forms the façade.

Recent years
A few galleries were redesigned in the 1990s including: Indian, Japanese, Chinese, iron work, the main glass and the main silverware gallery, although this gallery was further enhanced in 2002 when some of the Victorian decoration was recreated. This included two of the ten columns having their ceramic decoration replaced and the elaborate painted designs restored on the ceiling. As part of the 2006 renovation the mosaic floors in the sculpture gallery were restored " most of the Victorian floors were covered in linoleum after the Second World War. After the success of the British Galleries, opened in 2001, it was decided to embark on a major redesign of all the galleries in the museum; this is known as 'Future Plan'and was created in consultation with the exhibition designers and masterplanners Metaphor. The plan is expected to take about ten years and was started in 2002. To date several galleries have been redesigned, notably, in 2002: the main Silver Gallery, Contemporary; in 2003: Photography, the main entrance, The Painting Galleries; in 2004: the tunnel to the subway leading to South Kensington tube station, New signage through out the museum, architecture, V&A and RIBA reading rooms and stores, metalware, Members' Room, contemporary glass, the Gilbert Bayes sculpture gallery; in 2005: portrait miniatures, prints and drawings, displays in Room 117, the garden, sacred silver and stained glass; in 2006: Central Hall Shop, Islamic Middle East, the new café, sculpture galleries. Several designers and architects have been involved in this work. Eva Jiricna designed the enhancements to the main entrance and rotunda, the new shop, the tunnel and the sculpture galleries. Gareth Hoskins was responsible for contemporary and architecture, Softroom, Islamic Middle East and the Members' Room, McInnes Usher McKnight Architects (MUMA) were responsible for the new Cafe and designed the new Medieval and Renaissance galleries which opened in 2009. Recently, controversy surrounded the museum's proposed building of an £80 million extension called The Spiral, designed by Daniel Libeskind, which was criticised as out of keeping with the architecture of the original buildings. The Spiral's design was described by some as looking like jumbled cardboard boxes. In September 2004, the museum's board of trustees voted to abandon the design after failing to receive funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The garden
The central garden was redesigned by Kim Wilkie and opened as the John Madejski Garden, on 5 July 2005. The design is a subtle blend of the traditional and modern, the layout is formal; there is an elliptical water feature lined in stone with steps around the edge which may be drained to use the area for receptions, gatherings or exhibition purposes. This is in front of the bronze doors leading to the refreshment rooms, a central path flanked by lawns leads to the sculpture gallery; the north, east and west sides have herbaceous borders along the museum walls with paths in front which continues along the south façade; in the two corners by the north façade there is planted an American Sweetgum tree; the southern, eastern and western edges of the lawns have glass planters which contain orange and lemon trees in summer, these are replaced by bay trees in winter. At night both the planters and water feature may be illuminated, and the surrounding façades lit to reveal details normally in shadow, especially noticeable are the mosaics in the loggia of the north façade. In summer a café is set up in the south west corner. The garden is also used for temporary exhibits of sculpture, for example a sculpture by Jeff Koons was shown in 2006. It has also played host to the museum's annual contemporary design showcase, the V&A Village Fete since 2005.

Departments

Education
The education department has wide-ranging responsibilities. It provides information for the casual visitor as well as for school groups, including integrating learning in the museum with the National Curriculum; it provides research facilities for students at degree level and beyond, with information and access to the collections. It also oversees the content of the Museum's web site in addition to publishing books and papers on the collections, research and other aspects of the Museum. Several areas of the collection have dedicated study rooms, these allow access to items in the collection that are not currently on display, but in some cases require an appointment to be made. The new Sackler education suite, occupying the two lower floors of the Henry Cole Wing opened in September 2008. This includes lecture rooms and areas for use by schools, which will be available during school holidays for use by families, and will enable direct handling of items from the collection. Activities for children Activity backpacks are available for children. These are free to borrow and include hands on activities such as puzzles, construction games and stories related to themes of the museum.

Research and conservation
Research is a very important area of the Museum's work, and includes: identification and interpretation of individual objects; other studies contribute to systematic research, this develops the public understanding of the art and artefacts of many of the great cultures of the world; visitor research and evaluation to discover the needs of visitors and their experiences of the Museum. Since 1990 the Museum has published research reports these focus on all areas of the collections. Conservation is responsible for the long-term preservation of the collections, and covers all the collections held by the V&A and the V&A Museum of Childhood. The conservators specialise in particular areas of conservation. Areas covered by conservator's work include 'preventive' conservation this includes: performing surveys, assessments and providing advice on the handling of items, correct packaging, mounting and handling procedures during movement and display to reduce risk of damaging objects. Activities include controlling the Museum environment (for example, temperature and light) and preventing pests (primarily insects) from damaging artefacts. The other major category is 'interventive' conservation, this includes: cleaning and reintegration to strengthen fragile objects, reveal original surface decoration, and restore shape. Interventive treatment makes an object more stable, but also more attractive and comprehensible to the viewer. It is usually undertaken on items that are to go on public display.

Collections
The Victoria & Albert Museum is split into four Collections departments, Asia; Furniture, Textiles and Fashion; Sculpture, Metalwork, Ceramics & Glass and Word & Image. The museum curators care for the objects in the collection and provide access to objects that are not currently on display to the public and scholars. The collection departments are further divided into sixteen display areas, whose combined collection numbers over 6.5 million objects, not all items are displayed or stored at the V&A. There is a repository, in Blythe Road, West Kensington, as well as annex institutions managed by the V&A, also the Museum lends exhibits to other institutions. The following lists each of the collections on display and the number of objects within the collection.

The museum has 145 galleries, but given the vast extent of the collections only a small percentage is ever on display. Many acquisitions have been made possible only with the assistance of the National Art Collections Fund.

Architecture
In 2004, the V&A alongside Royal Institute of British Architects opened the first permanent gallery in the UK covering the history of architecture with displays using models, photographs, elements from buildings and original drawings. With the opening of the new gallery, the RIBA Drawings and Archives Collection has been transferred to the museum, joining the already extensive collection held by the V&A. With over 600,000 drawings, over 750,000 papers and paraphernalia, and over 700,000 photographs from around the world, together they form the world's most comprehensive architectural resource. Not only are all the major British architects of the last four hundred years represented, but many European (especially Italian) and American architects' drawings are held in the collection. The RIBA's holdings of over 330 drawings by Andrea Palladio are the largest in the world, other Europeans well represented are Jacques Gentilhatre and Antonio Visentini. British architects whose drawings, and in some cases models of their buildings, in the collection, include: Inigo Jones, Sir Christopher Wren, Sir John Vanbrugh, Nicholas Hawksmoor, William Kent, James Gibbs, Robert Adam, Sir William Chambers, James Wyatt, Henry Holland, John Nash, Sir John Soane, Sir Charles Barry, Charles Robert Cockerell, Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, Sir George Gilbert Scott, John Loughborough Pearson,
  • Architecture (annex of the RIBA)
  • Asia
  • British Galleries (cross department display)
  • Ceramics
  • Childhood (annex of the V&A)
  • Contemporary (cross department function)
  • Fashion & Jewellery
  • Furniture
  • Glass
  • Metalwork
  • Paintings & Drawings
  • Periods and styles (cross department function)
  • Photography
  • Prints & Books
  • Sculpture
  • Textiles
  • Theatre (includes V&A Theatre Collections Reading Room, an annex of the former Theatre Museum)
  • 2,050,000
  • 160,000
  • ...
  • 74,000
  • 20,000
  • ...
  • 28,000
  • 14,000
  • 6,000
  • 31,000
  • 202,500
  • ...
  • 500,000
  • 1,500,000
  • 17,500
  • 38,000
  • 1,905,000

Media

2 photos

Building Activity

  • OpenBuildings
    OpenBuildings updated 8 media and uploaded a media file
    89
    about 4 years ago via OpenBuildings.com
  • removed 2 media
    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com