Like the Taj Mahal, the museum stands as a physical testament to the union between two people: Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Founded in 1852, the museum is associated with Prince Albert and his support for cultural institutions – such as the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Royal Albert Hall – all of which still stand today as some of London’s most celebrated attractions.
The museum, first named the Museum of Manufactures and then the South Kensington Museum, was established due to the overwhelming success of Henry Cole’s Great Exhibition in 1851. The aim was to make artwork readily available, to educate anyone and everyone, and to promote British designers, artists and manufacturers. Over 40 years later, Queen Victoria made her last official public appearance to lay a foundation stone in honour of her late husband, introducing a new building that gave the Museum a striking façade and a main entrance. Henceforth, the museum was known as The Victoria and Albert Museum.
The tremendous collection has grown rapidly and boasts an unparalleled range of ceramics, glass, textiles, dresses, silver, ironwork, jewellery, furniture, sculpture, paintings, prints and photographs that pervade the cultures of Europe, North America, Asia and North Africa, and range from ancient times to the present day. A comment on England’s fascination and history with Asia, the museum devotes a large space for visitors to learn more about these diverse cultures. The East Asian collections are undoubtedly one of the best in Europe, with a specific devotion to ceramics and metalwork, whilst the Islamic section is one of the biggest in the Western world.
Free to enter, the V&A presently covers 12.5 acres and 145 galleries across seven floors. Alongside a plethora of exhibitions, the museum holds regular talks, tours, courses, family events and workshops. Highlights of the V&A include the Persian Ardabil carpet (the world’s oldest dated carpet), The Three Graces marble sculpture, Cecil Beaton’s royal photographs and the collection of dresses and costumes throughout history.
📅 Open daily, 10AM – 5.45PM (Friday close at 10PM)