The Victoria and Albert Museum is the largest museum of decorative arts and design in London, with a collection estimated at over 4.5 million items. Founded in 1852, it took its name from Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. It’s sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, so since 2001, the entry has been free of charge.
- Fashion – The fashion collection encompasses the most complete costume collection in Britain, with 14,000 outfits and accessories, some of them 400 years old. Items such as medieval vestments, design notebooks and costume sketches are featured here. Works of famous designers are also housed in the collection, most notably creations by Guy Laroche, Cristobal Balenciaga, Pierre Cardin, Coco Chanel, Christian Lacroix, Hubert de Givenchy, and Yves Saint Laurent.
- Books – With more than 750,000 books, paintings, photographs, prints and drawings, the National Art Library is also featured within the Victoria and Albert Museum and it is one of the biggest libraries in the world that are dedicated to studying fine and decorative arts. Three major public rooms are part of the Library: The Reading Room, The West Room and the Center Room, which holds special collection material.
- Architecture – The UK’s first permanent gallery featuring the history of architecture was opened in 2004 at the Victoria and Albert Museum, with the Royal Institute of British Architects. Photographs, drawings, models and elements from buildings were displayed. The Royal Institute of British Architects’ Drawings and Archives Collection is now also part of the museum, making it one of the most comprehensive in the world, with more than 600,000 drawings, 700,000 photographs and over 750,000 other papers.
- Eating & drinking – For a coffee or lunch break between exhibitions, look no further than the V&A Café. Fresh food is made on the premises including salads, pastries, cakes, hot dishes and sandwiches, along with drinks and a selection of alcoholic beverages. During the summer, cool off at the Garden Café, with a drink and a snack. For those who like to bring their lunch pre-packed from home, they can enjoy their meal in the Learning Centre Lunchroom.
- Shopping – Should you wish to buy a memento, a gift for a loved one or a book to learn more about the exhibits at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the shop has a large selection of items. Products are also available to purchasing on their online shop.
- Education – One very interesting feature at the Victoria and Albert Museum is their education department. Available for both school groups and individual visitors, the education department provides information to visitors, as well as educational facilities, study rooms and research facilities for students. Games and age-appropriate activities are provided for children in special activity backpacks that can be borrowed.
- Bus – Visitors can arrive to the Victoria and Albert Museum with buses 74, C1, 414 and 14.
- Tube – The closest London Underground station to the Victoria and Albert Museum is South Kensington, on the District, Circle and Piccadilly Line and is only a five-minute walk away. Knightsbridge station is a ten-minute walk away on the Piccadilly Line.
- Bike – You can travel to the Victoria and Albert Museum by bike, in a few minutes from the Exhibition Road. Bicycle parking facilities are accessible at Cromwell Gardens and cycle gear can be left in the cloakroom inside the museum.
- Car – You can access the Victoria and Albert Museum by car via the main A4 route into London.
The Victoria and Albert Museum originated from the Great Exhibition in 1851 and was originally founded as the Museum of Manufactures, opened in 1852. Once it was relocated to its current spot, it was renamed the South Kensington Museum before being named the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1899.
A renovation program started in 2001, which included £150 millions’ worth of remodeling and introduction of new facilities.
The museum currently houses 145 galleries, covering about 12.5 acres (51,000 m2). 5000 years of art are represented in this comprehensive collection, dating back to ancient times, from all over the world, most notably Asia, Europe, North Africa and North America.
The Victoria and Albert Museum thoroughly carries out research and conservation work, which is essential to the well-running of the institution. Objects must be identified, interpreted and evaluated and then preserved, which includes prevention of deterioration, as well as long-term conservation of the items.