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Victoria and Albert Museum (London)

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The Victoria and Albert Museum (often abbreviated as the V&A) is on the corner of Cromwell Gardens and Exhibition Road in South Kensington, west London. It specialises in applied and decorative arts. Entrance has been free since November 22, 2001, following a short period when the Conservative government had imposed first voluntary and then compulsory charges.

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      04.08.2012 09:42
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      I love it

      My absolute favourite place in London is the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum. I don't care how many times I have been, I still go again every time I'm there and I will probably carry on doing so for a very long time.

      The V&A is located on Cromwell Road, a few minutes away from the South Kensington underground station. Also, if you are heading to the museum from Harrods, it is a 5 minute walk up the same street so the location is very good. If you want to take the bus to the museum then you can get either the C1, 14, 74 and 414 which all stop right outside the entrance. In close vicinity is the Science Museum as well as the Natural History Museum.

      == Opening times and admission ==
      10.00 to 17.45 daily
      10.00 to 22.00 Fridays (selected galleries remain open after 18.00)
      Admission is always free although donations are welcomed
      Some temporary exhibitions require an admission fee

      == The museum ==
      The V&A has had many different names over the years since it opened in 1852. Firstly it was known as the Museum of Manufacturers, then the South Kensington Museum and finally in 1899, it was renamed as the Victoria and Albert Museum. The museum is very large in size and the exterior is stunning. As you are walking up to the museum, you can't miss it because of how big it is and also how nice it looks from the outside. Although you can enter the museum from an underground tunnel, I always choose to enter from the outside just so I can see the building again.

      Inside the museum is just as impressive. The V&A is home to a very varied collection of exhibitions and although there are always some temporary ones on show, there are also a large number of permanent exhibitions. Different permanent exhibitions include; Furniture, Textiles and Fashion, Sculpture, Metalwork, Ceramics & Glass and Word & Image. Free maps are available as you enter the museum which I would highly recommend getting as the museum can be extremely confusing. The layout is not that simple and every time I go, I end up missing parts of it due to getting lost.

      If you enter the museum from the tunnel, you will hit the sculpture exhibition, which is my personal favourite, Here, you can see so many different amazing sculptures from all over the world and of different things. You can see a sculpture of Einstein and Shakespeare's head along with some impressive Greek and Roman Gods. Although I have seen this part of the museum so many times, it never fails to impress me and I always spend quite a lot of time looking around this area. While this section is fairly large in size, it could be bigger and I wish that this one was area that could be expanded as some other areas of the museum are huge in comparison.

      Another of my favourite areas to visit is the fashion exhibition although I didn't put my boyfriend through this the last time we went. What I love so much about looking at fashion is seeing how much things have changed over time. Some of the permanent items in this section include contemporary fashion and weddings. The V&A has an amazing wedding collection which includes a suit made for King James II to wear at his own wedding. Some of the pieces here are absolutely stunning although this probably isn't a section which the men will enjoy so much. This exhibition dates from the Renaissance period up to the modern day.

      As the V&A has so many different collections, it can take hours to get round but it really is worth it. As I said earlier, I generally tend to miss something each time I go so I always get to discover something new and interesting with each visit. Along with the exhibitions, the V&A also has a great shop which is very large in size. The shop has a great collection of books, prints and posters as well as other items. Jewellery can be purchased as well as home ware and strange items from British designers. The shop always has some really interesting items on sale which are constantly changing. Prices are also good as they range from quite cheap and reasonable to pretty expensive for the better and more impressive items.

      == Overall ==
      The V&A is definitely a place worth visiting if you are in London. As admission is free, it is a great cheap way to spend a day or only a few hours if you have been there before. There is so much to see at the V&A that there always seems to be something I haven't seen before which is why I make a point of going every time I'm in London.

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      26.05.2011 15:33
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      A really interesting museum full of fascinating things to see and information to learn.

      Growing up in London, all the major museums were places that we saw on a number of occasions, but of all of them, this is my personal favourite, and the museum that I've enjoyed re-visiting as an Adult the most.

      Located on Brompton Road in London next door to the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum is all about design, fashion and decoration. It holds collections of ceramics, jewellery, clothing and silverware, and as well as the things that are there all the time, there are also specialist exhibitions that are available for short times only.

      The museum itself is free to enter, but some of the exhibitions which are brought in from elsewhere you do have to pay a small fee to see. Maps are provided when you go in and I'd strongly advise taking one as the layout here is a little bit muddling and although they're not the best maps in the world, they certainly do help quite a bit.

      Accessibility wise, the whole museum is wheelchair accessible, but if you use a stick be aware that it is pretty big, and the distance from lifts to where you want to be can be a bit daunting to be honest, also not all the lifts stop at all floors which makes it even harder as you sometimes have to walk from one side of the building to the other to get the right lift in order to get to where you want to be. Some of the top down display cabinets are also a little high too which means that if you can you need to be prepared to stand up from your wheelchair to see them clearly. I've often thought that a simple mirror placed above these displays would assist those of us who need wheelchairs to see them much more clearly.

      The items on display here are quite varied and range from very old (like around 5000 years old!), to modern, and they come from all around the world making it even more interesting. Some are gathered into collections by type, while others are gathered by location such as Europe or the Far East.

      There are so many different aspects to this museum and the layout is so confusing that it is hard to describe everything, but two of my favourite areas were the Jewellery Collections and the Fashion Gallery sections.

      The jewellery appeals to me on several levels - firstly, they have some absolutely stunning pieces here, and it's fascinating to look at them. But I also find jewellery interesting as I've made it myself at times over the years, so I know just how much effort really goes into some of the intricate bead work you see. One other thing I like about this section is that it really is well lit - you don't get a bright room, but each cabinet is lit individually so that you can clearly see everything well.

      I love the clothing displays very much and find it fascinating to see the changes in the fashions over time, and this is displayed really well as you do sort of get to walk from one era to the next coming forwards (or going back if you go the other way round), to see how things have changed in terms of fashions and materials etc.

      As well as all the displays, there are two cafes and a shop. One of the cafes is outdoors and is lovely in the summertime, but we actually prefer the indoor one as it has more choice of food and drink, and the room you sit in is pretty beautiful in its own right, and has high arched windows and vaulted ceilings, and you do feel like you're sipping your cuppa in a place of style sitting here. Don't expect the food to be cheap, you can pay upwards of £4 for a sandwich, but with the lovely surroundings and the fact that the museum itself is free, I suppose they have to make their money somewhere.

      The shop is full of most of the usual things you'd expect to find in a museum shop to be honest. There are a number of replica pieces for sale inspired by items within the museum, and they have a lot of books here too which is great. One thing I didn't find which they used to do when I was a child was packs of colouring sheets of the various fashions through the ages. I was quite disappointed not to find these as I always like to take my young nieces and nephews something from our trips like this, and I know my niece would have enjoyed these as much as I did as a child.

      I'd highly recommend this as a place to visit, there is so much to see here that it's easy to forget the time when you're wandering around. I think the biggest mistake that many people make however is trying to cram in trips to the V&A, Science Museum and Natural History Museum all in one day, and each of these places really does need a day to itself if you're going to get the best you can from it I think.

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      15.09.2010 15:22
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      You could easily lose a whole day in here

      The Victoria & Albert Museum is located on Brompton Road, London, very close to South Kensington tube station and beside the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum. It was founded in 1852, named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. It is a museum of decorative arts and design, including collections of ceramics, silverware, jewellery and also collections by area, from the Far East, Europe and many other places.

      Entry is free, although a donation is encouraged from each visitor and you are asked to donate £1 for a map (which you will need). There are always a few special exhibitions going on, some of which have entry charges.

      I've visited the V&A on a few occasions now, and I still haven't seen all of it. It really is a massive building, and some of the galleries have so much packed in to them that you can spend all day in one section of the museum. There must surely be something for everyone in this museum - the exhibits range from ancient (up to 5000 years old I believe) to contemporary art.

      On my visits, I've spent most time in the "materials" galleries, that is silver, ceramics, jewellery and the like. I visited the jewellery collection with my mum last year, and it was quite stunning. All the items are displayed in well-lit glass cases (the room itself is a little dim so as to give the best effect to the case lighting), and they are fascinating and beautiful. The items are laid out so as to tell stories of jewellery fashions and manufacturing changes through time.

      Similarly, the fashion gallery is dim while the clothes on display are well-lit. As with many of the V&A collections, this is a walk through time where you can easily see the change in fashions and materials used.

      On this year's return visit, my parents and I visited the newly reopened ceramics galleries. This was the main reason for our visit, as my mum is very interested in ceramics/china, and the galleries had been closed for refurbishment on our last visit.

      The ceramics galleries render you speechless. We came out of the lift, rounded a corner and were confronted with floor to ceiling china. In addition to the main collection which is on show and fully labelled, the V&A utilises "visible storage" for the ceramics collections. This means that everything they have is effectively on display. There are ceiling high, unlabelled yet fairly organised glass cases which hold the bulk of the collection which is not officially "on display" - although it is technically, it is not nicely presented and labelled.

      There are several rooms to the ceramics galleries, covering British, European and Asian ceramics, and then there are further rooms which are dedicated to modern, pottery and studio ceramics. Further to that there is a room of contemporary ceramics, which is a very impressive high ceilinged room with a hole in the middle through which you can see down 6 floors to the main atrium of the museum (don't worry, there is a fence around the hole). These contemporary arty ceramics were on the whole a bit weird, some were ugly and some were pretty or funny. My mum was in seventh heaven through her visit, I don't think she'd imagined that so much china could be seen in one place.

      I've passed through other areas of the museum which I've never actually stopped to look at... Sculpture, the Far East, Medieval art - which is one that I think warrants a closer look on a future visit. I've also been to the contemporary Europe galleries, and last year we visited Performance, which was something for my dad after all the jewellery and silverware we had been looking at. Performance is an interesting look at the history of performance, including circus, theatre, opera and rock and pop music. There is memorabilia from through the years, and plenty of costumes on display.

      The museum shops are well worth a look. The main shop is located just inside the entrance and the bookshop is further in, also on the ground floor. There are a lot of items for sale inspired by the museum's collections, and of course lots of books so you can learn more about what you have been looking at.

      There are two cafes in the museum, one in the lovely central garden - well, lovely on a sunny day! There's a pretty pond which kids are allowed to play in, you can sit at a table or on the grass and have a drink and something to eat. There is also one inside which offers more choice than the garden cafe, in terms of hot meals and snacks. I've visited both, and I think the prices are a little high and the food is sometimes a bit more fancy than you might want. You can't just get a cheese sandwich here - it's mozzarella and pesto on ciabatta. Sandwiches average around £4-5. There is also a good selection of cakes and drinks.

      The V&A is fully wheelchair accessible, although sometimes you have a long walk to get to a lift. The way the floors are laid out (not every floor is fully in use), most lifts don't go to every floor but only to a few (for example, 1, 3, 4, and 6). This can be irritating when you are on one side of this large museum and the lifts you need are miles away!

      I'd fully recommend a visit to the Victoria & Albert Museum. It's a really interesting place to visit, and there are so many things to see that you will be spoilt for choice. It's location is easy to get to, and with its proximity to the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, you could have a day out where everyone in the family gets to visit somewhere they are interested in!

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        03.09.2010 18:48
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        A great day out!

        The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) is surely one of those London landmarks we all intend visiting, but never get there. I visited last August with a certain degree of trepidation, particularly going at the height of the tourist season! I can honestly say, I loved every minute of it.

        **ITS HISTORY**

        Founded in 1852 as part of the Great Exhibition, its collections have grown to cover 12.5 acres and 145 galleries. It contains some of the greatest art and design artefacts in the world, with items spanning some 5,000 years of history. It's not just British objects, but objects drawn from all over the world. It stands in South Kensington, and is very close to the tube station bearing the same name; in fact, there is a subway direct from the tube station which appears above surface just opposite the museum. It is of course next to the Science Museum and Natural History Museum.

        **EASE OF ACCESS**

        The main bulk of the collections are laid out over three floors. An extremely clear map is provided and there are always plenty of guides and assistants to direct you and answer any questions you may have. Entry to the main museum is free, and with only quick security checking of bags, the queue to get in was only a couple of minutes. The museum runs a series of special exhibitions, and often there is a small charge for these, where tickets have to be purchased in advance. There seems to be disabled access to all areas too, and there were plenty of pushchairs and buggies being pushed round.

        **EXPERIENCE**

        On first entry, the place is somewhat overwhelming - which way to go first is the burning question on most people's minds. In all honesty, if you visited the place every day of your life, you'd still probably not see everything there is on display. As we only had a couple of hours, we headed straight for the theatre collections on Level 3. It is fair to say that a great deal of this section is behind glass, though there were some interactive displays, and in some cases, short films were showing. In this section alone, theatrical artefacts were combined with architecture, costume and set design in a seamless display.

        Whilst the museum was crowded, it was never so crowded that you couldn't see things. There were some exhibits where only a limited number of people were allowed in at a time, but queues were not particularly long for any of these.

        There is a large and well-stocked bookshop, and another more general gift shop; the latter of these was particularly crowded - we all know that Japanese tourists have to have something to take home with them as a memento!

        It's quite easy to get lost as you go in one bit, and come out in a completely different bit. The signposting isn't that great, and it's hard to keep track of where you've been! If I went again (which I would definitely do), I'd take a highlighter pen to mark off on the map which sections we'd seen.

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          19.04.2006 20:57
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          4 million artefacts of art, design and craft

          Described in its own blurb as ‘the world’s greatest museum of art and design’, the V&A does indeed contain the pick of the crop when it comes to artefacts in fashion, glass, jewellery, paintings and metalwork.

          Situated in Cromwell Road, SW7, it is a short walk from South Kensington Underground station and adjacent to the Natural History and Science Museums in London’s Exhibition Road.

          Founded in 1852, after the success of the Great Exhibition in 1851, when during the boom of the Industrial Revolution, manufacturers and craft workers bought their goods to London to display them to the entire world. Thousands flocked to see the Exhibition, and the musuem was established to provide inspiration to both producers and the masses.

          Now a national institution par excellence (with free entry, although you may make a donation), it is open nearly every day of the year, except Christmas. For more details on opening times, access and events, see www.vam.ac.uk. There is a link on the home page to the on line catalogue of the National Art Library, also housed in the museum. You can also sign up for a free newsletter.

          The collection houses over 4 million items, and the V&A also supports conservation, research, education and other, smaller museums such as the Museum of Childhood in London's Bethnal Green. Occasionally it courts controversy, such as the cuboid extension it applied to build on the Cromwell Road entrance (no sign of it 10 years on).

          The current main exhibition is on Modernism, which received many rave reviews in the press, as well as extensive coverage on their website, with some excellent illustrations. However, it is also renowned for its permanent collection, which covers a vast sweep of arts and culture from Renaissance Italy to Far Eastern fashion, and it was this that I went to see.

          The entrance is a rather grand purple and red brick façade, with stone steps, and including a large ramp. There is a smaller entrance to the lower level on Exhibition Road, and once inside, you can dump your bags in the cloakroom. The closest lift is to the left, near the ladies loo, the men’s is to the right, and the main gift shop is behind the central area. Tip: try to approach from the opposite side of Thurlow Place, to get a better view of the main entrance, an Italianate-style church tower and arch.

          It is a good idea to pick up a map, as the layout is quite complex and there are 7 floors, although most exhibits are housed on Levels 0 –4 (the Ground floor is Level 1), around a central courtyard garden and open space.

          Level 0 contains European art, 1600-1800 and American Art 1800-1900, and Level 1 the Renaissance, Photography, Asia and the Far East. Level 2 contains British Galleries, 1500-1760, and an exhibition space. Level 3 has 20th Century art, prints, drawings, silver, sculpture and ironwork. The British Galleries, 1760-1900, are on Level 4, along with architecture.

          I thought the directions I received at the front desk were a bit confusing, just a jumble of 'turn right and next left', etc. It could have been simpler to say ‘ turn left at the model of the Pagoda and then go straight past the Kimonos’, and I might not have got lost so easily!

          I spent most of my time among the stained glass and silver, attracted by a beautiful modern glass sculpture. There followed a series of strikingly elaborate religious crosses from Spain and some Jewish artefacts, where I found the explanatory text useful.

          Carrying on, I explored the many cases devoted to modern silver, including art deco bowls and coffee pots, jewellery and a woman’s blouse, made of delicately linked silver.

          At the end of this part I happened on a small room devoted to the design and bookbinding of a Bible celebrating the new millennium, which although I am not particularly religious, was fascinating to wander around.

          There is so much to see here that I found the ‘Highlights’ on the map useful. This picks out some ‘must sees’ for quick reference, ranging from Indian sculpture to a Turner masterpiece or even a Dyson vacuum cleaner, as an example of classic modern design.

          I found the Becket casket without too much trouble, on the ground floor. This is an elaborately designed wooden inlaid casket dating back to the eleventh century, which has miraculously survived wars and the Reformation. For art buffs, there are galleries on the third floor, including the Turners in gallery 87.

          At the moment the web site has a wonderful display on 1960’s fashion and design, with great photographs of dresses and costume from the era.

          I popped into a small gift shop on Level 3, which contains a range of postcards and ‘tasteful’ mugs, silk scarves and jewellery - the prices are not even too out of reach.

          By the end of the afternoon I had thoroughly enjoyed my time there and seen a lot of amazing design. One of the hardest parts is not getting distracted by tempting display when you are trying to find something else – the beautiful aforementioned Japanese kimonos, which became an added bonus, for example.

          There is also a large café, and an area where you can eat your packed lunch. I also found the website extremely helpful, relatively simple to navigate, and it also contains a full catalogue - recommended for getting the low down on a particular exhibition or just for planning your day out.

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          The museum was established in 1852 as the South Kensington Museum under the control of the Science and Art Department, following the success of the Great Exhibition of 1851, the exhibition had revealed that though Britain was the leading industrial nation the quality of many of its products did not stand comparison with the best products of the continent, so the museum was in part formed to help rectify this anomaly, along with the Natural History Museum, Royal Albert Hall, Albert Memorial and the Science Museum — together they form a cluster of cultural sites known informally as Albertopolis. Its first director was Sir Henry Cole, a utilitarian and joint organiser of the Great Exhibition who acquired some of the objects from the exhibition for the collection. Over the years the museum attracted many important collections to it. Originally, it contained both arts and sciences and was designed to inspire visitors with examples of achievement in both fields. It was believed at the time that this would help improve the tastes of consumers, manufacturers and designers, creating a virtuous circle that would benefit the culture and the economy. In 1855 the German architect Gottfried Semper at the request of Cole produced a design for the museum, but the design was reject by the Board of Trade as too expensive. The first refreshment rooms opened in 1857, the museum being the first in the world to provide such a facility. An innovation at the museum was late night opening introduced in 1858, made possible year round 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 to fulfill an early objective of the museum of providing artisans with access to the best in design. 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 (London) and scholarship at the British Museum. 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. The laying of the foundation stone to the left of the main entrance of the Aston Webb building, on the 17th 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.