V&A 162 years and 4.5 million objects later

Victoria & Albert Museum in London

The world has witnessed a fair amount of royals with magpie mentality, and we can say what we want about it. But in many cases it has helped salvage works of art before they were lost for eternity.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were no different, except for their very forward looking idea on conservation.

Simply they acquired present day objects while they were totally new, instead of just doing what most other museums did at the time: find old rarities in need of repair and then spend money and time restoring. Cunningly, and ever since its foundation in 1852, V&A have also collected broadly across all decorative arts from fine art to design objects of the day. Of course their collections span more than 5000 years of history, which suggests that they too have done their fair share of what other museums do as custodians of old donated objects.

It would appear that the initial idea for the museum was the brain child of Henry Cole whose intention was a Museum of Manufacture as inpired by Great Exhibition of 1851. But it soon received Royal patronage, and Cole became the first director of the museum.

V&A has evolved into very visitor-friendly art venue

Today V&A, the Victoria and Albert Museum, is the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design. It houses a permanent collection of well over 4.5 million objects. Since 2001, admission to the museum has been free in keeping with policy of other national museums. This is good news for anyone intending to cover all the ground, knowing that the art venue is 12.5 acres/51 hectares altogether. In the context of fine art more so than design, these collections of objects might be worth a closer look: Sculptures, prints, drawings and photographs. Otherwise the entire curated collection is divided up into permutations of geographical origin and chronology and spread over some 145 galleries or rooms.Here is an example: Room 1: Baroque, Europe 1600-1700. In turn is a type of arrangement also favoured by the likes of the National Portrait Gallery or the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. If you are into bookish art history and research, V&A is a brilliant place to start, because it houses the National Art Library open Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 – 17.30 and Friday 10:00 – 18:30

In 2001 the V&A embarked on a £150m renovation programme, giving all – should we say – tired but deserving departments an overhaul. In addition, the renewal included the introduction of newer galleries, shops, gardens, and other visitor facilities to further improve the entire experience of visiting. The museum is a very dynamic and modern with a busy calendar of events and temporary exhibitions. It is 21st century in the sense that it has welcoming facilities for families, and make great efforts to make most of the museum accessible for the disabled or inconvenienced. V&A also has its liberal policy towards photography (read their policy) that appears only to be prohibited in the temporary exhibitions only for reasons of copyright and intellectual property outside the influence of the museum.

The exact address is Cromwell Road, which is in Brompton, Chelsea & South Kensington. The museum is situated in an area lovingly referred to as Albertopolis, because of its direct association with Prince Albert. Part of his royal legacy, if you will, is lots of conservative architecture housing cultural institutions such as the Royal College of Art, Natural History Museum, and Royal Geographical Society — not to mention Royal Albert Hall and the Albert Memorial.

The Museum is award winning and in 2013, for instance, it won the much coveted EMYA award.

You can find up-to-the minute information about the temporary and permanent collections by visiting the official website