In the Brompton area of South Kensington London, you’ll find The Victoria and Albert Museum a world-leading museum of art and design. Housing 2.27 million objects, it exhibits a range of resources for the study of architecture, furniture, fashion, textiles, photography, sculpture, painting, jewellery, glass, ceramics, book arts, Asian art and design, theatre and performance.
So, how did The Victoria and Albert Museum come to be?
The creation of the museum was born out of a collaborative relationship between Prince Albert, who was Queen Victoria’s husband and Henry Cole, who at the time was a Public Civil Servant with a love for science and the arts. Cole had made it his own personal mission to improve standards in industrial design with help from the government.
In 1849, he won the backing of Prince Albert who granted a royal charter to the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). Following Prince Albert’s backing, Cole held an exhibition which encouraged international art manufacturers to exhibit their work. It was called The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations and was held in Crystal Palace in 1851. The exhibition was a great financial success, generating £186,000 in profit. Cole wanted the profits to be used to improve science and art education in the UK and it was this desire that resulted in the creation of The Victoria and Albert Museum.
Henry Cole became the museum’s first Director and worked to ensure that the museum attracted a wide audience, not just the wealthy upper class. During the 19th Century, free admission was granted 3 days a week to make sure it was accessible to the working class.
Did you know that the museum wasn’t always called Victoria and Albert?
When it was built in 1857, it was known as the Museum of Manufactures to start with, followed by the South Kensington Museum. It wasn’t christened the Victoria and Albert until 1899 when a ceremony was held to lay the final stone of the museum’s new building. It was Queen Victoria who laid the stone and herself and Prince Albert were honoured at the event. The ceremony would be Queen Victoria’s last public outing before her death in 1901.
The Victoria and Albert Museum continues to be a popular attraction, with 4.4 million people visiting every year. The Museum’s impressive collections continue to appeal to a wide audience, with exhibits spanning over 2000 years of human creativity. That human creativity is represented by countries across Europe, the Middle East, India, China and Japan.
Looking for more things to do in Kensington? Why not visit the Andipa Gallery or enjoy some delicious food served at our Brompton Road restaurant? Learn more about it here.
Next up: Saatchi Gallery