I had to quickly come to terms with the fact that I wasn't going to get to see everything at the Victoria and Albert Museum (aka the V&A). First of all, there are seven floors, 150 galleries displaying around four million objects of sculptures, jewlery, textiles, clothes, paintings, ceramics, furniture, architecture, and more.
Following the success of the Great Exhibition (aka the First Worlds Fair held in 1851), the V&A was established in 1852 to make works of art available to the public. Originally called the South Kensington Museum, the Museum moved to its present site in 1857. The South Kensington Museum was renamed the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1899 when Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone for a new building, the current building, designed to give the Museum a grand facade. And grand it is with its red brick exterior, soaring dome, and vast open galleries.
Overwhelming doesn't begin to describe the building or the collection. With little idea of what to see first, I started wandering without a plan. I quickly came to the Fashion Galleries and ogled the finery, thankful to be wearing jeans and a t-shirt and not a two foot wide crinoline cage or a corset.
I next found myself in the jewelry gallery, where I spent most of my time seeing every little bejeweled piece, 3,000 from all across Europe, from ancient to modern. Spending time here easily made up for for skipping the Crown Jewels at the Tower. And if I am ever able to wear this amethyst necklace, I'll gladly wear any amount of bustle padding, corsets, and crinoline. I got lost, well not lost so much as turned around in the silver gallery (it's that large and there are a lot of silver pieces), learned how miniature portraits are made, and stood in a room surround by large and gorgeous medieval tapestries.
I saw so much from around the world and across time, but yet I ran out of time for the furnishings and sculptures and paintings and photographs. The V&A and I will just have to have another date when I next return to London.
Photos from the day can be found here.