A Queen Amongst Museums


Member Rating 5 out of 5 by vialdana on May 26, 2011

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.
Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Road
London, England, SW7 2RL
+44 (20) 7942 2000

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