The Victoria and Albert Museum is the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design, housing a permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects. It was founded in 1852 and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The V&A is located in the Brompton district of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, in an area that has become known as "Albertopolis" because of its association with Prince Albert, the Albert Memorial and the major cultural institutions with which he was associated. These include the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Royal Albert Hall.
The museum is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Like other national British museums, entrance to the museum has been free since 2001.The V&A covers 12.5 acres and 145 galleries. Its collection spans 5,000 years of art, from ancient times to the present day, from the cultures of Europe, North America, Asia and North Africa.
The holdings of ceramics, glass, textiles, costumes, silver, ironwork, jewellery, furniture, medieval objects, sculpture, prints and printmaking, drawings and photographs are among the largest and most comprehensive in the world. The museum owns the world's largest collection of post-classical sculpture, with the holdings of Italian Renaissance items being the largest outside Italy.
The departments of Asia include art from South Asia, China, Japan, Korea and the Islamic world. The East Asian collections are among the best in Europe, with particular strengths in ceramics and metalwork, while the Islamic collection is amongst the largest in the Western world. Overall, it is one of the largest museums in the world. Since 2001, the museum has embarked on a major £150m renovation programme, which has seen a major overhaul of the departments, including the introduction of newer galleries, gardens, shops and visitor facilities.
New 17th- and 18th-century European galleries were opened on 9 December 2015. These restored the original Aston Webb interiors and host the European collections 1600–1815. The museum houses the National Art Library, a public library containing over 750,000 books, photographs, drawings, paintings, and prints. It is one of the world's largest libraries dedicated to the study of fine and decorative arts. The library covers all areas and periods of the museum's collections with special collections covering illuminated manuscripts, rare books and artists' letters and archives.
The Library consists of three large public rooms, with around a hundred individual study desks. These are the West Room, Centre Room and Reading Room. The centre room contains 'special collection material'. One of the great treasures in the library is the Codex Forster, some of Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks.
Museum opening hours
Daily: 10.00 – 17.45
Friday: 10.00 – 22.00
Admission to the Victoria and Albert Museum is free.