All photos Alex Harris
There are literally hundreds of wonderful museums in London but chief among my favourites isThe Victoria and Albert Museum. With a collection covering much of the last 2000 years, the V&A exhibits international art and design in nearly every medium. There really is something for everyone, and regular special exhibits and new acquisitions ensure there is always something new to see.
I recently joined the V&A and was invited on a new member’s tour. The guide led our group to several parts of the museum that, despite years of visiting, I never knew existed.
The V&A was established in 1852 to help to preserve the art and design of the period as well as to encourage new art and design. Following on from the success of the Great Exhibition the year before, its founders hoped to bring art to the people, educating the working classes and inspiring artists, designers and manufacturers.
There is literally something around every corner in the V&A. Walking through a narrow corridor led us to the glass gallery which contains cabinet after cabinet of beautiful glass from throughout every era of recorded history. Even the staircase bannisters were made of glass.
One of my favourite sections is Fashion. There is a fabulous exhibit of Ballgowns on at the moment. It includes dresses worn by royalty and stars of stage and screen from 1950 to the present day and runs until January 2013. I can’t wait for the Hollywood Costumes exhibit which opens in October.
The V&A is such a relaxed place to visit. Students and artists sit on the floor sketching and photography is welcomed in many of the galleries. Free tours are available daily and volunteer guides are happy to answer any questions you may have. It’s also accessible – open every day with late night opening until 10pm on Fridays.
I think the founders of the V&A would be happy to see what it has become, a welcoming place still very true to their vision. As for me, this is somewhere I love to return again and again and I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you are planning on visiting London and time permits I urge you to include it in your itinerary.
The V&A is easy to get to from South Kensington tube station. A well lit, well signed underground tunnel leads you right to the entrance from the station. Entrance to the galleries is free, although donations are appreciated. There is a charge for special exhibitions.