Over the past eight years, the V& A has transformed itself into one of the world's most exciting museums of art and design.
Since the Millennium, V& A visitor numbers have doubled to more than two million a year. Major exhibitions such as Vivienne Westwood and Cold War Modern have helped the V& A achieve record attendances and critical acclaim. A new contemporary programme - including Fashion in Motion and the Friday Late series - has restored modern design and creativity to the heart of the museum.
The driving force behind this renewal is the Future Plan initiative, an ambitious remodelling of the whole V& A building. Future Plan has used the best designers to bring V& A into the 21st century, by revitalising visitor facilities and redisplaying collections, like the Hintze Sculpture gallery. An elegant new entrance has given the Victorian faç ade a contemporary feel. The John Madejski garden is now a peaceful focal point at the heart of the museum where visitors can relax and plan their visit.
Future Plan got underway in 2001, when the £ 30 million British Galleries opened to the public. Every year since, new galleries have opened - now more than 18 in all. These include the new Porter gallery, dedicated to a changing programme of contemporary exhibitions - and the Jameel Gallery of Islamic art which houses the V& A's outstanding Middle Eastern collections.
June 2008 saw the opening of the glittering William and Judith Bollinger Jewellery Gallery, which houses more than 3,000 jewels in a dramatic contemporary space.
The Sackler Centre also opened in 2008. The V& A's new education centre is a beautiful, practical and modern space, enabling people of all ages to study art and design.
Over a century ago, the V& A opened the first-ever museum restaurant, an ornate and spectacular space. Future Plan has restored the cafe to its original glory and added a bright and airy modern extension.
By the time the first phase of Futureplan is completed in 2009, £ 120 million pounds will have been spent. Next year many more new galleries will open, including dedicated spaces for ceramics and for theatre and performance. And phase one will culminate with one of the most ambitious Future Plan projects to date. In November 2009, a complete wing devoted to the Medieval and Renaissance period will open, the ten galleries displaying some of the V& A's greatest treasures.
These dramatic developments will mark a fitting end to nine years of extraordinary change and renovation. When Future Plan began, its ambition was to make the V& A a world-class 21st century museum. That ambition is now a reality.