The Victoria and Albert Museum's collections span two thousand years of art in virtually every medium, from many parts of the world, and visitors to the Museum encounter a treasure house of amazing and beautiful objects. The story of the V&A's foundation helps to explain its astonishing richness and diversity.
Architectural History of the V&A 1836 - 1854
The origins of the Museum are as complex as the building itself. They date back ultimately to 1836, when a report by a House of Commons Select Committee concluded that the arts were not receiving enough encouragement in Britain and little attention was being paid to the importance of good design.
Architectural History of the V&A 1863 - 1873
Francis Fowke was a consummate forward-planner. Even before the North and South Courts had been roofed in, he had worked out the details of an ambitious master plan for the Brompton Park House site. Going against the contemporary fashion for Gothic architecture, he proposed to continue the North Italian Renaissance style chosen for the Sheepshanks Gallery across all the new buildings.
Architectural History of the V&A 1873 - 1899
In 1870 the Treasury announced that the erection and maintenance of all public buildings would now come under the direct control of the Office of Works. This decision stemmed from Acton Smee Ayrton, the newly appointed First Commissioner of Works.
The Great Exhibition
The Great Exhibition in 1851 was the first international exhibition of manufactured products. It was organised by Henry Cole and Prince Albert, and held in a purpose-built Crystal Palace in Hyde Park. Many of the objects in the Exhibition were used as the first collection for the South Kensington Museum which opened in 1857 and later became the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The V&A has unrivalled collections of contemporary and historic art and design. It houses some of the world's greatest resources for architecture, fashion, photography, theatre and performance, sculpture, contemporary design, ceramics, Asian art and design, furniture, textiles, jewellery, metalwork and many more. There is extensive online access to authoritative information and the knowledge of leading experts.
FuturePlan: Transforming the V&A
FuturePlan is an ambitious programme of development which is transforming the V&A. The best contemporary designers are creating exciting new galleries and visitor facilities, while revealing and restoring the beauty of the original building. In the past 10 years, over 70% of the museum’s public spaces have been transformed, improving access and allowing the collections to be more elegantly and intelligently displayed. By introducing bold new architectural interventions, FuturePlan aims to delight and to inspire visitors, and to continue the museum’s tradition of championing new talent.