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.
In 2004 RIBA and the V&A opened the first museum gallery in the country dedicated to architecture in the UK. It provides an accessible and engaging introduction to the art, use and practice of architecture. On display are models, drawings and designs, and samples of materials, as well as photographs and fragments of buildings.
Approximately 100,000 drawings made in Europe and the USA can be seen in the V&A's collection. The work of many schools, styles and periods is represented. Many have been collected specifically with an eye to why they were made; the collection is therefore unusually rich in academic drawings, designs for illustration, and in particular preparatory drawings used in the production of paintings, sculpture, architecture and the applied arts.
Spanning four centuries, the V&A’s Fashion collection is the largest and most comprehensive collection of dress in the world. Key items in the collection include rare 17th-century gowns, 18th-century ‘mantua’ dresses, 1930s eveningwear, 1960s daywear and post-war couture. Plus a growing number of pieces from 21st-century designers.
The Dr Susan Weber Gallery tells the story of furniture design and production spanning the past 600 years and displays more than 200 outstanding pieces, including chairs, tables, bureaux, stools, chests, cabinets and wardrobes. Designers such as Thomas Chippendale, Frank Lloyd Wright, Eileen Gray, Charles and Ray Eames, Tom Dixon and Ron Arad sit alongside lesser-known names all selected for their superior techniques.
The V&A has one of the finest and most comprehensive collections of jewellery in the world. Over 3,000 jewels tell the story of jewellery in Europe from ancient times to the present day; from a great gold Celtic breastplate to medieval love rings and pendants given by Elizabeth I to her courtiers; from jewels by Cartier to animals by Fabergé; and jewellery by an international selection of contemporary makers.
The Metalwork collection contains over 45,000 examples of decorative metalwork, silver and jewellery ranging in date from the Bronze Age to the present day. It includes the national collection of English silver, an outstandingly comprehensive jewellery gallery, and collections of ironwork, continental silver, arms and armour, medieval champlevé and late 19th-century enamels, brasswork, pewter and medieval metalwork of international importance.
Designated the National Collection of Sculpture, this collection concentrates on Western European Sculpture from the 4th century to the end of the 19th century. Highlights of the collection include masterpieces from the Italian Renaissance, ivory carvings of all periods, Northern European wood and other sculpture, commemorative medals and plaster casts. The sculpture collection contains approximately 22,000 objects.
Theatre & Performance
The Theatre and Performance collection was founded in the 1920s when a private collector, Gabrielle Enthoven, donated her extensive collection of theatrical designs, memorabilia, books and photographs to the Museum. Since then the collection has continued to grow and has provided a home for many other significant objects and archives. All areas of the live performing arts are represented in the collections, documenting both current practice and the history of the performing arts in the UK.