victoria & albert museum
Victoria & Albert Museum. Kensington & Chelsea. Cromwell Road, Knightsbridge, London SW7 2RL.
The Victoria & Albert Museum is the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design, with a permanent collection of 2.3 million objects. It covers 12.5 acres, and contains 145 galleries. It is freely open to the public.
The museum has its origins in the Great Exhibition of 1851. Henry Cole, the museums' first director, was much involved in the planning of the Great Exhibition. The museum, then known as the Museum of Manufactures, was founded in 1852, initially based at Marlborough House, and later at Somerset House. Several of the exhibits from the Great Exhibition were bought to form the nucleus of the collection. The museum, now christened the Victoria & Albert Museum, moved to a new building on the present site in 1857. That building was extended and added to over the years, creating the present museum. The main facade, built from red brick and Portland stone was designed by Aston Webb, and was built between 1899 and 1909.
The building survived World War II with very little damage. During the war most of the collection was sent to a quarry in Wiltshire, to Montacute House in Somerset, and to a tunnel near Aldwych tube station.
Before the return of the collections after World War II, the 'Britain can Make it' exhibition was held in late 1946, attracting over a million visitors. Organised by the Council of Industrial Design, its success led to the planning of the 1951 Festival of Britain.