London’s Vicroria and Albert Museum had it’s beginings 160 years ago, in 1852 when it was established under the name ‘Museum of Manufacturers’. It set up shop in Marlborough House St James to house the decorative art objects that were displayed in the Great Exhibition in 1851.
- By 1857 the collection had made the move to South Kensington Museum.
- The government were keen to improve the tatse and knowledge of British Industrialists. Presumably all considered to be quite brilliant but of a certain class that needed to be taught the finer elements of Victorian upper class taste.
The exhibits soon outgrow the South Kensington Museum and in 1899, Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone of the museum, that would carry the name of herself and her beloved Albert.
The Victoria and Albert Museum, the V & A, was born.
- Sir Aston Webb, (see here for an archive of his life works in the University of Texas Libraries), the architect responsible in London for the Eastern facade of Buckingham Palace and Admiralty Arch as well as many other projects around the world, was tasked with it’s design .
- Although known for his great architectural designs, Webb’s reputation as an architect, was established by his work in the restoration of St Bartholomew the Great in Smithfield’s London, where his family roots were long and deep. The work of Tina Bird in collecting this trove of information is a super exploration of the man and his work in Smithfield and well worth a look.
- An interesting look at his family history reveals much about the man and his works. He was made commissioner of the Royal Fine Arts Commission in 1924.
As for the Victoria and Albert, in just ten years, in 1909 the museum opens. Too late for Queen Victoria but it stands as a great monument to her reign.
The initial collection included materials from the now closed East India Company Museum, plus paintings by John Constable and a feast of Italian Renaissance and Baroque sculptures, Chinese arts and much else.
The museum today houses the world’s greatest collection of art and design and is the starting point for all interested in contextual history, whether it be textile and fashion collection, photography, jewelery or furniture, in fact anything that impinged on daily life is here to explore.
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