Founded in 1852, the Victoria and Albert is the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design. It has 145 galleries organized by themes ( like theatrical arts and sculpture) and by regions of the world. It's so expansive, that it is impossible to see it all in a day. It's probably impossible to see everything, even if you visited for a whole month!
I didn't plan my visit, so I did what all of the other tourists were doing and I started with the exhibits right at the front entrance. There is no fee for the museum and the collection starts immediately upon entering the building. A few steps in the door and I was immersed in ancient sculptures. The giant statue of Neptune and Triton is by famed Italian artist, Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Years ago, I wrote a paper on the sculpture for an Art History class and it was exciting to see it in person. It's very imposing!
I quickly realized that with so much to see, I would need to focus on the things that I was most interested in and I found a directory. My next stop was a display of fashion through the decades.
I paid a small fee to go into a special fashion exhibit called Club to Catwalk, which highlighted fashions of the 1980's. This exhibit was worth the extra fee. Unfortunately, photography wasn't allowed, because I saw some really crazy outfits that need to be seen to be believed. The most memorable, were outfits by designer Chrissie Walsh, that looked like they were stolen from the ride operators in Tomorrowland at Disneyland. Look her up, because this is clearly where they got the idea for the cast costumes!
As I walked through the museum, I peeked through the closed doors of the Art Library.
My favorite part of the museum was the Theatre and Performance section. I spent a few hours looking at costumes, watching performances on a giant cinema screen and reading through their playbill collection.
I love the creativity that goes into set design and the museum has a wonderful collection of set design dioramas. I managed to get a decent shot of one for a production of Sweeney Todd.
My favorite parts of the collection were a giant rhino puppet from a production of Ionesco's Rhinoceros , masks from a production of The Oresteia and costumes from The Lion King. If you love Theatre, this gallery should be a must-do when you're visiting London. I was really happy to have visited alone, as I could take my time and fully enjoy the exhibits. I could have spent all day here.
I ended my trip to the Victoria and Albert with a walk around the beautiful center courtyard. The dining hall was very busy when I visited, but it was huge with all types of food options offered. Many people took their lunches outside to sit by the reflection pool. If I hadn't been so overwhelmed by the crowds, I would have done the same.
The Victoria and Albert has a wonderful collection and with a free admission, it's an easy choice of an activity to add to your London sightseeing list. I look forward to a future trip, when I can explore more galleries.
A special Thank You to my in-laws for giving me cab fare, so that I would get to the museum safely! I got my bearings fairly quickly, but that first day alone in London would have been a little scary without taking a cab!