History - V&A Images
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V&A Museum History

The Victoria and Albert Museum's collections spans over a thousand years of art in virtually every medium, from many parts of the world. Visitors to the museum encounter a treasure house of amazing and beautiful objects.

The Museum was established in 1852, following the enormous success of the Great Exhibition the previous year. The founding principle of the originator, Sir Henry Cole, was to make works of art available to all, to educate the working people and to inspire British designers and manufacturers. Profits from the Exhibition were used to establish the Museum of Manufacturers, as it was initially known, and exhibits were purchased to form the basis of its collections.

The Museum moved to its present site in 1857 and was renamed the South Kensington Museum. Led by innovation, a high-tech gas lighting system enabled the museum to stay open until 10pm, three nights a week to attract the working man to the contemplation of art and design. In 1899, Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone of the new fašade and renamed the building the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, the collection has continued to grow. Since 2000, the Future Plan Project has revitalised the galleries and increased access to the collections internationally and the V&A has been in the vanguard of the digitisation of the heritage sector.