At the beginning of the 21st century the Victoria and Albert Museum is undergoing a thrilling transformation that will make its historic buildings and world-class collections newly attractive and accessible to the widest possible audience
From its beginnings as a building to house a small collection of objects bought by the government from the Great Exhibition of 1851, the V&A has grown into the national museum of art and design. The South Kensington site is a collection of buildings, covering some 12-and-a-half acres, constructed over a 50-year period. These buildings form a vast and labyrinthine museum, showing a wide-ranging collection of objects, and they are the focus of a long-term development scheme called V&A FuturePlan. This aims to renew the 150-year-old museum, bringing it into the 21st century while still retaining the history and quality of the original building.
FuturePlan developments will provide enhanced welcome and orientation facilities as well as a significantly extended education programme. It will also revamp the collections with a clearer layout and more imaginative and informative displays. The British Galleries have already shown how the V&A's rich collections can be displayed. Under V&A FuturePlan, displays of the collections will be radically recast to evoke the cultures from which the objects come. State-of-the-art information technology and labelling will engage visitors with the works on many levels.
The qualities of the original building will be emphasised to reveal the Museum's remarkable architecture, and previously hidden spaces will be opened up. The scheme will result in a truly 21st-century museum of art and design that will be an invaluable resource for students, educators, the creative industries and general visitors alike.
- Bring clarity to the physical space of the museum
- Re-emphasise the quality of the original building
- Ensure that the collections are beautifully displayed and easy to understand
A rolling programme of new design, building and display will continue over the next few years including a suite of galleries dedicated to Medieval and Renaissance art and design, and the redevelopment of the Ceramics galleries.
Overview of FuturePlan
- Open up the Museum to visitors by creating a direct path from the entrance to the re-landscaped Garden and new facilities around it. This will be the central hub of the Museum, with the galleries around the Garden turned into a cloister containing new orientation, refreshment and shopping facilities. It will be a welcoming and vibrant space from which visitors can set out to explore the different quarters of the V&A city
- Create a superb new suite of galleries for the display of the Medieval and Renaissance collections
- Completely restore the magnificent North and South Courts to provide state-of-the-art exhibition halls
- Provide a comprehensive new signage system in the Museum to help visitors find their way around more easily and understand better the scope of the Collection
- Make the Museum fully accessible to visitors with disabilities and radically improve circulation within and between levels
- Bring all of the Museum's galleries up to and beyond the exacting standards of the award-winning British Galleries
- Bring about major improvements to the Study Galleries so visitors can explore the full range of the collections in depth
- Provide expanded educational programmes and facilities
- Provide greatly enhanced cafés, restaurants and shops for all visitors
One of the fundamental principles of the plan is to re-order the Museum by thinking of it as a city with a series of quarters. There will be two major cultural quarters, Asia and Europe. Asia brings together the V&A's unrivalled collections of Indian, South-East Asian, Islamic and Far Eastern art. Europe includes the already completed British Galleries as well as the new galleries of Medieval and Renaissance art. In these new presentations of the collections, breaking with traditional museum display, different types of object will be grouped together to evoke the culture of their particular time and place.
Other quarters include Modern Design, Study Collections and Learning. Modern Design will bring together the V&A's international holdings of 20th-century design. Study Collections is the quarter devoted to objects themselves, their styles, techniques and materials. Here visitors can pursue an interest in particular objects from a wide geographical and historical range. The Learning Quarter will provide a new Education Centre for the Museum. It will include seminar rooms, practical studios, group facilities and studio spaces for artists in residence, and offer extensive programmes for adults, students and children.