Friday, August 19, 2011

The V&A

Nope not the Audio and Visual Department but rather the Victoria and Albert Museum. One thing I loved about London was all its free museums. This did aid to the museums being quite crowded but who can beat the price of free to see so much wonderful art and culture.

My favorite museum in London, and quite possibly my favorite ever, was the V&A. I came across it in my research of London to-do but let it leave my mind without writing it down.

While in London I saw a sign advertising it so I decided to add it to my docket of things to do in my extensive visit. As the world's largest museum of art and design this place offered me lots of things to discover and enjoy.

Founded in 1852 and named for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert it is home to 145 galleries stretching to cover 12.5 acres.  I didn't visit all the galleries but the ones that stuck out in my mind are ones I'd like to share with you.

First of all I was intrigued and amazed by the size of some of the pieces in this museum. I was in awe of just how these gigantic pieces of history would get into this building. One thing that impressed me was a man I had been waiting a very long time to see.

It is a dream of mine to see Michelangelo's David, in Florence. As I was walking around I came upon a room that I was looking down upon from above. There like it was just another old statue was the statue of David. Now I knew it wasn't the real David of course because I know his proper location, the way it was displayed, and the lack of people around him made it clear. But I just stood there looking down at him trying to have the feelings that I had hoped to feel when I saw him. Part of me felt a little bit cheated that I was seeing a fake for the first time. But I also felt happy that I could stand in this little fantasy and try to believe it was real.
The most interesting allure of the V&A was the fact that it featured so many different art forms. It had galleries dedicated to:
  • Architecture
  • Asia
  • British art
  • Ceramics
  • Childhood
  • Contemporary art
  • Fashion & Jewelery
  • Furniture
  • Glass
  • Metalwork
  • Paintings & Drawings
  • Periods and styles
  • Photography
  • Prints & Books
  • Sculpture
  • Textiles
  • Theatre and performance
My favorite gallery was the theatre and performance.The way is was set up to walk through took you on a journey from start (writing a play) to finish (performance) of the entire theatrical process. It had interactive stations for you to pick a cast of characters, design a poster, try on costumes, etc. In glass cases there was a variety of colorful and elaborate costumes used in plays from the past. Even a short film playing illustrating the costume designers inspiration for the Lion King.

I had a very educational experience at the V&A due to it's many interactive stations. It actually felt like a hands on experience for an adult. One station was next to a a gigantic bed. The Great Bed of Ware to be exact. Pictured below. Take notice of the layers.

The station showed you the materials and layers that go into making an old bed like this comfortable. I think there were something like seven layers to make a good nights sleep for a person of means.

In other stations you could try on a hoop skirt, make a family crest on a computer, play dress up on a Tudor man or woman, etc. In a place to beautiful and orderly as this is was surprised to see so many fun things to do.

Another piece that intrigued me was the Burges Washstand. Which was of course extremely beautiful but was also interesting to see how people made running water for themselves before a time of indoor plumbing.

While I was looking at this piece there was a short video playing beside it telling its history. A father and his young daughter came beside me to watch it too. I noticed the two were speaking Spanish to each other. As the video played the father both translated for his daughter and pointed out the different elements from the video to the actual piece. I enjoyed watching this moment of discovery between a father and daughter.