Victoria and Albert Museum

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Victoria and Albert Museum. After the success of the Great Exhibition (1851), a museum of manufactures was quickly established in Marlborough House; however, despite maintaining strong links with the design schools established in the 1830s because of perceived lapses in design standards from the impact of mechanization upon traditional crafts, its collecting policies became increasingly antiquarian. The first director was Henry Cole, a pioneer of public relations, who oversaw the construction of new but heterogeneous buildings at South Kensington (opened 1857), a site suggested by Prince Albert. Administrative chaos after Cole's retirement eventually led to the severance of the sciences to their own museum, and the new, renamed building designed by Webb (imposing but impractical) was completed by 1908. Arrangements on craft lines did not cede to chronological presentations until after 1948, but, likened to ‘an extremely capacious handbag’, the ‘V. & A.’ has become a leading museum for world-wide decorative art.

A. S. Hargreaves

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Victoria and Albert Museum

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