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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum, that I went to today, is by far the best museum I've been in. Located in Kensington, next to the Natural History Museum, it's free--which is always good--and has such a good collection, and such good presentation, that I enjoyed it far more than the British Museum.

Essentially, it's a museum about fashion and design--in other words, it's about everything. While there's currently an exhibition on Black British style, as well as sections on modern fashion, most of the areas are older, and focus on British, European and Asian works.

I say "works," but that doesn't really describe it. Much of the museum is indeed artwork, but there are also room reconstructions (to show how certain people lived at a certain time), dressed manequins (showing fashion), and ordinary household things, like dishes, door locks and furniture.

Let me put it this way: quite literally, there is something for everyone there. Whether your passion is art, history, design, interior design, architechture, fashion, photography, archeology, style, or whatever else is in the two floors I didn't see, there will be something you'll want to see. The whole time I was there, I kept seeing things and thinking of people who would love it. Anna, there's a whole room of photography. Mel, I've mentioned the fashion, and in February, they open their permanent exhibit on dresses. Nat, there's a whole section on how Asian style influenced British culture that you'd love. Amanda, the furniture and interior design stuff is awesome--you should see some of the beds! Tony, they seem fascinated with gadgets--there's one lock that has hidden key holes, and keeps track of how many times the door has been opened--and I know you appreciate good design.

The other cool thing about this place, aside from the wicked-awesome collection, is the way it's presented. It's really interactive--a cliche word, I know, but it fits here. They encourage you to touch some things (tho, admittedly, not everything) and have worked some of the exhibits into the floors and walls, so they seem more organic to the building and are more interesting than looking into glass cases. They don't rely only on written mounted plaques to explain pieces; rather, they have video and audio presentations to show--not just tell--how things worked. They leave books lying around for you to flip through, and have little tests to see, for example, if you can tell the difference between a real Chinese dish, or a fake one, made in England in similar style. In one room, which featured jewerly and fancy household items, they asked visitors to write a note describing the thing they most cherish, as the displays featured items that their owners would have cherished. The notes are collected into a frequently updated book for visitors to read.

Compared to the British Museum (which is a cool place, don't get me wrong), where you wander aimlessly reading plaques if you can see them, the V&A actually engages your mind, and if you can believe it, you find yourself actually learning things, which probably explains the large number of school groups there...

Some not very good photos are here:


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Nat, there's a whole section on how Asian style influenced British culture that you'd love."

Why cuz I'm Asian? So immediately if there's anything Asian I'd be interested. It's always the white people keeping me done. Was there fish? Since I'm Asian I love fish. Fish, fish, fish.



Blogger Nicole said...

Yes, exactly. Just like I thought it was really cool when i saw a photograph taken by a woman born in my Mom's hometown in Germany.

How is it a bad thing to be interested in the culture of your ancestors? Isn't that what you went to China for? Or were you just trying to get away from Daorcey?



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