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Victoria and Albert Museum (London)

RA Collection: People and Organisations

The Victoria and Albert Museum has its origins in the Great Exhibition of 1851, with which Henry Cole, the museum's first director, was involved in planning. Initially it was known as the Museum of Manufactures, first opening in May 1852 at Marlborough House, London, but by September had been transferred to Somerset House in the Strand. At this stage the collections covered both applied art and science. Several of the exhibits from the Great Exhibition were purchased to form the nucleus of the collection. By February 1854 discussions were underway to transfer the museum to the current site and it was renamed South Kensington Museum. The museum was officially opened by Queen Victoria was on 20 June 1857.

The laying of the foundation stone of the Aston Webb building (to the left of the main entrance on 17 May 1899 was the last official public appearance by Queen Victoria. It was during this ceremony that the change of name from the South Kensington Museum to the Victoria and Albert Museum was made public.

The name of the museum was changed from the South Kensington Museum to the Victoria and Albert Museum, on 17 May 1899, on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s last public appearance, when she attended to museum during the laying of the foundation stone of the new Aston Webb building.

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