The Victoria and Albert Museum (often abbreviated as the V&A) is the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design, housing a permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects. Named after Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, it was founded in 1852, and has since grown to now cover 12.5 acres and 145 galleries.
Its collection spans 5,000 years of art, from ancient times to the present day, in virtually every medium, from the cultures of Europe, North America, Asia and North Africa. The museum is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
The holdings of ceramics, glass, textiles, costumes, silver, ironwork, jewellery, furniture, medieval objects, sculpture, prints and printmaking, drawings and photographs are among the largest and most comprehensive in the world.
The museum possesses the world's largest collection of post-classical sculpture, the holdings of Italian Renaissance items are the largest outside Italy. The departments of Asia include art from South Asia, China, Japan, Korea and the Islamic world. The East Asian collections are among the best in Europe, with particular strengths in ceramics and metalwork, while the Islamic collection, alongside the Musée du Louvre and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, is amongst the largest in the world.
Alongside other neighbouring institutions, including the Natural History Museum and Science Museum, the V&A is located in what is termed London's «Albertopolis», an area of immense cultural, scientific and educational importance. Since 2001, the Museum has embarked on a major £150m renovation programme which has seen a major overhaul of the departments including the introduction of newer galleries, gardens, shops and visitor facilities. Following in similar vein to other national UK museums, entrance to the museum has been free since 2001.