Netherlands Institute for Art History
The Netherlands Institute for Art History or RKD is located in The Hague and is home to the largest art history center in the world. The center specializes in documentation and books on Western art from the late Middle Ages until modern times. All of this is open to the public, much of it has been digitized and is available on their website; the main goal of the bureau is to collect and make art research available, most notably in the field of Dutch Masters. Via the available databases, the visitor can gain insight into archival evidence on the lives of many artists of past centuries; the library owns 450,000 titles, of which ca. 150,000 are auction catalogs. There are ca. 3,000 magazines, of which 600 are running subscriptions. Though most of the text is in Dutch, the standard record format includes a link to library entries and images of known works, which include English as well as Dutch titles; the RKD manages the Dutch version of the Art and Architecture Thesaurus, a thesaurus of terms for management of information on art and architecture.
The original version is an initiative of the Getty Research Institute in California. The collection was started through bequests by Frits Lugt, art historian and owner of a massive collection of drawings and prints, Cornelis Hofstede de Groot, a collector, art historian and museum curator, their bequest formed the basis for both the art collection and the library, now housed in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek. Though not all of the library's holdings have been digitised, much of its metadata is accessible online; the website itself is available in both an English user interface. In the artist database RKDartists, each artist is assigned a record number. To reference an artist page directly, use the code listed at the bottom of the record of the form: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/artists/ followed by the artist's record number. For example, the artist record number for Salvador Dalí is 19752, so his RKD artist page can be referenced. In the images database RKDimages, each artwork is assigned a record number.
To reference an artwork page directly, use the code listed at the bottom of the record of the form: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/ followed by the artwork's record number. For example, the artwork record number for The Night Watch is 3063, so its RKD artwork page can be referenced; the Art and Architecture Thesaurus assigns a record for each term, but these can not be referenced online by record number. Rather, they are used in the databases and the databases can be searched for terms. For example, the painting called "The Night Watch" is a militia painting, all records fitting this keyword can be seen by selecting this from the image screen; the thesaurus is a set of general terms, but the RKD contains a database for an alternate form of describing artworks, that today is filled with biblical references. This is the iconclass database. To see all images that depict Miriam's dance, the associated iconclass code 71E1232 can be used as a special search term. Official website Direct link to the databases The Dutch version of the Art and Architecture Thesaurus
Mungo Park (explorer)
Mungo Park was a Scottish explorer of West Africa. He was the first Westerner known to have travelled to the central portion of the Niger River, he wrote a popular and influential travel book about it titled Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa. Mungo Park was born in Selkirkshire, Scotland, at Foulshiels on the Yarrow Water, near Selkirk, on a tenant farm which his father rented from the Duke of Buccleuch, he was the seventh in a family of thirteen. Although tenant farmers, the Parks were well-off, they were able to pay for Park to receive a good education, Park's father died leaving property valued at £3,000. His parents had intended him for the Church of Scotland, he was educated at home before attending Selkirk grammar school. At the age of fourteen, he was apprenticed to a surgeon in Selkirk. During his apprenticeship, Park became friends with Anderson's son Alexander and was introduced to Anderson's daughter Allison, who would become his wife. In October 1788, Park enrolled at the University of Edinburgh, attending for four sessions studying medicine and botany.
Notably, during his time at university, he spent a year in the natural history course taught by Professor John Walker. After completing his studies, he spent a summer in the Scottish Highlands, engaged in botanical fieldwork with his brother-in-law, James Dickson, a gardener and seed merchant in Covent Garden. In 1788 Dickson along with Sir James Edward Smith and six other fellows founded the Linnean Society of London. In 1792 Park completed his medical studies at University of Edinburgh. Through a recommendation by Banks, he obtained the post of assistant surgeon on board the East India Company's ship Worcester. In February 1793 the Worcester sailed to Benkulen in Sumatra. Before departing, Park wrote to his friend Alexander Anderson in terms that reflect his Calvinist upbringing: My hope is now approaching to a certainty. If I be deceived, may God alone put me right, for I would rather die in the delusion than wake to all the joys of earth. May the Holy Spirit dwell in your heart, my dear friend, if I see my native land again, may I rather see the green sod on your grave than see you anything but a Christian.
On his return in 1794, Park gave a lecture to the Linnaean Society, describing eight new Sumatran fish. The paper was not published until three years later, he presented Banks with various rare Sumatran plants. On 26 September 1794 Mungo Park offered his services to the African Association looking for a successor to Major Daniel Houghton, sent in 1790 to discover the course of the Niger River and had died in the Sahara. Supported by Sir Joseph Banks, Park was selected. On 22 May 1795, Park left Portsmouth, England, on the brig Endeavour, a vessel travelling to Gambia to trade for beeswax and ivory. On 21 June 1795, he reached the Gambia River and ascended it 200 miles to a British trading station named Pisania. On 2 December, accompanied by two local guides, he started for the unknown interior, he chose the route crossing the upper Senegal basin and through the semi-desert region of Kaarta. The journey was full of difficulties, at Ludamar he was imprisoned by a Moorish chief for four months. On 1 July 1796, he escaped and with nothing but his horse and a pocket compass, on the 21st reached the long-sought Niger River at Ségou, being the first European to do so.
He followed the river downstream 80 miles to Silla, where he was obliged to turn back, lacking the resources to go further. On his return journey, begun on 29 July, he took a route more to the south than that followed, keeping close to the Niger River as far as Bamako, thus tracing its course for some 300 miles. At Kamalia he fell ill, owed his life to the kindness of a man in whose house he lived for seven months, he reached Pisania again on 10 June 1797, returning to Scotland by way of Antigua on 22 December. He had been thought dead, his return home with news of his exploration of the Niger River evoked great public enthusiasm. An account of his journey was drawn up for the African Association by Bryan Edwards, his own detailed narrative appeared in 1799. Park was convinced that: whatever difference there is between the negro and European, in the conformation of the nose, the colour of the skin, there is none in the genuine sympathies and characteristic feelings of our common nature. Park encountered a group of slaves when traveling through Mandinka country Mali: They were all inquisitive, but they viewed me at first with looks of horror, asked if my countrymen were cannibals.
They were desirous to know what became of the slaves after they had crossed the salt water. I told them. A deeply-rooted idea that the whites purchase Negroes for the purpose of devouring them, or of selling them to others that they may be devoured hereafter makes the slaves contemplate a journey towards the Coast with great terror, insomuch that the Slatees are forced to keep them in irons, watch them closely, to prevent their escape, his book Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa became a best-seller because it detailed what he observed, what he survived, the people he encountered. His dispassionate — if not scientific or objective — descriptions set a standard for future travel writers to follow and gave Europeans a glimpse of Africa's humanity and complexity. Park introduced them to a vast continent unexplored by Europeans, proposed by e
Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson
Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté, was a British flag officer in the Royal Navy. He was noted for his inspirational leadership, grasp of strategy, unconventional tactics, which together resulted in a number of decisive British naval victories during the Napoleonic Wars, he was wounded several times in combat, losing the sight in one eye in Corsica at the age of 36, as well as most of one arm in the unsuccessful attempt to conquer Santa Cruz de Tenerife when 40 years of age. He was shot and killed at the age of 47 during his final victory at the Battle of Trafalgar near the Spanish port city of Cádiz in 1805. Nelson was born into a moderately prosperous Norfolk family and joined the navy through the influence of his uncle, Maurice Suckling, a high-ranking naval officer himself, he rose through the ranks and served with leading naval commanders of the period before obtaining his own command at the age of 20 in 1778. He developed a reputation in the service through his personal valour and firm grasp of tactics but suffered periods of illness and unemployment after the end of the American War of Independence.
The outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars allowed Nelson to return to service, where he was active in the Mediterranean. He fought in several minor engagements off Toulon and was important in the capture of Corsica and subsequent diplomatic duties with the Italian states. In 1797, he distinguished himself while in command of HMS Captain at the Battle of Cape St Vincent. Shortly after the battle, Nelson took part in the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, where his attack was defeated and he was badly wounded, losing his right arm, was forced to return to England to recuperate; the following year, he won a decisive victory over the French at the Battle of the Nile and remained in the Mediterranean to support the Kingdom of Naples against a French invasion. In 1801, he was dispatched to the Baltic and won another victory, this time over the Danes at the Battle of Copenhagen, he subsequently commanded the blockade of the French and Spanish fleets at Toulon and, after their escape, chased them to the West Indies and back but failed to bring them to battle.
After a brief return to England, he took over the Cádiz blockade in 1805. On 21 October 1805, the Franco-Spanish fleet came out of port, Nelson's fleet engaged them at the Battle of Trafalgar; the battle was Britain's greatest naval victory, but during the action, aboard HMS Victory, was fatally wounded by a French sharpshooter. His body was brought back to England. Nelson's death at Trafalgar secured his position as one of Britain's most heroic figures; the significance of the victory and his death during the battle led to his signal, "England expects that every man will do his duty", being quoted and referenced up to the modern day. Numerous monuments, including Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square and the Nelson Monument in Edinburgh, have been created in his memory and his legacy remains influential. Horatio Nelson was born on 29 September 1758 in a rectory in Burnham Thorpe, England, the sixth of eleven children of the Reverend Edmund Nelson and his wife Catherine Suckling, he was named after his godfather Horatio Walpole 2nd Baron Walpole, of Wolterton.
His mother, who died on 26 December 1767, when he was nine years old, was a great-niece of Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, the de facto first Prime Minister of Great Britain. She lived in the village of Barsham and married the Reverend Edmund Nelson at Beccles church, Suffolk, in 1749. Nelson's aunt, Alice Nelson was the wife of Reverend Robert Rolfe, Rector of Hilborough and grandmother of Sir Robert Monsey Rolfe. Rolfe twice served as Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain. Nelson attended Paston Grammar School, North Walsham, until he was 12 years old, attended King Edward VI’s Grammar School in Norwich, his naval career began on 1 January 1771, when he reported to the third-rate HMS Raisonnable as an ordinary seaman and coxswain under his maternal uncle, Captain Maurice Suckling, who commanded the vessel. Shortly after reporting aboard, Nelson began officer training. Early in his service, Nelson discovered that he suffered from seasickness, a chronic complaint that dogged him for the rest of his life.
HMS Raisonnable had been commissioned during a period of tension with Spain, but when this passed, Suckling was transferred to the Nore guardship HMS Triumph and Nelson was dispatched to serve aboard the West Indiamen Mary Ann of the merchant shipping firm of Hibbert and Horton, in order to gain experience at sea. He twice crossed the Atlantic, before returning to serve under his uncle as the commander of Suckling's longboat, which carried men and dispatches to and from the shore. Nelson learned of a planned expedition under the command of Constantine Phipps, intended to survey a passage in the Arctic by which it was hoped that India could be reached: the fabled North-East Passage. At his nephew's request, Suckling arranged for Nelson to join the expedition as coxswain to Commander Lutwidge aboard the converted bomb vessel HMS Carcass; the expedition reached within ten degrees of the North Pole, unable to find a way through the dense ice floes, was forced to turn back. By 1800 Lutwidge began to circulate a story that while the ship had been trapped in the ice, Nelson had seen and pursued a polar bear, before being ordered to return to the ship.
Lutwidge's version, in 1809, reported that Nelson and a companion had given chase to the bear, but on bei
John Constable, was an English landscape painter in the naturalistic tradition. Born in Suffolk, he is known principally for his landscape paintings of Dedham Vale, the area surrounding his home – now known as "Constable Country" – which he invested with an intensity of affection. "I should paint my own places best", he wrote to his friend John Fisher in 1821, "painting is but another word for feeling". Constable's most famous paintings include Wivenhoe Park of 1816, Dedham Vale of 1802 and The Hay Wain of 1821. Although his paintings are now among the most popular and valuable in British art, he was never financially successful, he became a member of the establishment after he was elected to the Royal Academy at the age of 52. His work was embraced in France, where he sold more than in his native England and inspired the Barbizon school. John Constable was born in East Bergholt, a village on the River Stour in Suffolk, to Golding and Ann Constable, his father was a wealthy corn merchant, owner of Flatford Mill in East Bergholt and Dedham Mill in Essex.
Golding Constable owned a small ship, The Telegraph, which he moored at Mistley on the Stour estuary, used to transport corn to London. He was a cousin of Abram Newman. Although Constable was his parents' second son, his older brother was intellectually disabled and John was expected to succeed his father in the business. After a brief period at a boarding school in Lavenham, he was enrolled in a day school in Dedham. Constable worked in the corn business after leaving school, but his younger brother Abram took over the running of the mills. In his youth, Constable embarked on amateur sketching trips in the surrounding Suffolk and Essex countryside, to become the subject of a large proportion of his art; these scenes, in his own words, "made me a painter, I am grateful". He was introduced to George Beaumont, a collector, who showed him his prized Hagar and the Angel by Claude Lorrain, which inspired Constable. While visiting relatives in Middlesex, he was introduced to the professional artist John Thomas Smith, who advised him on painting but urged him to remain in his father's business rather than take up art professionally.
In 1799, Constable persuaded his father to let him pursue a career in art, Golding granted him a small allowance. Entering the Royal Academy Schools as a probationer, he attended life classes and anatomical dissections, studied and copied old masters. Among works that inspired him during this period were paintings by Thomas Gainsborough, Claude Lorrain, Peter Paul Rubens, Annibale Carracci and Jacob van Ruisdael, he read among poetry and sermons, proved a notably articulate artist. In 1802 he refused the position of drawing master at Great Marlow Military College, a move which Benjamin West counselled would mean the end of his career. In that year, Constable wrote a letter to John Dunthorne in which he spelled out his determination to become a professional landscape painter: For the last two years I have been running after pictures, seeking the truth at second hand... I have not endeavoured to represent nature with the same elevation of mind with which I set out, but have rather tried to make my performances look like the work of other men...
There is room enough for a natural painter. The great vice of the present day is an attempt to do something beyond the truth, his early style has many qualities associated with his mature work, including a freshness of light and touch, reveals the compositional influence of the old masters he had studied, notably of Claude Lorrain. Constable's usual subjects, scenes of ordinary daily life, were unfashionable in an age that looked for more romantic visions of wild landscapes and ruins, he made. By 1803, he was exhibiting paintings at the Royal Academy. In April he spent a month aboard the East Indiaman Coutts as it visited south-east ports while sailing from London to Deal before leaving for China. In 1806 Constable undertook a two-month tour of the Lake District, he told his friend and biographer, Charles Leslie, that the solitude of the mountains oppressed his spirits, Leslie wrote: His nature was peculiarly social and could not feel satisfied with scenery, however grand in itself, that did not abound in human associations.
He required villages, churches and cottages. To make ends meet, Constable took up portraiture, which he found dull, though he executed many fine portraits, he painted occasional religious pictures but, according to John Walker, "Constable's incapacity as a religious painter cannot be overstated."Constable adopted a routine of spending winter in London and painting at East Bergholt in summer. In 1811 he first visited John Fisher and his family in Salisbury, a city whose cathedral and surrounding landscape were to inspire some of his greatest paintings. From 1809, his childhood friendship with Maria Elizabeth Bicknell developed into a deep, mutual love, their marriage in 1816 when Constable was 40 was opposed by Maria's grandfather, Dr Rhudde, rector of East Bergholt. He threatened Maria with disinheritance. Maria's father, Charles Bicknell, solicitor to King George IV and the Admiralty, was reluctant to see Maria throw away her inheritance. Maria pointed out to John that a penniless marriage would detract from any chances he had of making a career in painting.
Golding and Ann Constable, while approving the match, held out no prospect of supporting the marriage until Constable was financially secure. After they died in qui
National Portrait Gallery, London
The National Portrait Gallery is an art gallery in London housing a collection of portraits of important and famous British people. It was the first portrait gallery in the world when it opened in 1856; the gallery moved in 1896 to its current site at St Martin's Place, off Trafalgar Square, adjoining the National Gallery. It has been expanded twice since then; the National Portrait Gallery has regional outposts at Beningbrough Hall in Yorkshire and Montacute House in Somerset. It is unconnected to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, with which its remit overlaps; the gallery is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture and Sport. The gallery houses portraits of important and famous British people, selected on the basis of the significance of the sitter, not that of the artist; the collection includes photographs and caricatures as well as paintings and sculpture. One of its best-known images is the Chandos portrait, the most famous portrait of William Shakespeare although there is some uncertainty about whether the painting is of the playwright.
Not all of the portraits are exceptional artistically, although there are self-portraits by William Hogarth, Sir Joshua Reynolds and other British artists of note. Some, such as the group portrait of the participants in the Somerset House Conference of 1604, are important historical documents in their own right; the curiosity value is greater than the artistic worth of a work, as in the case of the anamorphic portrait of Edward VI by William Scrots, Patrick Branwell Brontë's painting of his sisters Charlotte and Anne, or a sculpture of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in medieval costume. Portraits of living figures were allowed from 1969. In addition to its permanent galleries of historical portraits, the National Portrait Gallery exhibits a changing selection of contemporary work, stages exhibitions of portrait art by individual artists and hosts the annual BP Portrait Prize competition; the three people responsible for the founding of the National Portrait Gallery are commemorated with busts over the main entrance.
At centre is Philip Henry Stanhope, 4th Earl Stanhope, with his supporters on either side, Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1st Baron Macaulay and Thomas Carlyle. It was Stanhope who, in 1846 as a Member of Parliament, first proposed the idea of a National Portrait Gallery, it was not until his third attempt, in 1856, this time from the House of Lords, that the proposal was accepted. With Queen Victoria's approval, the House of Commons set aside a sum of £2000 to establish the gallery; as well as Stanhope and Macaulay, the founder Trustees included Benjamin Disraeli and Lord Ellesmere. It was the latter. Carlyle became a trustee after the death of Ellesmere in 1857. For the first 40 years, the gallery was housed in various locations in London; the first 13 years were spent at Westminster. There, the collection increased in size from 57 to 208 items, the number of visitors from 5,300 to 34,500. In 1869, the collection moved to Exhibition Road and buildings managed by the Royal Horticultural Society. Following a fire in those buildings, the collection was moved in 1885, this time to the Bethnal Green Museum.
This location was unsuitable due to its distance from the West End and lack of waterproofing. Following calls for a new location to be found, the government accepted an offer of funds from the philanthropist William Henry Alexander. Alexander donated £60,000 followed by another £20,000, chose the architect, Ewan Christian; the government provided the new site, St Martin's Place, adjacent to the National Gallery, £16,000. The buildings, faced in Portland stone, were constructed by Son. Both the architect, Ewan Christian, the gallery's first director, George Scharf, died shortly before the new building was completed; the gallery opened at its new location on 4 April 1896. The site has since been expanded twice; the first extension, in 1933, was funded by Lord Duveen, resulted in the wing by architect Sir Richard Allison on a site occupied by St George's Barracks running along Orange Street. In February 1909, a murder–suicide took place in a gallery known as the Arctic Room. In an planned attack, John Tempest Dawson, aged 70, shot his 58 year–old wife, Nannie Caskie.
His wife died in hospital several hours later. Both were American nationals. Evidence at the inquest suggested that Dawson, a wealthy and well–travelled man, was suffering from a Persecutory delusion; the incident came to public attention in 2010 when the Gallery's archive was put on-line as this included a personal account of the event by James Donald Milner the Assistant Director of the Gallery. The collections of the National Portrait Gallery were stored at Mentmore Towers in Buckinghamshire during the Second World War, along with pieces from the Royal Collection and paintings from Speaker's House in the Palace of Westminster; the second extension was funded by Sir Christopher Ondaatje and a £12m Heritage Lottery Fund grant, was designed by London-based architects Edward Jones and Jeremy Dixon. The Ondaatje Wing opened in 2000 and occupies a narrow space of land between the two 19th-century buildings of the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, is notable for its immense, two-storey escalator that takes visitors to the earliest part of the collection, the Tudor portraits.
In January 2008, the Gallery received its largest single donation to date
Normandy is one of the 18 regions of France referring to the historical Duchy of Normandy. Normandy is divided into five administrative departments: Calvados, Manche and Seine-Maritime, it covers 30,627 square kilometres, comprising 5% of the territory of metropolitan France. Its population of 3.37 million accounts for around 5% of the population of France. The inhabitants of Normandy are known as Normans, the region is the historic homeland of the Norman language; the historical region of Normandy comprised the present-day region of Normandy, as well as small areas now part of the departments of Mayenne and Sarthe. The Channel Islands are historically part of Normandy. Normandy's name comes from the settlement of the territory by Danish and Norwegian Vikings from the 9th century, confirmed by treaty in the 10th century between King Charles III of France and the Viking jarl Rollo. For a century and a half following the Norman conquest of England in 1066, Normandy and England were linked by Norman and Frankish rulers.
Archaeological finds, such as cave paintings, prove that humans were present in the region in prehistoric times. Celts invaded Normandy in successive waves from the 4th to the 3rd century BC; when Julius Caesar invaded Gaul, there were nine different Celtic tribes living in Normandy. The Romanisation of Normandy was achieved by the usual methods: Roman roads and a policy of urbanisation. Classicists have knowledge of many Gallo-Roman villas in Normandy. In the late 3rd century, barbarian raids devastated Normandy. Coastal settlements were raided by Saxon pirates. Christianity began to enter the area during this period. In 406, Germanic tribes began invading from the east; as early as 487, the area between the River Somme and the River Loire came under the control of the Frankish lord Clovis. Vikings started to raid the Seine valley during the middle of the 9th century; as early as 841, a Viking fleet appeared at the mouth of the Seine, the principal route by which they entered the kingdom. After attacking and destroying monasteries, including one at Jumièges, they took advantage of the power vacuum created by the disintegration of Charlemagne's empire to take northern France.
The fiefdom of Normandy was created for Rollo. Rollo had besieged Paris but in 911 entered vassalage to the king of the West Franks, Charles the Simple, through the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte. In exchange for his homage and fealty, Rollo gained the territory which he and his Viking allies had conquered; the name "Normandy" reflects Rollo's Viking origins. To this day, in Norwegian language the word nordmann denotes a Norwegian person; the descendants of Rollo and his followers adopted the local Gallo-Romance language and intermarried with the area's native Gallo-Roman inhabitants. They became the Normans – a Norman-speaking mixture of Norsemen and indigenous Franks and Romans. Rollo's descendant William became king of England in 1066 after defeating Harold Godwinson, the last of the Anglo-Saxon kings, at the Battle of Hastings, while retaining the fiefdom of Normandy for himself and his descendants. Besides the conquest of England and the subsequent subjugation of Wales and Ireland, the Normans expanded into other areas.
Norman families, such as that of Tancred of Hauteville, Rainulf Drengot and Guimond de Moulins played important parts in the conquest of southern Italy and the Crusades. The Drengot lineage, de Hauteville's sons William Iron Arm and Humphrey, Robert Guiscard and Roger the Great Count progressively claimed territories in southern Italy until founding the Kingdom of Sicily in 1130, they carved out a place for themselves and their descendants in the Crusader states of Asia Minor and the Holy Land. The 14th-century explorer Jean de Béthencourt established a kingdom in the Canary Islands in 1404, he received the title King of the Canary Islands from Pope Innocent VII but recognized Henry III of Castile as his overlord, who had provided him aid during the conquest. In 1204, during the reign of John Lackland, mainland Normandy was taken from England by France under King Philip II. Insular Normandy remained however under English control. In 1259, Henry III of England recognized the legality of French possession of mainland Normandy under the Treaty of Paris.
His successors, however fought to regain control of their ancient fiefdom. The Charte aux Normands granted by Louis X of France in 1315 – like the analogous Magna Carta granted in England in the aftermath of 1204 – guaranteed the liberties and privileges of the province of Normandy. French Normandy was occupied by English forces during the Hundred Years' War in 1345–1360 and again in 1415–1450. Normandy lost three-quarters of its population during the war. Afterward prosperity returned to Normandy until the Wars of Religion; when many Norman towns joined the Protestant Reformation, battles ensued throughout the province. In the Channel Islands, a period of Calvinism following the Reformation was suppressed when Anglicanism was imposed following the English Civil War. Samuel de Champlain founded Acadia. Four years
Victoria and Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum in London is the world's largest museum of applied and decorative arts and design, as well as sculpture, housing a permanent collection of over 2.27 million objects. It was named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert; the V&A is located in the Brompton district of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, in an area that has become known as "Albertopolis" because of its association with Prince Albert, the Albert Memorial and the major cultural institutions with which he was associated. These include the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the Royal Albert Hall and Imperial College London; the museum is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture and Sport. As with other national British museums, entrance is free; the V&A covers 145 galleries. Its collection spans 5,000 years of art, from ancient times to the present day, from the cultures of Europe, North America and North Africa. However, the art of antiquity in most areas is not collected.
The holdings of ceramics, textiles, silver, jewellery, medieval objects, sculpture and printmaking, drawings and photographs are among the largest and most comprehensive in the world. The museum owns the world's largest collection of post-classical sculpture, with the holdings of Italian Renaissance items being the largest outside Italy; the departments of Asia include art from South Asia, Japan 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 is amongst the largest in the Western world. Overall, it is one of the largest museums in the world. Since 2001 the museum has embarked on a major £150m renovation programme. New 17th- and 18th-century European galleries were opened on 9 December 2015; these restored the original Aston Webb interiors and host the European collections 1600–1815. The V&A Museum of Childhood in East London is a branch of the museum, a new branch in London is being planned.
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. It was known as the Museum of Manufactures, first opening in May 1852 at Marlborough House, but by September had been transferred to Somerset House. At this stage the collections covered both applied science. Several of the exhibits from the 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. In 1855 the German architect Gottfried Semper, at the request of Cole, produced a design for the museum, but it was rejected by the Board of Trade as too expensive; the site was occupied by Brompton Park House. The official opening by Queen Victoria was on 20 June 1857. In the following year, late night openings were introduced, made possible by the use of gas lighting; this was to enable in the words of Cole "to ascertain what hours are most convenient to the working classes"—this was linked to the use of the collections of both applied art and science as educational resources to help boost productive industry.
In these early years the practical use of the collection was much emphasised as opposed to that of "High Art" at the National Gallery and scholarship at the British Museum. George Wallis, the first Keeper of Fine Art Collection, passionately promoted the idea of wide art education through the museum collections; this led to the transfer to the museum of the School of Design, founded in 1837 at Somerset House. From the 1860s to the 1880s the scientific collections had been moved from the main museum site to various improvised galleries to the west of Exhibition Road. In 1893 the "Science Museum" had come into existence when a separate director was appointed; the laying of the foundation stone of the Aston Webb building 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. Queen Victoria's address during the ceremony, as recorded in The London Gazette, ended: "I trust that it will remain for ages a Monument of discerning Liberality and a Source of Refinement and Progress."The exhibition which the museum organised to celebrate the centennial of the 1899 renaming, "A Grand Design", first toured in North America from 1997, returning to London in 1999.
To accompany and support the exhibition, the museum published a book, Grand Design, which it has made available for reading online on its website. The opening ceremony for the Aston Webb building by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra took place on 26 June 1909. In 1914 the construction commenced of the Science Museum, signalling the final split of the science and art collections. In 1939 on the outbreak of World War II, most of the collection was sent to a quarry in Wiltshire, to Montacute House in Somerset, or to a tunnel near Aldwych tube station, with larger items remaining in situ, sand-bagged and bricked in. Between 1941 and 1944 some galleries were used as a school for chil