June 26th, 1909 marks the day when the largest museum of design in the world and one of the most historic and visited museums in London opened its doors. The Victoria and Albert museum (or the V&A to its pals) leads the world in its celebration of art and design.
Like many developments of the Victorian era, the V&A has a fascinating history, having its roots in the first International Fair of 1851, known as the Great Exhibition.
Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert was a progressive soul, and if you're interested in his influence in London and beyond, this is as good a place to start as any.
86 acres of land in the area of London known as Brompton was purchased for the Great Exhibition, and Albert wanted to develop the area into a hub of culture and progress for science, design, manufacturing and academic learning.
The development of this cultural quarter was to take most of the later part of the 19th Century, and the V&A as we know it today opened its doors in 1857.
Previously housed in a Royal building in Pall Mall from 1852, the Museum of Manufactures was established to showcase 'Good design' principles. The inaugural director was Henry Cole, a civil servant widely recognised as a huge influence in the creation of the Great Exhibition.
As an aside, the Great Exhibition lasted six months, and by the time it closed, a third of the British population had visited. If you're interested in finding out more about the Great Exhibition, click here.
Cole is thought to have suggested the name South Kensington to describe the area formerly known as Brompton, as it sounded more up-market. You can still see Brompton everywhere, but the area surrounding the V&A is now well known as South Kensington.
A less than beautiful structure first housed the South Kensington Museum when it arrived in South Kensington in 1857. After many add-ons and extensions Queen Victoria finally laid the foundation stone of the Aston Webb building, the building we see as the frontage of the museum today in May 1899. She publicly named the building the Victoria and Albert Museum and it was her last public appearance before her death nearly two years later in 1901, just five months before the official opening of the V&A.
Covering 12.5 acres and housing 2.3 million artefacts, the museum is free to visit, with ticketed exhibits on throughout the year. Many of London's museums house objects bequeathed on the understanding that the public will have free access to them, so if you feel like seeing hundreds of priceless objects for no price at all, check out this list.
The area surrounding the museum became known as Albertopolis due to the influence he had over the area. In addition to the V&A, you'll find the Science Museum, which was separated from the V&A in 1909 and whose building was finished in 1928. Across the road is the National History Museum, rightly considered a cathedral to nature, which opened in 1881. The Royal Albert Hall is another example and opened nearby in 1871. The Imperial Institute, a seat of learning now known as Imperial College London opened in 1888. It is still one of the foremost scientific universities in the world. Keep your eyes peeled on August 26th (Prince Albert's birthday) or the 14th December (the anniversary of his death), when I'll write a post just about him as I'm running out of space here.
In other brief news, today is the day in 1963 when JFK gave his 'I am a Berliner' speech. It translates as either 'I am a Berliner', or 'I am a doughnut', depending on who you believe.
Finally, at the Market Square Arena in Indianapolis on this day in 1977, Elvis Presley gave his last live concert, just seven weeks before his early death on August 16th at the age of 42. His final immortal words on stage were "Till we meet again, may God bless you. Adios." Very cool.
And on that note, I'll say adios today. Thanks for reading!