My brother, his girlfriend and I had planned a day together in London last weekend and after hearing great things about the 1960s exhibition at the Victoria & Albert museum, we decided to book tickets (plus it’s a great excuse to wander around one of my favourite areas – Kensington!).
As you walk into the V&A from the main entrance off from Cromwell Road, you walk underneath a huge glass dome which would be impressive enough for most museums, but it is easy to miss it at the V&A as it is dwarfed by the most unusual blue and green glass sculpture hanging underneath.
The Rotunda Chandelier was created by Dale Chihuly and is made entirely of blown glass. Due to the ‘design’ of the sculpture, it is never really finished as such. It was initially installed in 1999 but two years later, Chihuly added to it even further so that it now fills the space.
It reminds me of a giant sea creature reaching out to all of the visitors and is a great contrast to the traditional but equally ornate detailing all around it, a reflection of the real variety of items and exhibitions housed in the V&A.
The V&A museum has been operating since 1857 and was initially called the South Kensington Museum but was renamed the Victoria and Albert museum in 1899, although Queen Victoria actually wanted it to be called the Albert Museum (I love this fact!).
We didn’t have time to look around the rest of the museum but everywhere you turn, there is something to look at and admire. I have been a few times before but I definitely need a trip back soon. With over 2.2million items in the museum’s collections, one visit is really not enough!
The ‘You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1960’ exhibition is running at the V&A until 26 February and covers all key issues and trends in the late 1960s. I learnt so much and it was designed in such a brilliant way.
Unfortunately you can’t take photos in the exhibition itself, but it wouldn’t be possible to encapsulate the experience through a camera anyway, you really do need to go and see it yourself.
You are given head phones at the beginning but they’re not the standard museum headphones which require you to press a button when you reach each section, they actually detect where you are in the exhibition and play the appropriate music/news clips. 1960s music constantly plays in your ears the whole way round and so you really feel immersed in the decade from the beginning. The only downside to wearing the headphones the whole time is that it makes it difficult to interact with whoever you are with, but as you will see later in this blog post, there is an incredible Victorian cafe at the museum so it is the perfect excuse for a good catch up over tea and cake after the exhibition!
The exhibition flows really well from one subject matter to the next and you get a real sense of what it must have been like to live through that era. The music was brilliant and I loved seeing the fashion change from the restrictive dresses worn earlier in the century to the short and unfitted dresses of the 1960s. The girls must have felt so free (and cold!).
In addition to the more light hearted topics, the exhibition is able to convey the tension and rebellion felt by a lot of people in this decade, particularly amongst university students who were protesting against racial, political and social inequality. I learnt so much and feel like I have a much better understanding of what life was like in the 1960s. There was so much more to that decade than just the hippy image normally associated with it.
We were in there for over 2 hours but we could have easily been there for longer so if you are planning a trip, I would recommend allowing half a day at the museum so that you don’t have to rush any areas.
In the middle of the V&A building is a garden area, with a water feature in the middle. It is so easy to forget that you are in the middle of London when you stand in the garden.
Once in the museum, there are so many amazing things to look at that it’s easy to forget how magnificent the actual building is. The garden area is a great reminder that the exterior is just as impressive as the interior.
Once you cross the garden area, you come into the restaurant which is without a doubt the most beautiful cafe I have ever seen and was not what I expected at all when I saw ‘cafe’ on the museum’s map.
The V&A museum was actually the first museum in the world to provide a public restaurant and it isn’t your ordinary restaurant/cafe either. Everywhere you look is some form of beautiful and ornate decoration.
It has every form of decoration I could think of, with gold pillars, coloured tiles everywhere, stained glass windows and amazing orb lights hanging from the ornate ceilings.
When the restaurant was first opened, it had different menus for first, second and third class visitors. Thankfully now, all guests can enjoy a delicious cake or scone with a nice cup of tea in the beautiful surroundings.
I could eat scones every day so when I saw the Earl Grey scones piled high while queuing for a pot of tea, I couldn’t resist.
From one amazing museum to another, it is almost impossible to walk past the Natural History museum and not stop to take a photo.
I can’t recommend the ‘You Say You Want a Revolution?’ exhibition enough and it is only on for a few more weeks so if you plan on a trip to London soon, I would definitely suggest paying a visit!