© Copyright Robin Webster and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
It has been 14 months since lockdown brought a halt to the activities that we used to enjoy and we are only now seeing the emergence of inside dining, theatre visits and shopping. One of my missed pastimes has been going to the museum, seeing exhibitions and being around people. I was booked to attend the Victoria and Albert Museum (Est. 1852) in South Kensington.
My first trip back was on the 19th May 2021, I was surprised at the excitement I felt when showing my pre-booked ticket at the entrance and being allowed into the museum from the Exhibition Road entrance. It felt surreal walking towards the large glass doors of the museum, maybe not exactly Lewis Carrol’s vision but my own slide down the rabbit hole. I have been familiar with this museum for many years but being given the freedom and autonomy to make plans in booking and visiting still felt eerily uncanny. This feeling soon disappeared when I stepped into the museum and was welcomed back it felt like being taken under mother hen’s wing again.
The staff were immensely welcoming and helpful as though the galleries and exhibitions had been opened for me personally. The spark of excitement lit up greater as I wandered throughout the numerous rooms and corridors filled with artefacts and their corresponding labels. There were families, friends, museum workers and myself all grateful for the re-opening and welcoming back visitors to the previously silent and still museum.
Unfortunately, the Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser was not yet open to the public (now open and extended to 31 December 2021), but I have managed to secure a ticket for July. I did manage to see the Bags: Inside Out which I would highly recommend for any fashion lovers out there, or those interested to see the process of bag making and history of the design of bags.
The V&A never fails to disappoint and even the Bags: Inside Out exhibition was eye opening to the bag novice, the tools used, the processes, the length of time from design to product. I especially liked the projected videos of processes being shown on the walls of the space in conjunction with the breakdown of parts of the bag. I found it fascinating.
I recall looking at a calligraphy set in the China room and a girl of about ten rushing past me to get a closer look, her blond ponytail swishing behind her as she looked intently at the objects on display before moving onto the next, her trainers thumping the floor as she moved from one section to another. It was this excitement that I loved, albeit mine a little more contained; the joy of seeing something new, learning something that you never would have known before and feeling part of something again after so many months cooped up at home. I walked through the newly refurbished Raphael Cartoon Court where the tapestry’s hang dwarfing myself and the other visitors (unfortunately I missed HRH Kate Middleton) the vastness of the court took me by surprise as I sat and looked on in awe. The Cast Courts and Medieval and Renaissance Rooms (1350-1600) always impress.
I also enjoyed walking through the Buddhism room, Sculpture Corridor, the John Majenski Garden where people were relaxing and having a coffee near the central pool. The weather had improved since my arrival and the sun shone, illuminating the collections gloriously. I saw artists sitting sketching the sculptures, families walking hand in hand through the exhibits and pointing out objects of interest to one another. I saw a group of teenagers taking photographs of each other posing in the sculpture room mimicking the poses of those around them. There was a sense of ‘normality’ and joy at being able to participate in the first day of opening since lockdown in 2020. Even behind my mask I was smiling at everyone, even though they couldn’t see me.
I was able to grab a swift lunch at the Members’ Room before heading out. I passed through the gift shop and browsed the merchandise, books, scarfs, postcards, something to fit every budget even mine. I would say a big thank you to the staff at the Victoria and Albert Museum for making my visit as a solo visitor warm and looking after me. I daresay that my next visit will be in the near future to try to see the many other rooms and levels that I was unable to fit into my 3 hour visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum.