Author(s): Victoria and Albert Museum
London's Victoria and Albert Museum houses one of the world's greatest art collections. Founded in 1852 as a pioneering museum of applied and decorative arts, today it has incomparable holdings spanning 2,000 years of artistic achievement in virtually every form: ceramics, metalwork, jewelry, furniture and woodwork, sculpture, textiles, paintings, drawings, and prints. "A Grand Design," published in conjunction with a major traveling exhibition, brings together more than 250 of the V&A's finest treasures and recounts the institution's rich and vibrant history. Collectively, these splendid objects illustrate how the museum sought to establish a canon of excellence for the decorative arts by acquiring examples of superior craftsmanship, aesthetic beauty, and artistic merit from many of the world's cultures. Essays by a team of scholars examine the V&A's origins, evolution, and influence. Several major themes are explored, including the V&A's pivotal place in the historical context of the art museum and its changing approaches to the collection and display of objects; the educational mission; the impact of factors such as British imperial history and national patrimony on the museum's collecting practices; and the museum's interest in the art of the twentieth century, including its involvement with contemporary artists and craftspeople. An illustrated chronology using rare archival material from the museum's collection traces the development of this remarkable institution.