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The V&A (and why I'm often bored in museums)

Wednesday 11 January 2012
Part of the wonderful (and not boring) Art Nouveau section at the V&A
I know, I know. I should love museums. And I do love going to them, it's just... well, when I get there, I'm often a little bored. Unless something grabs me, and quickly, I'll blitz through them as quickly as I can, giving everything a cursory glance before hightailing it to the gift shop.

This isn't always the case. But most of the time, it is. I'm not a great person to visit a museum with. Unless you're interested in seeing everything in the least possible time.

There are things I love about museums...

  1. Free and spotless toilets, where you never have to ask for the key.
  2. The fact that all London museums are free.
  3. The distant dream that one day I'll be looking whimsically at... I don't know, something classy, and the love of my life will stand next to me to strike up a conversation about whatever the hell it is we're looking at. Witty dialogue will ensue, and sparks will fly. Of course, I'm limiting the chances of this happening by speeding through the place at a swift jog.
All of which brings me to the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Full disclosure: my main desire to visit the V&A was fuelled by the beautiful things they sell on their online shop. Oh, pretty fabrics, pretty china, pretty things. So I thought, if they sell pretty things, they must exhibit pretty things. Right?

Kind of. The V&A is huge. Gigantic. You could easily spend the day there, and a lot of people do, I'm sure, judging by the amount of sketchbooks and serious, concentrating expressions I saw as I ran past each one. I started in the Asia section, glancing at old pottery and rugs with not much interest. While it was all beautiful and interesting (probably) it wasn't grabbing me.

Then I went upstairs, and finally I was hooked. The Photography selection is stunning, fascinating and held my gaze for almost a full minute.

I was horribly embarrassed taking pictures with my tiny Samsung camera, as everyone around me brandished their shiny Nikons and Canons. Mine is the kind of camera which takes 30 seconds to take a photo in anything but blazing sunshine, during which time you have to stand absolutely still. It's not ideal. Especially not in a photography exhibit.

Around the corner was a tiny corner dedicated to Art Nouveau and the posters of early 1900 Paris. Oh, I loved it. I felt slightly cliched, like I only appreciate Toulouse Latrec because of Moulin Rouge, or the girl who has Le Chat Noir poster up in her uni halls (actually I had a pretty awesome Absinthe one, so there).

I care not if I'm a cliche, because they were beautiful.

Just around the corner was my personal highlight - the Theatre and Performance section. Oh my. There are old script notes, early posters from a variety of shows, costumes, videos and more that I can't possibly remember in the excitement. I took a particular shine to the posters.

So many costumes are displayed, with old outfits from Shakespeare in the seventies, stage gear from Elton John and Mick Jagger, costumes from the Lion King. Oh, and there's a dress up section. A dress up section!

There's also a recreation of Kylie Minogue's dressing room. I was lucky enough to reach that at the same time as a young Australian woman, who stood next to me with a small Australian child.

"Do you know what this is? This is Kylie Minogue's dressing room! Do you know who Kylie Minogue is?"


"Well, she's the biggest rock star in the world"


"Yes. How lucky are we to be looking at her dressing room?"

"Well, how is it her dressing room if it's here?"

"I think they've just put everything that was there here in this room"

"Oh. And she's the biggest rock star in the world?"

"Yes! Do you know any of her songs?"

At this point, I was praying she was going to launch into one of her songs. She didn't.

I couldn't break it to the little girl that Kylie might not be the biggest rock star in the world. Hell, who am I to say? It would be like me slaughtering a kangaroo in front of her very eyes, and that is something that I just couldn't do.


  1. Great review. Makes me want to visit for the Kylie dressing room alone!

    1. It's totally worth it. She is, after all, the biggest rock star in the world.

  2. I also get pretty bored in museums but am now looking forward to visiting the v & a in march when I go to london, the photos look great.

    1. Thanks! You'll definitely find something in there you'll like, it's ginormous!

  3. Great article... I will now check it out next time I'm in the city.

  4. Have been to a masked ball in the V&A and would recommend visiting when it's dark... Very atmospheric sculptures and beautiful lighting. Do London museums open late??

    1. That sounds gorgeous. I think most open until around 6pm, but it sounds like many offer private functions in the evening. Worth keeping an eye on their site or twitter feed if you ask me.

      I know the Natural History museum started doing sleepovers for kids, and such was the outcry among adults they started to do it for grown ups too! That would definitely be worth doing.

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