British Museum / Victoria And Albert Museum

Posted: August 13th, 2013

The British Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum




The British Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum

The British Museum 


The British Museum is based in London. The Museum focuses on displaying art defining the history and culture of humankind. The museum contains around 8,000,000 pieces of artwork. The diverse artwork is drawn from all continents of the world. The art records the life of human beings since the evolutionary era, and it is constantly updated to cover current events. The Museum was founded in 1753. During its establishment, it was a collection room for Sir Hans Sloane. Sloane was a British scientist who loved cultural art and studying human history. The first time the public was allowed to visit the museum was on January 15, 1759. The museum has never changed its location ever since and is still in Montagu House, in the city of Bloomsbury. The museum has however expanded over the years and formed several other branches within Great Britain. Among the branches include, the British museum of national history. Until recently, the British Museum comprised both a museum and a library within the same building. The British library however relocated to a new site.


The British Museum is divided into departments and rooms. The museum is made up of ninety-three rooms each representing a distinct theme, culture or country. It is a public institution receiving sponsorship from the British government as it deals with important aspects of the society. The round reading room where researchers consulted and shared ideas was closed in 1997 and replaced with the Walter and Leonore Annenberg center. The British museum has a large online database of artifacts. Its online database contains at least two million objects, which is unprecedented globally for a similar feature. Collections of art in this institution are categorized into departments according to origin. The branch dealing with Ancient Egypt and Sudan comprises diverse collections of art from all major ancient sites in Egypt and Sudan. The section allocated to Greece and Rome consists of a wide range of artifacts from 3200 BC to the 4th Century AD. All the important eras in the history of these ancient Kingdoms have a significant representation in the compilation. The section allocated to the Middle East contains art from all over this region. This department covers immense cultural and historical information of ancient Muslims and Arabs. The subdivision of prints and illustrations is considered as a chief collector of these artifacts, a fact that only a few other institutions can lay claim to. These and other departments are the major classifications employed to display ancient artwork.

Islamic Art

Most Islamic art in the institution can be found in Room 34. This room contains all art related to the Islamic World. The room contains materials aimed at capturing and defining the cultures of people living in regions where Islam is the dominant religion. The artwork displayed survey Islam, Muslim art, science, culture and calligraphy. Room 34 holds ancient Islamic artifacts such as mosque lamps and scientific instruments. It also contains a variety of print materials on the history of the Muslim world. Other rooms where Islamic art can be found include Room 52 that holds art related to ancient Iran and Room 53 on ancient South Arabia. Some Islamic art can also be found in rooms displaying objects on Ancient Egypt and other Middle Eastern Countries such as room sixty-four and sixty-five. The Islamic world room (John Addis Gallery) is the only single room with extensive information on Islamic art and culture. It contains items dating form the 7th Century AD. The room is located on the entrance level of the museum (level-1) on the right side of the Montague place.




Exhibitions in the British museum are chronologically ordered but then in different departments. The departments depend on location of origin for the artifacts. For instance, the Rosetta stone is the first artifact under the Egyptian/Sudan prehistoric department. The Elgin Marbles are from Greece primordial period and are in Greece/Rome section. The museum is reputed for the most valuable collection of artifacts from Iraq from the Mesopotamia era. For instance, the Nimrud under the Middle East section.. Items are numbered from the oldest to the most recent then arranged in a chronological order. Room 34 on the Islamic world for contains four items. The items are numbered 46, 52, 57, 74 and 81. The item numbered 46 is displayed just next to the entrance while number 81 is displayed the farthest. Interestingly, the object tagged number 46 is the Gold coin of Abd Al-Malik. The object tagged 81 is the Shi’a religious parade standard. The gold coin was made in Syria during AD 696-697. The Shi’a religious parade standard was in use around 680 AD. The artifacts are thus arranged and displayed according to their time of origin or use.

The Victoria and Albert Museum


It is also based in London and has the largest collection of arts and design items. It has about 4,500,000 objects on display. The Museum was established in 1853. It was named after Prince Albert and Queen Victoria. It is located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The V & A museum as it is commonly known is a public institution under the sponsorship of the British department of media, culture and sport. The museum spans an area of about 12.5 acres and consists of 145 galleries. The museum’s art collections span a period of five thousand years with vast collections on the cultures of four continents. The department of Asia contains a collection of art from Korea, South Asia, Japan, China, as well as the Arabic nations. The museum is also well stocked with Islamic art and is considered as a leading institution in this area worldwide. Major renovations in recent years have ensured an increase in the number of galleries and other facilities.


Collection Areas

            The collections of art in this institution are divided into four areas: Asia, Fashion, World & Image and Ceramics & Glass. These departments care for and display the particular objects as per department definitions. Further divisions of the department create sixteen more display areas holding about 6.5 million objects. Some of the items are stored in other institutions managed by the institution such as Blythe House that is located in West Kensington. The museum also lends items to desiring institutions.

Victoria and Albert’s Asia collection

From its large collection of Himalayan, Chinese, south Asia and Islamic art, the museum has a diverse collection of art. The institution holds approximately 19,000 objects on the Islamic world dating back to the 7th Century.

Islamic Art

The museum holds a wide range of Islamic art in its Jameel Gallery. The Jameel Gallery is numbered 42 among the exhibition rooms in the V & A. It is the only room focusing on Islamic art and contains displays virtually all objects in the museum related to Islam. The gallery is named after one of the people who helped found it, Mr. Abdul Latif Jameel. The gallery contains about 400 objects. The objects held include carpets, textiles, glass, woodwork, metalwork and ceramics. It contains items ranging from 600AD to the years before World War I. The items on display are drawn from countries such as Spain to those in the Far East such as Afghanistan. Among the items held in the Jameel Gallery (Room 42), include the Ardabil carpet. The carpet is perceived to be the oldest and most beautiful historical artifact in the world. The Jameel Islamic gallery is located on level 1 of the institution. The gallery contains artifacts and resources created for mosques, palaces and religious buildings.


            Islamic art objects are put to public view in the Jameel gallery according to the years of creation. Distinct items are however placed together. All Islamic art in the museum is held in the Jameel gallery except for a few affiliated to specific national cultures. Ceramic for example, are placed with other ceramics while woodwork items are clustered together in a chronological order. Each category of item placed in room 42 has a museum number that shows its rightful place in the chronology according to the date of its creation. The rooms are arranged in order of numbers such that room number 42 comes directly before room 41.


            The two museums have a rich collection of Islamic art. The British museum has a wide variety of art while the Victoria and Albert institution specializes in fine art and design. The items in room 34 of the British museum are however very limited compared to those in the latter museum. While the British museum provides a wider variety since it focuses of cultural history it provides a very small collection of items on Islamic art. The Victoria and Albert institution on the other hand boasts about 400 pieces of art. Most of the pieces in the British museum are however scattered across other galleries such as those of the South Arabian countries and Iran. This is however a disadvantage for the museum visitor. The V & A though not covering a wider area has most of its artifacts under within one room thus providing for easy viewing. The V & A is therefore a great source of information for a researcher on Islamic since it offers a variety of Islamic art within one room.


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