A Schoolroom for Everyone: The Making of the Victoria and Albert Museum


When Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone of the South Kensington Museum’s imposing new building in 1899 she declared that it would thereafter be known by Royal permission as the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was her last major public appearance, a final tribute to her beloved Albert, and a recognition of the success of an extraordinary institution, which began as a school intended to raise the standards of training available to design students and grew to become an entirely new kind of museum: inspiring imitators across Europe and permanently changing expectations of what a museum could do and be.

The South Kensington Museum arrived in Brompton - then on the outskirts of fashionable London - in 1857, brainchild of entrepreneur Henry Cole, supported by the efforts of a group of talented and sometimes wayward individuals and funded by the profits of the 1851 Great Exhibition. By purchase and bequest (helped along when necessary by flattery, persuasion and financial juggling), it had by the turn of the century amassed unrivalled collections of the art and design of almost every period and nation, worthy of a place dubbed by the press A Palace of Art, devoted to the free culture of the million. 

In 2016 the V&A won the prestigious Museum of the Year Award; since then there have been a series of ambitious new projects, in and beyond London, through which the museum continues to expand the possibilities of museum-visiting and collection access.

Victoria hoped that her new namesake would remain for ages a Monument of discerning Liberality and a Source of Refinement and Progress. This day school offers the opportunity to explore the varied ways in which Henry Cole’s cherished schoolroom for everyone has always, if sometimes controversially, done its best to oblige her.

Please note: this event will close to enrolments at 23:59 UTC on 28 February 2024.

Programme details

Registration at Rewley House Reception (for in-person attendees)

A book that is always open: making a museum in Brompton

Tea/coffee break

Full of marvellous treasures: South Kensington becomes the V&A

Lunch break

For the benefit of the nation? Collecting, curating and exhibiting at the V&A

Tea/coffee break

FuturePlan, future-proof? The V&A today and tomorrow

End of day


Description Costs
Course Fee - in-person attendance (includes tea/coffee) £99.00
Course Fee - virtual attendance £90.00
Baguette Lunch £6.50
Hot Lunch (3 courses) £17.60


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit or are a full-time student in the UK you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Dr Justine Hopkins

Justine Hopkins read English and Drama at Bristol University, followed by an MA at the Courtauld Institute. After a year as an archaeological illustrator, she took a PhD at Birkbeck College exploring relationships between science, religion and landscape painting in the nineteenth century. Her biography of twentieth-century painter and sculptor Michael Ayrton appeared in 1994. She has contributed articles to a wide variety of periodicals and dictionaries; her latest article, on Serb sculptor Ivan Meštrović, appeared in Sculpture Journal last year. She works as a freelance lecturer in Art History for institutions including the Victoria and Albert Museum and Oxford and Cambridge Universities; she is a registered lecturer for the Arts Society.


Please use the 'Book' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form. 


Accommodation is not included in the price, but if you wish to stay with us the night before the course, then please contact our Residential Centre.

Accommodation in Rewley House - all bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.  Please contact our Residential Centre on +44 (0) 1865 270362 or email res-ctr@conted.ox.ac.uk for details of availability and discounted prices.

IT requirements

For those joining us online

We will be using Zoom for the livestreaming of this event. If you’re attending online, you’ll be able to see and hear the speakers, and to submit questions via the Zoom interface. Joining instructions will be sent out prior to the start date. We recommend that you join the session at least 10-15 minutes prior to the start time – just as you might arrive a bit early at our lecture theatre for an in-person event.

Please note that this course will not be recorded.