Brief history: founded as the Museum of Manufacturers in the wake of the 1851 Great Exhibition, which produced the closest 19th-century Britons got to a feelgood factor. It moved from its original home at Marlborough House to the fields of Brompton in 1857. It was known as the South Kensington Museum until 1899, when it was renamed the Victoria and Albert Museum in honour of the widowed Queen, who laid the foundation stone in what turned out to be her last public appearance. Today, the museum houses around four million objects, among which are sculpture, paintings, ceramics, textiles, furniture, jewellery, clothing and lots of pieces plundered from various former colonies.
The building: adjectives like "magnificent" and "imposing" come to mind. There are no less than seven miles of galleries over an 11-acre site. It grew over a long period, but the Cromwell Road edifice, designed by Sir Aston Webb, was built during the 1890s. Daniel Liebeskind's pounds 70m geometric, spiralling Boiler House project is, Lottery willing, due to be completed in 2002.
Uses: as well as being the largest museum of decorative arts in the world, it also organises special exhibitions, gallery talks and lectures on art and design.
Current events: The Power of the Poster (2 Apr-26 Jul) looks at the special qualities that have enabled the poster to survive and flourish as a powerful medium of publicity and persuasion..
Admission: rather controversially. it started charging for entrance in 1996. A visit will now set you back pounds 5 (concs pounds 3); it's free to under- 18s, students, UB40s, and the disabled, and to all between 4.30-5.50. Tues-Sun 10-5.50, Mon 12-5.50. Information on 0171 938 8441.
Where to meet: there's a restaurant on site.
Cost of a glass of wine: once you've coughed up the entrance fee, it's a fairly reasonable pounds 1.85.
Getting there: South Kensington tube, then follow the signs. Sylvie Buschmann