Research

Research is a core activity of the V&A, and it grows out of our original commitment to advancing the arts and sciences that shape the world around us. The Research Department works with experts throughout the Museum and a wide range of external partners in increasing access to and understanding of the collections in our care, helping to make the world’s oldest and largest museum of art and design a leading centre for object-led learning at the interface between history, theory and practice.

The Research section of the V&A blog will offer progress reports and provocations, sneak previews and glimpses behind the scenes, from people working on and in our collections.

Image: Pair of suede shoes, made in England, 1950s. X-ray image by Paul Robins, Object Number T.12-1990. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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“Thinking and Experiencing ‘Techne’”: Experiments with Amber

Pulverising the amber

This post was written by History of Design MA students taking part in the course’s ‘Thinking and Experiencing Techne’ seminar/lab class. Katie Vann, Melissa Tyler and Rebecca Goozee reflect on their experience of interpreting a varnish recipe from a sixteenth-century French manuscript, now in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris: The recipe presented us with various […]

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Reflections on Christine Guth and Asian Design History at the V&A

Christine Guth in Istanbul

Christine Guth joined the V&A/RCA History of Design MA course in 2008 to lead its specialism in Asian Design History. Marking her retirement this summer, colleagues reflect on her contribution to the V&A. Curators from the Asian department, Anna Jackson and Rupert Faulkner, write: When Christopher Breward, then Head of Research, told us that Christine […]

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‘Thinking and Experiencing ‘Techne’’: Re-creating a Sixteenth-Century Copal Varnish

Stirring the viscous copal mixture

This post was written by second-year student, Melissa Tyler, one of a group of V&A/RCA History of Design MA students participating in the ‘Thinking and Experiencing Techne’ seminar/lab. On a cold, blustery February morning we arrived at Blythe House, home to one of the largest storage facilities of the Victoria and Albert Museum. We were […]

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Reimagining Objects: A History of Design Exhibition

Riding Jacket

  This post was written by second-year student, Melissa Tyler, on the V&A/RCA History of Design MA. Tucked away from most of the museum is a small, light-filled library used by the V&A/RCA History of Design Masters Degree.  The course is internationally recognized as the leading postgraduate programme for the study of the History of […]

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Thinking and Experiencing ‘Techne’: Cooking From a Sixteenth-Century Lavender Spike Oil Recipe

Heating lavender spike oil

This post was written by second-year students, Sophie Châtellier and Matilde Audisio, members of a group of V&A/RCA History of Design MA students taking part in the ‘Thinking and Experiencing Techne’ seminar/lab in the spring term. One of its aims was to recreate a series of recipes from a sixteenth-century French technical manuscript.   On […]

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Thinking and Experiencing ‘Techne’: Revealing Object Histories with UV Light

Sixteenth-century case under normal light

  This post was written by second-year student, Letitia Calin, one of a group of V&A/RCA History of Design MA students participating in the ‘Thinking and Experiencing Techne’ seminar/lab.   Early on in the ‘Thinking and Experiencing Techne’ seminar and lab course of the V&A/RCA History of Design MA we investigated a selection of early […]

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Aiming for ‘Authenticity’: Re-Creating Early Modern Recipes on the V&A/RCA History of Design MA

jelly

This post was written by second-year student, Katie Vann, one of the V&A/RCA History of Design MA students participating in the ‘Thinking and Experiencing Techne’ seminar/lab. Before trying our hands at sixteenth-century varnish recipes, the class took up an initial experiment: following food recipes that were all over a hundred years old. With authentic re-creation […]

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Thinking and Experiencing ‘Techne’ on the V&A/RCA History of Design MA

Heating ingredients at Blythe House

This spring, students on the V&A/RCA History of Design MA course explored early modern artisanal knowledge and practices in ways that might appear to be rather unusual for historians. Donning lab coats and protective masks, they crushed amber, boiled linseed oil, and experimented with materials such as sandarac, mastic, spike, and camphor in order to […]

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Halloween and Divination

Image of demons dancing

Halloween as we know it today came to us from Irish and North American traditions. Besides from making turnip and pumpkin lanterns, dressing up in scary costumes and trick-or-treating, one of the popular festive activities previously associated with Halloween in Ireland was divination rituals and fortune-telling practices carried out as part of the celebration. These practices […]

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GUEST POST: My Qur’an pendant from Syria

My collection of talismans and amulets  © Victor Borges

Victor Borges is a Senior Sculpture Conservator at the V&A. One day when I was delivering an object to Victor in Sculpture Conservation I noticed he was wearing a chain full of small and curious pendants. Looking at it closer, I suddenly noticed a beautiful small gold pendant in the shape of a Qur’an with Arabic inscriptions. […]

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