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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20 May 1867. A milestone in the history of the Royal Albert Hall

On this very day 150 years ago, Queen Victoria went from Windsor Castle to South Kensington to lay the foundation stone of the Royal Albert Hall. She reported in her diary: A muggy dull day. At ½ p. 10 started for London. A little rain had been falling, the sky was heavy and the air oppressive, […]

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People, Places and Things: New Models for Collections-Based Research

A ‘parliament of things’ holds court in an anatomical theatre, precious paintings are suspended for all to see in a giant mirrored bowl, migration histories and scientific mysteries are painstakingly teased out of 300 year-old woven silk and metal – museum research is more adventurous than ever and the inaugural symposium of the V&A Research […]

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The Cabinet of Curiosities: Reflections on modern art historical thinking

Portrait of Elias Ashmole

If you, like me, are curious about cabinets of curiosity, the inaugural Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Lecture on the history of collecting was a key date. Given by esteemed art historian and authority on the history of collecting, Professor Paula Findlen, it was South Kensington’s hottest ticket. If you were disappointed not to get one, […]

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Filming the History of Design experimental lab class

techne video

Two second-year students who took part in the techne seminar/lab, Vivien Chan and Charlotte Slark, created a series of videos to document the lab sessions in the module. Making the films posed various challenges and they offer a record of the changing thought processes, decisions, reflections and surprises that characterised this experimental class. Vivien and […]

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Thinking and Experiencing ‘Techne’: the Finished Varnishes

Different varnishes

This post was written by second-year student, Rebecca Goozee, one of a group of V&A/RCA History of Design MA students participating in the ‘Thinking and Experiencing Techne’ seminar/lab. The final lab session of the V&A/RCA History of Design MA course’s ‘Thinking and Experiencing Techne’ class took place in the relative comfort of the Blythe House […]

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‘Sooner, or later’: Reflections on Design History studies

The cover of 'Sooner, or Later' (2016)

This post is written by Sophie Châtellier, Andrea Foffa and Vivien Chan, second-year students on the V&A/RCA History of Design MA course: Sooner, or later is the name of a student-led publication produced in the final term of our first year on the course, in summer 2016. The publication was conceived as a collaboration between […]

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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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