Scenario: The Future of History: A Cultural Perspective

Human civilisation is built on ideas of the future. We all anticipate – whether through prediction, imagination or planning. Through these acts of anticipation, the future exerts a powerful influence on the present and on our understanding of the past. Imagining new futures involves drawing on historical precedents, and notions about the future are a pervasive material presence in our everyday lives. In particular, art, architecture and design provide a cultural context for ideas of the future, both as radical alternative and as objects of science and governance. The futures revealed in such material forms embody the perspectives and the values of the societies that produced them. Diverse craft traditions, design practices and technologies interact with political and social contexts, resulting in objects that hold our ideas of the future.

But there has been little research to understand how the future is embedded in artefacts, and how cultural institutions and others use them to advance knowledge. Following on from the V&A’s initial futures-related research project, ‘The Future is Our Business’, and 'Visionaries' Podcast Series Launches. funded through an exploratory award from the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the V&A is leading the development of a multi-disciplinary research project based in the V&A Research Department that investigates the dynamic relationship between past, present and future as evidenced in key artefacts and sites of material culture. How can cultural institutions use the past to shape our ideas and provoke debate about the future? The project is structured through a series of international studies on futures-oriented artefacts and futures-shaping institutions in partnership with other museums and galleries, universities, industry and government agencies.

Intended outcomes of the project

This project is in the process of seeking Research Council funding and has already secured generous industry support. Envisaged outputs will include publications, exhibitions and events across diverse partner organisations.

Project Lead: Professor Sandra Kemp, Dr. Susan Weber Senior Research Fellow

Relevant links to other web pages 

AHRC Care for the Future

International Training Course

The Victoria and Albert Museum welcomes applications for ‘Creating Innovative Learning Programmes’, its new one week intensive course. This is a unique training opportunity for museum professionals from overseas who are interested in attracting and programming for a range of museum audiences.

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Material Nation: A Consumer's History of Modern Italy (Hardcover)

Material Nation: A Consumer's History of Modern Italy (Hardcover)

In this fresh, unfamiliar, and sometimes surprising picture of modern Italy, history is refracted through the prism of the nation's consumer culture.&…

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Event - From Rococo to Art Nouveau: 1720-1900. 14/15

Thu 25 September 2014–Thu 09 July 2015

YEAR COURSE: Gain a unique perspective on one of the most dynamic periods in the history of European art. Consider the relationship between the visual arts and
the wider political and cultural context of the period and explore themes such as taste, patronage and the art market.

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