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

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Chinese Calligraphy - Culture & Civilization of China (Hardback)

Chinese Calligraphy - Culture & Civilization of China (Hardback)

Chinese calligraphy, with its artistic as well as utilitarian values, has been treasured for its formal beauty for more than three millennia. This lav…

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