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Angela McShane

Angela McShane

Welcome to the fourth edition of the V&A Online journal! This year’s edition draws upon a broad array of topics particularly inspired by the V&A’s gallery projects and collections departments, past and present, and offers some thoughtful insights into innovative curatorial practice and historical methodologies. Lesley Miller, lead curator of the new Europe 1600-1800 galleries, gives us a small taste of the kinds of scholarship that is informing curatorial decisions about displays and interpretation for that project as she explores the social distinctions between wearing and retailing French silks in eighteenth-century France. Focussing on the vast extent of the V&A’s Theatre Collection archives, theatre costume designer, Donatella Barbieri makes a case for a new methodological approach to a sadly neglected element in theatre studies. She shows how using filmed, immediate responses from scholars and artists can recover the histories of performance that are embedded in archived costumes. Placing it in a rich historical context, she reveals and explains its multifaceted social meanings. Staying with the performance arts, educational interpreter, Stuart Frost and musicologist, Giulia Nutti, discuss the important innovations in curatorial interpretation and technologies that enabled pieces of music to be included as objects in their own right in the new Mediaeval and Renaissance Galleries. A classic example of the V&A’s characteristic combination of ‘accident and design’, Jo Weddell outlines the fascinating history of the Circulation Department. She tells how from the period after the war until its closure in the 1970s, ‘Circ.’ waged a one department campaign to disseminate design inspirations through a web of touring exhibitions and study collections, and promoted British design and designers through their collecting practices. The success of their efforts is marked by the tremendous array of objects currently on show in the current British Design Exhibition. Finally, Raymond Lam offers us a wonderfully illuminating review of the Buddhist sacred art in the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Gallery.

Reassessments of several lesser known works and artists to be found in the collections are offered by Anna Wu, Kirsten Beattie, Zoe Hendon, and Lily Crowther. Anna Wu revisits early twentieth century illustrated travel narratives created by Chinese artist and writer Chiang Lee, whose work will be included in the forthcoming Chinese Masterpieces exhibition. Kirsten Beattie, a recent graduate of the V&A/RCA History of Design Course, closely investigates the design and materiality of a single ceramic pillow from the V&A’s Asian collections. Hendon investigates the role of Arthur Silver’s nineteenth-century photographic design studio, while Lily Crowther assesses the work and influence of English potter and teacher, William Dalton.

The V&A Online Journal aims to provide a forum for research papers from scholars inside and outside the museum, in a bid to promote dialogue and open up new ways of interrogating material culture, current design practice, histories of design and all other related fields. Provided that submissions meet the academic standards set by our Editorial team and peer reviewers, we welcome articles for future issues on the history of art, architecture and design relating to the V&A’s collections, public programme or institutional history; features focusing on new acquisitions or objects linked to V&A exhibitions; reflections on the educational or creative industries role of the Museum and reviews and previews of V&A publications, conferences or displays.

Further details on submission are available on the Submission Guidelines page [Need Link] and we can be also contacted at vandajournal@vam.ac.uk.

I would very much like to thank our authors and all who have contributed to the successful production of this issue:

Journal production and design

Editor: Angela McShane
Sub-Editor: Jasmine Kilburn-Toppin
Assistant Editors:
Elaine Tierney
Ruth Mason
Jan Sibthorpe
Katherine Elliott
Soersha Dyon
Research Department: Helen Woodfield
Digital Media: Keith Hale and Joanna Jones

Editorial Advisors:

Glenn Adamson
Jeremy Aynsley
Christine Guth
Lucy Trench
Ann Eatwell
Luisa Mengoni
Mary Brooks
Alun Graves
Jane Pritchard