About the V&A Research Institute Pilot Project
- collaborative research projects and research-driven teaching
- conferences and workshops
- public engagement events
- a group of fellowships - internal and external, short- and long-term, junior and senior
- a series of Andrew W. Mellon Visiting Professors
- an augmented programme of residencies
- a platform for print and digital communication.
OPEN PROJECTS (open to competition) - designed to foster experimentation and innovation in core areas of the Museum’s activity
- Open Project 1: Collections Access and Display Fellowships
experiments with the V&A’s modes and methods for exhibition curation and finds new ways of bringing research to bear on the access we give to our objects
- Open Project 2: Digital Collections Fellowships
explores new ways to handle and give access to software and software-driven projects
- Open Project 3: Public Engagement Postdocs
develops innovative public engagement practices and activates collections currently not on display
- Open Project 4: Artists’ Residencies
expands the V&A’s engagement with art and design practice and builds bridges between South Kensington and East London
- The Leman Album: An Enhanced Facsimile
involving the conservation and digital reproduction of the Leman Album, an 18th-century volume containing the earliest surviving set of silk designs in the world
- Opening the Cabinet of Curiosities
a study of the 19th-century afterlife of the Cabinet of Curiosities and its potential for 21st-century collecting and display
- Digital Dickens
a crowd-sourced transcription of the V&A’s unparalleled collection of manuscripts by Charles Dickens
- Encounters on the Shop Floor: Embodiment and The Knowledge of the Maker
bringing together practitioners in the arts, performance, humanities, sciences and social sciences to explore making and embodied knowledge
The programme set out to foster new forms of collaboration between experts in curation, conservation and collections management; academics from across the humanities, social sciences and sciences; artists, designers and performers; and pioneers in the field of research administration.
We ran a series of projects including academic conferences and workshops, object-handling sessions and a range of experimental formats. They produced a set of resources for object-oriented research, an interdisciplinary network of collaborators, a body of intelligence about institutional models, a nuanced understanding of the V&A’s physical and human resources and (above all) a strategic plan for a fully-fledged bid to launch and develop VARI over the next five years.
Our activities are charted on this website under the VARI ‘fruit-machine’ banner spelling out V-A-R-I with objects from the V&A’s diverse collections and evoking collaborative exploration and serious play.
The VARI team
The VARI pilot project is led by Martin Roth (Director of the V&A), directed by Bill Sherman (V&A Head of Research) and Marta Ajmar (V&A/RCA Head of Postgraduate Programme), and coordinated by Lina Hakim (Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Research Fellow).
It was guided by an international Steering Committee, representing key individuals, disciplines and institutions engaged in object-related research, including:
Mieke Bal (University of Amsterdam)
Victor Buchli (University College London)
Margot Finn (University College London)
Jane Harris (London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London)
J D Hill (British Museum)
Zoe Laughlin / Mark Miodownik (Institute of Making, UCL)
Lesley Miller (V&A, Textiles and Fashion)
Luca Molà (European University Institute)
Ann Richards (University of the Creative Arts, Farnham)
Giorgio Riello (University of Warwick)
Dagmar Schäfer (University of Manchester; Max Planck Institute for the History of Science)
Pamela H. Smith (Columbia University)
Sandra Smith (V&A, Conservation & Technical Services)
John Styles (University of Hertfordshire)
Evelyn Welch (Kings College London)
Nigel Wood (University of Oxford)
An Internal Advisory Board of Museum staff provided a forum for consultation across departments and stakeholders inside the museum, and included: Jo Banham (Learning); Martin Barnes (Photography); Clare Browne (Textiles & Fashion); Lucia Burgio (Conservation Science); Moya Carey (Middle East); Marion Crick (Collections Management); Rosemary Crill (Asia); Stephanie Cripps (Exhibitions & Loans); Andrea Cunningham (Museum of Childhood Learning); Ana Debenedetti (Paintings); Kate Dorney (Theatre & Performance); Nicola Froggatt (Research Grants); Alun Graves (Sculpture, Metalwork, Ceramics & Glass); Jo Hackett (Textiles and Fashion Conservation); Rhian Harris (Museum of Childhood); Olivia Horsfall Turner (Designs); Anna Jackson (Asia); Kirstin Kennedy (Metalwork); Kieran Long (Design, Architecture & Digital); Christopher Marsden (Archives); Beth McKillop (Directorate, Collections); Liz Miller (Word & Image); Joanna Norman (Research); Susan North (Fashion); Kati Price (Digital Media); Mariam Rosser-Owen (Asia); Rowan Watson (Word & Image); Christopher Wilk (Furniture, Textiles & Fashion); Heike Zech (Sculpture, Metalwork, Ceramics & Glass).
The VARI album & related publications
The VARI Pilot Project 2014 – 2015: An Album
This album is a memento of the VARI Pilot Project, reflecting on the journey, celebrating the projects we’ve started, documenting the events in which we’ve taken part and recording the relationships we’ve built along the way. Inspired by the early modern ‘album amicorum’ – essentially a cross between guest book, yearbook and Facebook– this multi-author ‘friendship album’, is a compilation of entries by friends and colleagues who have taken part in the Pilot Project. It should provide a window into the wonderful intellectual and personal exchanges that we’ve had on this journey.
Ajmar, Marta; Lina Hakim and Bill Sherman eds. The VARIorum, Special Issue of the V&A Online Journal (Forthcoming, Summer 2016)
Hakim, Lina, Object Lessons: Making, Knowing and Growing Things [Review Essay], Huntington Library Quarterly, Volume 78, No.1 (2015), pp.127-136