The V&A has a strong reputation as an innovator in the conservation, display and interpretation of objects, but there are many good reasons to experiment and innovate in this area. Researching and trialling new modes, methods and meanings for access to collections will mean thinking about experiencing both collections and our knowledge of them in ways that go beyond the age-old museum tightrope of ‘access versus preservation’.
Supporting our visitors to be participatory ‘research curators’ will mean finding new ways of enabling the access we can give to our objects, making our own knowledge more visible, and intersecting analogue and digital in much more meaningful ways.
Taking a fresh look at traditional forms of museum display and interpretation, this project will help design experimental strategies to increase interactivity and engage the senses of the visitor. Experiencing V&A collections goes far beyond close quarters with individual objects, and we plan to experiment with radical new options for large-scale visible and accessible storage. We will develop sustainable exhibition models designed to be implemented in the Museum and exportable to a wide variety of different institutional and social contexts (including pop-up shows and mobile displays).
All of this will build on areas where the V&A has carried out leading research in environmental monitoring, scientific analysis of designed objects, and collections management systems, and extend these into new fields and functions. We will consult with and appoint research fellows to review current practices and explore new technologies, looking beyond the museum world to investigate customer supply chains for example, as well as innovative data configurations.
We will also be looking at how our museum data and the big data landscape outside the institution can help identify and overcome some of the current barriers to accessing our collections. And, we will find ways to forecast what themes will be most relevant to current and potential audiences.
As we plan new storage facilities and new galleries in London and elsewhere, we can create active and visitor-driven contact with collections and design experiences that take place in a range of contexts – both physical and virtual.