Research projects

Research is deeply embedded in the V&A’s institutional culture, as we strive to promote knowledge, understanding and enjoyment of the designed world. Our staff are engaged in a diverse range of research activities across the fields of art, design and performance; conservation and collections management; and object-led, museum-based learning. Find out more about these projects below.

Current projects

Current projects

The V&A Research Institute (VARI)

The V&A Research Institute (VARI) is a new programme of research and teaching partnerships that will enhance access to the our collections and develop new approaches to research, training, display and interpretation.

A Collector of Secrets: Sir Balthazar Gerbier (1592-1663) in Cultural Diplomacy & the Arts

Many scholars have explored various aspects of Balthazar Gerbier’s roles as an artist, collector, scribe, cryptographer, agent, colonist, pamphleteer or architect. Few, however, have brought these activities together in order to understand how they intersected at the centres of European cultural and political power in the early 17th century.

Collecting Moroccan Fashion

Only a small number of Moroccan fashion items can be found in museum collections across the globe. These are mostly isolated pieces because no public or private, national or international museum has yet developed an active and strategic collecting policy for Moroccan fashion.

Britain Can Make It

Diane Bilbey is currently working on a publication for V&A Publishing that will result in a highly visual exploration and celebration of the then popular, but now largely overlooked, 'Britain Can Make It' exhibition, organised by the Council of Industrial Design and hosted at the V&A in 1946.

Europeana Fashion Project

Europeana Fashion is a 3-year project which aims to provide online access to over 700,000 works of outstanding fashion content from Europe’s leading museums, fashion photographers and private fashion archives.

The Kunstkammer and the Early Modern Consort: Knowledge, Networks and Influences

This project explores an important yet neglected aspect of early modern patronage. It aims at investigating how the consorts of continental male rulers played a significant part in shaping displays of power through artistic patronage and collecting.

Mapping Social Design Research & Practice

Mapping Social Design Research & Practice is a 9-month study for the AHRC to map and analyse research and practice in the emerging field of social design. The aim is to inform the AHRC about current issues and opportunities in the UK and to a lesser extent, internationally, and make recommendations about research needs.

Universal Histories and Universal Museums: a transnational comparison

The V&A is leading a collaborative research project on the historical role of museums in the imagination of the future, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Past projects

Past projects

John Lockwood Kipling: The International Legacy of Arts and Crafts

In 2017 the V&A opened an exhibition about John Lockwood Kipling, curated by Julius Bryant (V&A) and Susan Weber (Bard Graduate Centre). It presented the results of a 3-year international research project bringing together scholars from Mumbai, Lahore, London, New York, Vermont and Hawaii.

Opus Anglicanum

From at least the 13th century, England enjoyed an international reputation for its luxury embroideries, a trade that flourished in London and which exported goods to patrons across Europe. Examples of this embroidery, sometimes called ‘Opus Anglicanum’ (English Work) were owned by Kings and Queens, Popes, Cardinals and Bishops.

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

Celebrating the extraordinary creative talent of one of the most innovative designers of recent times, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty was the first and largest retrospective of McQueen's work to be presented in Europe.

Fashioning Diaspora Space

The Fashioning Diaspora Space project investigated the presence of South Asian clothing textiles in British culture in both colonial (1850s-1880s) and post-colonial (1980s-2000s) times.

The Future is Our Business: A Visual History of Future Expertise

This project investigated what societies at different times and places have considered constitutes expertise in the future, and how this expertise has manifested itself visually, exploring a number of cross-disciplinary avenues of research in a range of cultural contexts.

The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945-2014

The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945-2014 was the first major exhibition to explore Italy’s rich contribution to modern fashion from the end of the Second World War to the present.

The Mazarin Chest Project

The Mazarin Chest Project was a major collaborative undertaking involving conservators, curators and scientists from the UK, Japan, Germany and Poland. Its focus has been the V&A's Mazarin Chest, an exquisitely decorated example of Japanese export lacquer made to the very highest of standards in Kyoto in the late 1630s or early 1640s.

Julia Margaret Cameron

To mark the bicentenary of the birth of Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879), one of the most important and innovative photographers of the 19th century, the V&A showcased more than 100 of her photographs from our collection. The exhibition offered a retrospective of Cameron’s work and examined her relationship with the V&A’s founding director, Sir Henry Cole, who in 1865 presented her first and last exhibition during her lifetime.

Shawls

In collaboration with Jenny Lister, Curator of 19th Century Textiles & Dress, Sonia Ashmore produced a book on the V&A’s collections of more than 600 shawls. Nearly all of these are in storage, although now more accessible at the V&A Clothworkers' Centre.