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.
Shaping Space - Architectural Models in Context
Shaping Space consists of a free exhibition at the Building Centre opening in September 2021, a programme of events for the general public and specialists, and a schools programme. It spotlights the essential yet under-explored role that models play in shaping the spaces we live in.
PiCoBoo is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie project funded by the European Commission that explores the influence of the 19th-century picturebook.
The India Museum Revisited
An objective survey of the museum's 80-year history based on evidence of the re-examined collections
Sound in Museums: New Engagements, New Tool, New Audiences
Providing renewed access to and engagement with museum objects and spaces from an aural perspective.
Designing the Future: Innovation and the Construction of the Royal Albert Hall
Despite its significance, the Royal Albert Hall, conceived by Prince Albert in the wake of the Great Exhibition, has not yet undergone a thorough historical investigation. The project explores how in the building’s very fabric, science, art, industry and craft were meant to be fostered.
Chinese Iconography Thesaurus (CIT)
The CIT brings together sinology, art history and information studies to create the first thesaurus of Chinese iconography. CIT will be a valuable research tool that will enhance the accessibility and understanding of Chinese art. Launched in 2016 thanks to a three-year research grant from DCMS, UK.
Content Data Object
This project aims to articulate ways in which museum practice and international cultural property law could adapt to accommodate and enable meaningful access to conceptual, ephemeral and immaterial digital artworks.
Using the unparalleled collection of original manuscripts and proofs for most of Dickens’ novels held by the V&A, this project will develop and trial ways in which Dickens’s creative process can be opened out online.
Opening the Cabinet of Curiosities
The aim of 'Opening the Cabinet of Curiosities' is to work across disciplines and methods together with curators, scholars and artists in order to re-examine the 19th-century reception of the Renaissance Wunderkammer as well as its contemporary expressions.
The Leman Album
The 97 astonishingly vibrant 18th-century drawings on paper by James Leman of Spitalfields are too delicate to ever be put on permanent display. Our interdisciplinary team aim to create a digital facsimile prototype of the designs, giving worldwide access to the rich information held within.
Encounters on the Shop Floor
Together curators, artists, surgeons and historians investigate and learn the fine hand skills connecting each of their very different occupations. Encounters aims to highlight the importance of this embodied knowledge and create a new model for the inclusion of these skills in higher education.
We are prototyping a mixed reality experience for young people with immersive theatre pioneers Punchdrunk Enrichment and creative technology studio The Workers. It will bring an original Charles Dickens manuscript alive through an innovative mix of technology, performance and curatorial practice.
This project prototypes ways to increase the relevance of V&A collections to future audiences through better display of – and access to – the incredible objects in our care. We explore how to enhance the social relevance of our collections and to empower our visitors to contribute to their curation.
ReACH (Reproduction of Art and Cultural Heritage)
Launched at UNESCO in May 2017, ReACH (Reproduction of Art and Cultural Heritage) is a global initiative spearheaded by the V&A in partnership with the Peri Charitable Foundation that explores how to re-think our approach to reproducing, storing and sharing works of art and cultural heritage.
Architectural models in context: creativity, skill and spectacle
This research network sets out to bring together all those interested in the history, current practice and future of architectural model-making. Its intention is to share knowledge, to take stock of the current state of the field, and to identify productive areas for future practice and research.
Interwoven is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie project funded by the European Commission exploring the V&A's influence on the collecting textiles, exhibition and education in Spain.
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.
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 has edited Britain Can Make It: The 1946 Exhibition of Modern Design, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.