VARI people

The V&A Research Institute (VARI) is nestled within the V&A Research Department — the first of its kind in the UK and home to the world's leading postgraduate programme in the history of design and material culture. VARI was launched in 2016 with generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Professor Bill Sherman
Director, V&A Research Institute (VARI)

Bill is Director of Research and Collections at the V&A, where he is a key member of the Senior Management Team. He moved to the V&A from the University of York, where he was Professor of English and founding director of the Centre for Renaissance & Early Modern Studies (CREMS). Bill's research is driven by a love of archives and other collections, and an interest in how objects from the past come down to us, what they pick up along the way and how they speak across time and space. He has published widely on the history of books and readers and the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries; and much of his current work explores the interface between word and image and the relationship between knowledge and power.

Dr Martha Fleming
Deputy Director, V&A Research Institute (VARI)

Martha brings her interdisciplinary experience to the planning and development of VARI as an Institute, and the effective structuring and harmonisation of the activities being undertaken in all of VARI's projects. She has worked extensively in museums and universities in curatorial, research, and research administration roles. She is particularly interested in interdisciplinary practices, collaborative processes and inter-institutional cross-pollination.

Prior to taking up her current role, Martha was Programme Director at the Centre for Collections Based Research of the University of Reading. She has been Development Manager at the Royal Society (the UK national academy of science) and part of the team that instated the Centre for Arts and Humanities Research at the Natural History Museum, London. She has created exhibitions for London's Science Museum and Copenhagen's Medical Museion, and published extensively on museum practice, interdisciplinary methodologies, history of science, and medical humanities. Her research positions include visiting scholar residencies at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, the Ruskin School of Fine Art at the University of Oxford, the Materials Library KCL (now the Institute of Making UCL), and the National Endowment for Science Technology and Art. Martha is also, concurrently with her position at VARI, Senior Research Associate with the Leverhulme Trust funded project Enlightenment Architectures: Sir Hans Sloane's Catalogues of his Collections at the British Museum.

Martha holds an MA in the History of the Book from the School of Advanced Study of the University of London and a doctorate from the School of Art, Architecture and Design of Leeds Metropolitan University.

Dr Elaine Tierney
Teaching and Training Coordinator, V&A Research Institute (VARI)

Elaine is responsible for maintaining and developing academic partnerships such as joint teaching programmes and exchanges, and is the key contact for the V&A’s Collaborative Doctoral Partnership scheme. Elaine helps to shape innovative collaborative teaching associated with specific VARI projects, and supports the work of VARI's visiting professors and fellows. Elaine has been part of the V&A's Research Department since 2006, where she has worked on a range of public-facing projects, including the exhibition Baroque: Style in the Age of Magnificence, and the television series, Handmade in Britain – a collaboration between the V&A and BBC4.

Elaine graduated with a BA in English at Clare College, University of Cambridge, followed by the V&A/RCA MA in History of Design. Her PhD was funded by an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award and was jointly affiliated with the University of Sussex and the V&A. In 2014/15, she held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, before taking up a lectureship in early modern history at the University of Manchester. Her research looks at how urban built environments shaped the social, political and commercial lives of early modern people. She is particularly interested in temporary structures, with forthcoming publications exploring festival design, scaffolding and sheds.

Eileen Budd
Project Manager, V&A Research Institute (VARI)

Eileen is responsible for the infrastructural, financial and support mechanisms that ensure the smooth running of VARI and its activities. She has previously held the positions of Office Manager for Metalwork and PA to the Deputy Keeper of the Sculpture, Metalwork, Ceramics and Glass Department at the V&A. Before moving to London in 2014, she was assistant to the Convenor of Culture and Leisure at the Scottish Parliament, and was a Directorate & Exhibitions Assistant at National Museums Scotland in Edinburgh.

Eileen is also an illustrator and has had a varied career, including being a rescue scuba diver in Tasmania, Papua New Guinea and Australia, a shark tagger in Fiji and cowgirl in the Australian Outback. As an artist, she runs her own practice and supports other artists through her collaborative non-profit platform Redbird.

Tao Chang
Research Grants Manager, Department of Research, V&A

Tao holds a degree in Classics from the University of Cambridge and an MA in Chinese Area Studies from SOAS. Apart from brief stints in publishing, English language teaching and film research, most of Tao's career has centred on cultural relations and international partnerships in higher education. From 2005-2010, she was Head of the International Office at the University of Cambridge. Prior to joining the V&A, she was International Development Officer then Research Facilitator at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, where her work focused on developing the Fitzwilliam Museum's research strategy, raising the museum's research profile and embedding collections-led enquiry into University teaching.

Tao's research interests include concepts of 'modernity' in early 20th century China and what might loosely be termed as the 'politics of identity' in Mainland China, and how this is played out in its foreign policy.


VARI steering committee members 2016 – 19

  • Professor Naren Barfield – Pro-Rector Academic, Royal College of Art
  • Dr Julien Clément – Deputy Director, Research and Higher Education Department, Musée du quai Branly, Paris
  • Professor Frances Corner – Head of College, London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London
  • Professor Geoffrey Crossick – Distinguished Professor of the Humanities, School of Advanced Study, University of London
  • Edmund de Waal – ceramicist and writer
  • Professor Paula Lettieri – Academic Director, UCL East Campus, University College London
  • Dr Amy Meyers – Director, Yale Center for British Art, Yale University, New Haven, US
  • Dr Tonya Nelson – Head of Museums and Collections, University College London
  • Professor Evelyn Welch – Professor of Renaissance Studies and Vice-Principal (Arts & Sciences), King’s College London

VARI advisory board members 2016 – 19

  • Anais Aguerre – Head of International Initiatives, V&A
  • Victor Buchli – Professor of Material Culture, University College London
  • Sarah Campbell – Director of Learning Programmes and Deputy Head of Learning, V&A
  • Tao Tao Chang – Research Grants Manager, Research Department, V&A
  • Professor Daniel Charny – Design School, Kingston University
  • Anna Harding – CEO, Space Studios, London
  • Professor Jane Harris – Associate Dean of Research, London College of Fashion
  • Dr J D Hill – Head of Research, British Museum
  • Catherine Ince – Senior Curator, V&A East
  • Professor Roger Kneebone – Director of the Imperial College Centre for Engagement and Simulation Science (ICCESS)
  • Dr Zoe Laughlin – Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Institute of Making, University College London
  • Rebecca Lim – Head of South Kensington Exhibitions, V&A
  • Dr Joanna Norman – Deputy Head of Research, V&A
  • Kati Price – Head of Digital Media and Publishing, V&A
  • Sue Ridley – Director of Conservation and Collections Management, V&A
  • Johanna Agermann Ross – Curator of 20th Century Furniture & Product Design, V&A
  • Sandra Smith – Head of Conservation and Technical Services, V&A
  • Professor John Styles – Department of History, University of Hertfordshire
  • Professor Teal Triggs – Associate Dean, School of Communication, Royal College of Art
  • Professor Richard Wistreich – Director of Research, Royal College of Music