Visiting professorships

Duration: 2016 – 2023

The Andrew W. Mellon Visiting Professorships at VARI will enable leading academics working either in the UK or overseas to spend between 3 and 12 months hosted by the V&A over the period from 2016 – 2021 as appropriate to their individual research plans. Leaders in their field, and with experience in research, teaching and engagement across the spectrum of higher education institutions and museums and collections, the visiting professors will understand the V&A as a knowledge institution as well as a collecting institution.

The Andrew W. Mellon Visiting Professors will contribute knowledge and leadership complementary to that which exists already within the V&A staff base: the programme will deepen and strengthen our curatorial and conservation expertise, assisting in the identification, articulation and championing of research excellence within the institution.

Nominated through open competition and ratified by VARI's international Steering Committee, the Visiting Professors will be selected based on an excellent record of research, publication and academic leadership commensurate with a senior career stage, and in a field relevant to the V&A's collections and VARI’s projects. They will have a highly developed ability to communicate and work collaboratively with colleagues at a range of career stages to improve access to V&A collections and enhance their interpretation for scholarly and non-scholarly audiences. Participation in the research culture of the V&A and its Research Department, and bringing their expertise to bear on the development of correlative VARI projects, will be an essential activity.

The Visiting Professors will be encouraged to use the opportunity of close engagement with the Museum to further their own academic interests, and they will be supported to do so. They will require a demonstrable ability to make a substantial contribution to enhancing skills and expertise at the V&A – for both staff and the V&A’s postgraduate students – and will be asked to propose a programme of research and teaching to this effect. Teaching opportunities will involve postgraduate seminars for our extensive collaborative doctoral cohorts, our V&A/RCA MA in the History of Design, master-classes for V&A staff, summer school courses and public lectures.

VARI visiting professors

Professor Arthur MacGregor, VARI Visiting Professor 2019

From a post as researcher and deputy director at York Archaeological Trust, Arthur MacGregor was appointed a curator in the Department of Antiquities at the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, in 1979. Preparation of a major analytical volume to celebrate the museum's tercentenary, Tradescant's Rarities. Essays on the Foundation of the Ashmolean Museum, 1683 (Clarendon Press, 1983), opened up for him a new field of interest in the history of collecting. A week-long symposium which he co-organized at that time resulted in The Origins of Museums. The Cabinet of Curiosities in Sixteenth– and Seventeenth–Century Europe (Oxford University Press, 1985). The success of this volume persuaded the publishers to launch a periodical – the Journal of the History of Collections – to foster the development of interest in the subject – which MacGregor edited until 2023.

Engagement with a series of major figures in the history of collecting in Britain led him to publish a number of edited volumes: The Late King's Goods (McAlpine/OUP, 2001), dealing with King Charles I's collections; Sir Hans Sloane, Collector, Scientist, Antiquary (British Museum Press, 1994); and Sir John Evans: Antiquity, Commerce and Natural Science in the Age of Darwin (Ashmolean Museum, 2008), as well as numerous papers on more detailed aspects of the subject. His research to date on early collections was synthesised in a survey volume titled Curiosity and Enlightenment (Yale University Press, 2007). A continuing engagement with the history of natural history resulted in Animal Encounters. Human and Animal Interaction in Britain from the Norman Conquest to World War One (Reaktion Books, 2012), Company Curiosities. Nature, Culture and the East India Company (Reaktion Books, 2018) and an edited volume, Naturalists in the Field. Collecting, Recording and Preserving the Natural World from the Fifteenth to the Twenty-first Century (Brill, 2018), as well as a number of papers. By far the weightiest project in which he has been involved has been the 37-volume Paper Museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo (Royal Collection Trust, 1996–2024), for which MacGregor was co-general editor and which earned him appointment as LVO in The Queen's Birthday Honours, 2021.

He holds an MA (Hons) Edinburgh and MPhil and DLitt Durham. His other associations include the Society of Antiquaries (elected FSA 1980, Director 1996 – 2001), the Linnean Society (elected FLS 2006) and the Society of the History of Natural History (elected President 2015 – 18). He also served for a time as Director of the British Archaeological Association (1991 – 96) and as a Vice-President of the Royal Archaeological Institute (2006 –09). He was a Fellow of St Cross College between 1998 and his retirement from Oxford 2008, and has been a Freeman of the Company of Arts Scholars honoris causa since 2011.

In 2019 MacGregor was awarded an Andrew W. Mellon Visiting Professorship at the V&A Research Institute to look more specifically at the museum formed in London by the East India Company and the 20,000 artefacts transferred from it to the South Kensington Museum (later the V&A) in 1879. The project has now been brought to a conclusion with the publication of The India Museum Revisited (V&A/UCL Press, 2023) and the present research project page which presents supporting textual and visual evidence too bulky to be included in the book as well as newly emerging information.

Professor Elizabeth Edwards FBA, VARI Visiting Professor 2017 – 20

Elizabeth Edwards is a visual and historical anthropologist. She trained originally as an historian at the universities of Reading and Leicester, before finding her intellectual home in anthropology. She has worked with the social and cultural history of photography and its institutions (such as museums, archives and learned societies) for over 35 years. In addition to her Andrew W. Mellon Visiting Professorship at VARI, she is Emeritus Professor of Photographic History at De Montfort University and an Honorary Professor in the Department of Anthropology, UCL.

Specialising in the social and material practices of photography, she has worked extensively on the relationships between photography, anthropology and history, and at the interface of universities and museums. Until 2005, she was Curator of Photographs at Pitt Rivers Museum and lecturer in Visual Anthropology at University of Oxford. She has published over 80 articles and papers, while her monographs and edited works include Anthropology and Photography (1992), Raw Histories (2001), Photographs Objects Histories (2004), Sensible Objects (2006) and The Camera as Historian: Amateur Photographers and Historical Imagination 1885-1912 (2012), which explored the photographic survey movement in England, including the National Photographic Record Association (NPRA) Collection at the V&A.

In 2008, she was Visiting Scholar, Max Planck Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin and, in 2012, a fellow at Institute of Advanced Study, University of Durham. She was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2015, the first photographic specialist to be so honoured. In 2015, she was given a Lifetime Achievement award by the Society of Visual Anthropologists (American Anthropological Association) and in 2017 received the Photographic Studies Award from the Royal Anthropological Institute in London (of which she is a past vice-president) in recognition of her life’s work. She is involved in photographic culture more widely, serving on the boards of various specialist journals (including History of Photography) and on the external advisory boards for a number of archival and research projects and institutions, most notably the National Science and Media Museum.

At the V&A, she is working on the Museum’s use of photography to disseminate and interpret its objects for the public since the 1880s, from elaborate photographic productions to the humble picture postcard.

Professor Guido Beltramini, VARI Visting Professor 2017

Guido Beltramini is Director of the Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio in Vicenza, Italy. He is an internationally acknowledged expert in Renaissance architecture, especially the work of Andrea Palladio and his followers, and has published widely on these subjects. He is a curator of exhibitions, which in recent years have also been a means of further developing his research, pushing his thinking about the complex interconnections between the written word, ideas and art objects.

Beltramini has presented his research in academic institutions worldwide: recent speaking engagements include Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University and Princeton University in the USA; Basel University, Switzerland; and the Universities of Kyoto and Tokyo in Japan. He has been Craig Hugh Smyth Visiting Fellow at Villa I Tatti, Florence; Kress Foundation Fellow at the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies at Columbia University, New York, and Mellon Senior Fellow at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal. As a visiting professor, Beltramini has taught at the University of Ferrara and University of Milan.

In addition to numerous papers and articles, his major monographs and edited collections include: The Elusive Face of Andrea Palladio (Milan 2017), Storia dell’architettura nel Veneto. Il Cinquecento (with D. Battilotti, E. Demo, W. Panciera, Venice 2015), Jefferson and Palladio. Constructing a New World (with F. Lenzo, Milan 2015), The Private Palladio (Zurich 2012, Berlin 2009, Venice 2008), Palladio and the Architecture of Battle (Venice and New York 2009), Carlo Scarpa e la scultura del Novecento (Venice 2009), Palladio (with H. Burns, Venice and London 2009), Carlo Scarpa. Architecture and Design (with Italo Zannier, Venice and New York 2007) and Vincenzo Scamozzi. 1548-1616 (with F. Barbieri, Venice 2003).

Beltramini has curated exhibitions for the Palladio Museum in Vicenza; the Venice Architecture Biennale; the Royal Academy of Arts, London; the Morgan Library and Museum, New York; the National Building Museum, Washington; and the Canadian Center for Architecture, Montreal. He has recently completed a trilogy of Renaissance exhibitions: Pietro Bembo e l’invenzione del Rinascimento, 2013 (with D. Gasparotto and A. Tura, Palazzo del Monte di Pietà, Padua), Aldo Manuzio. Il rinascimento di Venezia, 2016 (with D. Gasparotto, Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice) and Cosa vedeva Ariosto quando chiudeva gli occhi, 2016-17 (Palazzo dei Diamanti, Ferrara).

During his time at the V&A, Guido Beltramini will work towards a complete catalogue of the drawings of Andrea Palladio in British collections, which will be published by the Royal Institute for British Architects (RIBA) in 2018.

Professor Eric de Visscher, VARI Visting Professor 2017

Eric de Visscher earned a Masters degree in philosophy and linguistics from the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL). During this time, he taught himself music, coming into contact with composers, including John Cage, and developing his interest in contemporary music. On Cage’s advice, de Visscher went to Toronto to study with James Tenney at York University, where he was awarded an Honours Bachelor Degree in Fine Arts (1986). From Tenney he received a solid grounding in European and North American music traditions.

Upon his return in Belgium in 1986, he led music educational programs for Youth and Music in Brussels and worked later as an assistant producer and archivist at the Logos Society in Ghent. During that time, de Visscher also initiated research work in musicology for the Paris-based IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique, founded by Pierre Boulez and part of the Centre Pompidou) and completed the DEA-Etudes Artistiques diploma at the Université de Paris VIII.

De Visscher was subsequently consultant to the Ars Musica Festival in Brussels, working first as assistant producer for educational projects and, then, as Artistic Director. At this time, he was appointed Artistic Advisor for Twentieth-Century Music to the Philharmonic Society of Brussels, where he developed his interest in the interactions between fine arts and music. During this period, he composed more than 30 works for a range of instruments and ensembles.

In 1997, he returned to Paris, where he became artistic director of IRCAM. In this role, he co-founded an interdisciplinary contemporary festival, Agora, and acted as sound curator and advisor to exhibitions including ‘Le Temps, Vite’ (2000), ‘Roland Barthes’ (2002), ‘Sonic Process’ (2003) and ‘Sons et Lumières’ (2005).

In 2005, de Visscher joined the Cité de la musique in Paris (now Philharmonie de Paris). He was appointed director of the Musée de la musique, France’s national collection of musical instruments, in 2006. There, he initiated a radical redisplay of the museum’s permanent galleries and supervised an ambitious program of music-related exhibitions that explored the complex relations between music, the arts and major cultural issues. He co-curated landmark exhibitions , such as ‘Richard Wagner. Visions d’artistes’ (2007), ‘We Want Miles’ (2009), ‘Paul Klee Polyphonies’ (2011), ‘Pierre Boulez’ (2015) and ‘Chagall et la musique’ (2016), and supervised the development of well-received exhibitions including ‘Lénine, Staline et la musique’ (2011), ‘Musique et cinéma’ (2013) and ‘The Velvet Underground’ (2016). He also led on adapting the V&A’s succesful ‘David Bowie is…’ exhibition when it toured to Paris in 2015.

De Visscher has been a curatorial consultant for the Musical Instruments Museum (MIM), Phoenix (2007–11), the San Diego Museum of Art (2012–15), Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton, Paris (2014) and the Victoria & Albert Museum (2016), as well as acting as Artistic Director for the ‘Sounds French Festival’ (New York, 2003). He is also a board member of CIMCIM (the ICOM commitee for musical instruments collections) and served as secretary-general of ICOM France from 2013 to 2016.

De Visscher is a regular contributor to art and music magazines, exhibition catalogues and radio programmes. His current research continues to explore the relationship between music and visual arts in museum display. He also addresses fundamental questions raised by the idea of exhibitions about music, with a major article on this subject forthcoming in a volume published by the Folkwang University of the Arts. His research has been published widely in Fondazione Prada and Glinka Museum (Moscow) publications, ‘The International Journal of Musical Iconography’ and ‘New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians’.

During his Andrew W. Mellon Visiting Professorship, de Visscher will look at the V&A’s musical instruments collection within the broader context of the Museum’s long history of programming, displaying and collecting music, ranging from live concerts to groundbreaking exhibitions. Working with museum professionals, educators and scholars from across disciplines, de Visscher seeks new models for engaging with musical instruments in galleries and exhibitions, and on museum digital platforms.