How can we bring digital technology, performance and curatorial practice together to give young people a sense of creative agency when encountering a historical object? This interdisciplinary, visitor-focused project draws together the curatorial, theatrical, design and technological expertise of three leading partners: the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), the UK's national museum of art, design and performance; Punchdrunk Enrichment, pioneers of educational and community-based immersive theatre; and award-winning creative technology studio, The Workers. Together, the partners intend to prototype a mixed reality environment for the display of archive material - in this case the handwritten manuscripts of Charles Dickens - that will give young people aged 15-18 a sense of creative agency when encountering an historical object. The manuscripts are the best evidence we have of the creative process of one of the UK's most important and renowned authors, whose work has continuing relevance for young people today. Dickens was an observer of urban material culture and life in a period of rapid technological innovation and widespread financial insecurity, a writer who explored themes that still resonate today. However, the act of writing and redrafting on paper is becoming an increasingly rare (perhaps even obsolete) creative practice. The manuscripts might show us how an author revises and imaginatively iterates - but that process needs to be unlocked for visitors. By prototyping an immersive experience, centred on the manuscript, we will explore how digital technologies can augment immersive theatre techniques to create a performative environment, one that does not necessarily rely on performers. We will answer the following questions: How can the interactions between people and objects within a digital and a physical space drive a narrative in a museum context? How can digital technologies put the museum object at the heart of an immersive experience? How can the museum object become part of a performance? Through discovering and understanding Dickens's creative process, we aim to inspire self-expression - an important strand of Punchdrunk Enrichment's projects. We intend for this experience to have a life beyond museum for the children involved - that it will make a lasting appeal to their creative spirit. Getting children to talk about their experiences, encouraging them to write stories, discuss them and expand their vocabulary have been important motivations in Punchdrunk Enrichment's work to date. This research will be of future creative and commercial value by potentially informing the development of a major exhibition on Charles Dickens at the Museum (2020) and the future display of the V&A's nineteenth-century collections, as well as inform practice beyond the museum itself, and is of institutional significance because it will allow us to not only interrogate the latest technologies, but also to help shape and drive innovation in this area with our peers in the creative and technological industries. We will gauge how methodologies identified through the project will help forge new creative practice, within the museum and beyond, and consolidate our findings in a case study and preliminary toolkit. The research will help deepen links between creative industries and research sectors by presenting a case study and toolkit to understand, experiment with and exploit immersive technologies to create new experiences. It will help show how the next generation of digital content and services can be conceptualised, produced and exploited within the UK creative economy.
This programme will develop a cohort of future leaders in the cultural heritage sector, by supporting Early Career Research Fellows to develop ambitious and innovative research projects, buttressed by a robust and expansive career development and mentoring programme, in partnership with the IRO community and wider GLAM sector. This programme is designed to address current shortcomings in the sector, most notably the break in the pipeline after the end of doctoral students' studies, by providing a cohort of Early Career Fellows with a thorough grounding of key issues in the cultural and heritage sector, equip them with the tools, techniques and confidence to navigate IROs and GLAM sector organisations as researchers. It seeks to expand and retain diversity, and build research capacity in the sector, producing high-quality, innovative research with public benefit. A Coordination Team, based at the V&A, will respond to both the needs of host organisations and individual Fellows, through three workstreams: I) Supporting the Development and Commissioning of Fellowship Proposals; II) Designing and Delivering a Cohort Development Programme; III) Evaluating and Reporting. The programme activities will seek to balance the expertise of the Coordination Team in designing a programme of events and activities that respond to GLAM sector and future leadership needs, whilst recognising the flexibility needed to respond to the collective needs of the Fellowship cohort and the individual Fellows themselves. A responsive grants scheme will be offered to enable Fellows to build on and expand their individually- and collectively-led opportunities. Equality Impact Assessments will be conducted throughout the planning for the activities, considering accessibility needs, accommodating different styles of learning, and additional considerations such as caring responsibilities. This will guide our approach to the balance between in person and remote/hybrid events. Through the delivery and evaluation of this pilot programme, we aim to create a template for future research fellowships that can be rolled out across the cultural and heritage sector.
This project focuses on a comprehensive refurbishment of the specialist Conservation Science Laboratory at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Its aim is to transform the current 25-year-old facility, which is no longer fit for purpose, into a cutting edge, multidisciplinary, flexible space which is efficient, sustainable and a catalyst for research excellence and innovation in collections care. The Lab requires urgent modifications to reflect advances in Conservation Science, the V&A's changing needs and priorities, emergent areas of specialism, as well as ever-growing capacity needs. The proposed upgrade comprises a refurbishment of the Lab space and an upgrade of our end-of-life, inefficient, and inadequate equipment (including introduction to the V&A of equipment which until now was only accessed off-site). This major transformation of the Science Lab will: a. tackle current inefficiencies caused by obsolete equipment and rigid, outdated space arrangements b. increase the capabilities of the Science Lab and expand the scope of its current research and collections care, across all V&A sites and UK-wide c. augment our ability to assist regional and national institutions in the care and investigation of their own collections d. foster enhanced access to V&A collections for researchers, students, practitioners and artists e. improve our educational and training offering, facilitate new, cutting-edge research and foster innovation f. increase capacity to bid for external research funding g. provide a setting for the incubation of new ideas, the trigger for new creative processes and the exploration of novel materials by artists, makers, scientists and practitioners. This upgrade will be of major significance to the heritage sector and to Heritage Science research in the UK and internationally. In expanding the scale and scope of Heritage Science provision at the V&A, it will lay the foundations for the establishment of a world-leading Heritage Science infrastructure at the Museum.
As part of a set of foundational research projects under the theme 'Towards a National Collection: Opening UK Heritage to the World', the Preserving and Sharing Born-digital and Hybrid Objects project aims to contribute to the creation of a unified national heritage collection that includes born-digital cultural heritage. Contemporary culture is increasingly digital. From websites, applications and social media, to digital film, to digital artworks and design tools, creative practitioners in a range of fields are increasingly working with digital or hybrid physical-digital skills. However, this prevalence of digital culture poses a significant challenge to collecting organisations which are responsible for acquiring, preserving and making culture available to the public, now and in the future. In considering how to make our national collections accessible to the world, we must consider born-digital and hybrid material as an increasingly important part of those collections, otherwise we risk failing to preserve the vast majority of our contemporary culture for future generations and entirely omitting this important part of our culture from initiatives to make that culture accessible as widely and as meaningfully as possible. This project seeks to address the challenges of born-digital and hybrid collections by bringing together expertise in a range of different digital cultural types - from archival and library material to film and complex digital design. It will focus on three specific and shared challenges: collections management - the policies, governance, systems and standards needed to support digital collections; digital preservation and conservation - the skills, software and hardware needed to preserve it for the future; and meaningful access and experience - the development of modes of access that do not merely represent digital culture as static, but 'live' as we experience it. It will involve a combination of desk-based research, reviewing and producing reports on current practices, a series of workshops, and the development of two technical pilots. Collectively this research and these outputs will lay the foundations for the future major research initiatives needed to take this forward on a sector-wide scale. The research will be undertaken through an interdisciplinary team of academic and collections-based researchers including representatives from the V&A, BFI, Tate, British Library and Birkbeck, University of London. It will also draw in a number of key industry professionals and will bring national and international participants to a series of workshops that will both involve knowledge sharing and will identify recommendations needed to preserve and make accessible born-digital cultural heritage. By harnessing the collective skills, knowledge and challenges of individuals and institutions involved with different types of born-digital and hybrid cultural heritage, the research project will ensure that born-digital culture remains an integral and research-led part of the national collections of cultural heritage. It will also identify and respond to the need for the development of digital skills and literacy across the cultural sector, so identifying future needs and laying the foundations that are needed in order to truly and inclusively open up the UK's national collections to the world.
This project will explore how English porcelain came to develop, focusing in particular on the work of the 18th-century Chelsea and Bow factories, the first two manufacturers in Great Britain to produce the so-called soft-paste porcelain, created at the time to replicate the highly coveted Chinese and Japanese export porcelain and to compete with European counterparts in Meissen, Du Paquier and Chantilly. Bringing together porcelain collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), the Ashmolean Museum, and Newham Archives, the project will use the expanded capacity of the V&A's CapCo-funded Scientific Laboratory to trace London porcelain experimentation, manufacturing and trade networks, showcasing little known objects from the three collections. It will demonstrate the uses of science-led analysis to generate new understandings in heritage and cultural history research, the role of the V&A Lab as a national hub for heritage science, and will offer the general public opportunities for new ways of engaging with ceramics collections through the V&A Lab. The public engagement programme will include 'museum scientist for a day' workshops for 6th form students, ceramics making sessions in which historic porcelain recipes will be used to create new work, as well as London ceramics walks and a new Bow ceramic display at Stratford Library, showcasing Newham Archives' little-known ceramics collections. In considering Bow and Chelsea we will be bringing together two areas of London occupied by current and future V&A sites - South Kensington in West London and Stratford in East London (where a new collections Storehouse and a new V&A Museum are due to open in 2024 and 2025 respectively), both with a strong focus on craft, making and innovation. The scientific analysis of the select porcelain pieces will provide a unique opportunity to focus on the process of experimenting with, designing, making and manufacturing much-desired western white body porcelain, and explore how the creativity and ingenuity of 18th-century ceramics pioneers may provide inspiration for current and future makers and artists.