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RCA works with another world-class institution to offer career transformation

Janice Li studied MA V&A/RCA History of Design and graduated in 2018. She is now Assistant Curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum. We spoke to her about her time at the RCA. Watch the video above and read more from our interview below.  

What drew you to apply to study V&A/RCA History of Design?

I was working in a museum in Canada and I knew that I needed to do a master’s to progress in my career. I was deciding between a museum studies or history of art degree. While searching I found the V&A/RCA History of Design programme, which I realised was exactly what I was looking for; studying the history of material culture and design through an interdisciplinary approach.

What makes the V&A such a great place to work?

Through the projects that I’ve been exposed to at the V&A I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the best institutions around the world, to learn from the most experienced academic experts and researchers in their fields. Every day in this museum I’m learning, I’m discovering new things. Just walking through the galleries, there’s always things I haven’t seen before.  

Janice Li
Janice Li

Do you think you’d be there now without the RCA?

No, definitely not. I don’t think I would have been doing all these interesting projects and working at the V&A without my MA experience in both institutions.  

I constantly feel very lucky and privileged to have the experience in both the V&A and RCA that enable me to take on the projects I have taken on as well as working in this museum.

DESIGNING CRAFT CRAFTING DESIGN, Vienna Design Week, 2017. Photographed by Lucas Breuer
DESIGNING CRAFT CRAFTING DESIGN, Vienna Design Week, 2017
Photographer: Lucas Breue

What surprising things came out of your time at the RCA?

I was involved in a student-led project that involved 12 product designers working with master craftspeople in Austria. I was really lucky to be involved from the very beginning: I was there when they met the craftspeople, for the design crits when they came back to London, the design development process, the manufacturing process, curating the exhibition and putting it up in Vienna, then in multiple locations across Europe. It’s not something that a curator gets to do on a daily basis. It shows there are many ways to approach one project, and you can always make it more exciting, more innovative and more engaging.

How have the connections you made at the RCA enhanced your career?

At both the V&A and RCA you get some of the best curators and best academics in their field and you just learn so much just through osmosis, just through conversation with them, and let alone the resources the museum and the college provide.  

Janice Li
Janice Li

Was there a specific guest lecturer that you were really inspired by?

I don’t think there was a particular one, I think it’s the combination of the people they can bring in. For example, sometimes one week we’ll be listening to a data scientist from Imperial College, next week we’ll be listening to the director of a museum.  It’s the range of things that you’re exposed to that really enrich your thinking, and help to see things more holistically.

What’s your fondest memory of RCA? 

My fondest memory is definitely the freedom of exchanging ideas with my peers from all around the world, from different professional disciplines, with different world-views, different religions and it provides a safe space for us to discuss anything we’re interested in. It’s very enriching.


Enjoyed this story? Discover more alumni stories here.

Find out more about MA V&A/RCA History of Design and how to apply.

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