MA Programme Description

History of Design


V&A/RCA MA History of Design offers groundbreaking tools and approaches for studying the history and material culture of design, performance and photography in everyday life, across a global geography from the fifteenth century to the present.

The MA is jointly offered by two world-leading centres for scholarship and creativity, the RCA and the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), and draws on the extensive resources of both institutions and our location in London.

The Design &Material Culture Pathway uses artefact analysis - of services, interactions, policies, institutions and legal and technical systems as well as physical objects and spaces - alongside more conventional historical methods to generate new perspectives on large historical questions. Specialist areas for teaching and research include fashion and textile history, architecture, science and technology, the material culture of politics and the everyday, making/craft, practice-based history and global history through material culture. Tutors' research and teaching expertise range from the early modern to the contemporary, with particular area expertise in the UK/Europe, North and South America and Asia.

By engaging with a wide range of materials from the National Collection of Performing Arts at the Victoria and Albert Museum, students on the Performance Pathway explore how the material remains of performance inform our understanding of the performing arts, historically and today. Jointly offered with the V&A's groundbreaking Theatre and Performance Department, the Pathway offers collections-based teaching with the world's most diverse collection of material documenting current practice and the history of performance. It draws on curatorial, industry and academic expertise and experience to provide new insights into the culture, economics and politics of performance.

The Photography Pathway employs collections-based teaching with the V&A's extensive photography collection to consider photography as a set of material practices, processes and artefacts. Jointly offered with the V&A Photography Centre, the Pathway emphasises diverse methods for understanding photographs as variously artistic, scientific, technological and social artefacts, and for exploring historical and contemporary issues - including questions of global history and empire - through photography as material culture.