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Material History
/Virtual World

was borne out of a need to share our research generated as students on the V&A/RCA MA History of Design programme. With the uncertainty and geographical scattering caused by the pandemic, we decided a digital approach was the best way to ensure we all got to participate safely. By hosting the traditional three events of the programme on a single website, we have found many advantages in the digital. It has enabled us to more clearly draw the connections between individuals' work and allow visitors to view the different outputs stemming from students' research. It has also allowed students to present their work in the forms that best suit them, ranging from traditional to less traditional academic outputs. 


While not wanting to allow the theme of 'pandemic research' to dominate and overpower the many rich areas researched by students on the programme, it inevitably inflects the work presented here and the website itself. Our title and website design are intended to root our work back in the physical spaces and material objects that characterised our first seven months on the course. All researchers have had to adapt to being cut off from the libraries, archives and collections that feed our investigations, but the brilliant work presented here shows how successfully design history can be done in a virtual world.


The V&A/RCA History of Design MA programme is offered jointly by the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Royal College of Art. Students select one of three pathways: Material Culture, Photography, and Performance. These are explored through an interdisciplinary approach that encounters design in objects, environments and our interactions with them, creating critical histories across a wide geographical and temporal scope.


The Material History/Virtual World Publication gives space to original pieces of writing from the 2019-2021 History of Design cohort. Recognising, but not confined by, the diasporic nature of our scattered year group, the Publication features research and projects completed over the last year and a half from desktops and kitchen tables around the world. From working with archival material and interactive exhibitions to rapidly learning the value of blogs, digital archives, and social media – this Publication shows the ways in which our year group has reconsidered the nature of ‘the material’ in its absence. 

Publication cover


Welcome to the symposium. Here we are sharing our research through presentations and panels. The presentations are all pre-recorded and can be viewed below. More recorded presentations will be added over time. The panels ran as live events on the 3rd, 4th and 5th of March 2021. Follow the links below to watch the recordings.


3rd March 17:00-18:00 GMT

What is Design History?

3rd March 18:15-19:15 GMT

"Missing" Perspectives

4th March 17:00-17:50 GMT

Intersecting Spaces

4th March 18:00-18:50 GMT

Public Practices

5th March 17:00-17:50 GMT

Knowledge Exchanges


Different Approaches

While lockdown has curtailed our ability to host an in-person show this virtual space looks to display and celebrate the many exciting ways research can be presented, that go beyond the traditional symposium and academic paper. With workshops, tours and polls this space seeks to explore the diverse research of this cohort in a range of exciting forms. This is Design History for the curious by the curious.

More exhibitions will be added over time. 


At Rest - At Work

A Video Study of Eighteenth-Century Undress

An Exploration into Plaster Consistency

Rethinking Design Journalism?

Word on the Street


The Alternative Archiving Workshop

A Day in the Life of the Saloop Stall

Mending with Egg and Brass

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