Meghan Lynch

Following Bard Graduate Center’s Term Abroad in early May, I had the exciting chance to remain in the United Kingdom and complete my graduate internship at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. While the V&A possesses one of the world’s greatest collections of decorative arts, design, and performance, it is also notable for being the first museum to establish a dedicated department of research. The central importance of investigation and discovery led me to apply for a work placement at the museum: I felt that it would offer me the remarkable opportunity to gain more focused research experience, with the added benefit of deepening my knowledge of the decorative arts.

While at the V&A I worked between two very stimulating yet wildly-different projects: serving as support for the lead curator of a forthcoming exhibition on comedy, while also assisting with the creation of digital interactives for the V&A’s new design museum in Dundee, Scotland. In order to take full advantage of these projects, I decided to dedicate a total of 230 hours to the internship, working three days a week over the course of ten weeks.

As support for the curator of the comedy exhibition—which is scheduled to open in January 2019—I was involved in a variety of tasks: from creating object packages and lists of lenders, to editing interview transcripts and identifying objects for acquisition. I was thrilled to find that the exhibition’s focus—centering around modern theatre, comedy, and performance—was not limiting: BGC coursework, such as the Decorative Arts Survey, provided much-needed historical context. Interestingly, the interdisciplinary component of the master’s program came into play as well, as I identified audience groups after research.

Alongside the comedy exhibition, I participated in the creation of digital interactives for the V&A’s new design museum in Dundee, Scotland. When the museum opens to the public in May 2018, these interactives will serve to further highlight and contextualize the global impact of Scottish art and design in the galleries.

Through the Dundee project I had the opportunity to carefully study a few aspects of Scottish art and design, and compile my written and visual resources for use in the digital tools. Here a multitude of practical and academic skills learned at BGC were employed once more: from the ability to approach readings critically, to the skill of distilling main arguments—or perhaps challenging an argument I didn’t agree with. Perhaps most important and useful was the capacity to place each topic in a larger global narrative. As a result, I was able to consider my own research critically and ensure that a fuller, more accurate story was told.

While most of my work was conducted in the Research Department and at the Victoria and Albert Museum’s National Art Library, some also occurred off-site. For both the Dundee project and comedy exhibition, trips to the archives, object storage, or conservation labs at Blythe House (another London-based V&A property) were essential. These excursions were a personal reminder of just how important it is to directly engage with objects, and what close-looking adds to the quality of research. Working in a department where a wide variety of projects are investigated, actively shared, and positively encouraged was also critical, for it served as a reminder of just how interconnected the seemingly most disparate topics can be.

— Meghan Lynch