I joined the V&A in September 2005 on the Assistant Curator Development Programme. Each new Assistant Curator is placed in one of the four main collections within the museum, and this becomes their 'home' department. Within the five years' duration of the programme, it is expected that each Assistant Curator undertakes up to 12 months of secondments to one of the other departments of the museum, and this does not necessarily have to be a curatorial department. I am home-based in the Word & Image Department which comprises of: the Prints, Drawings, Paintings and Photographs collection; the National Art Library and finally the Archive of Art and Design. I have been based in the Designs section of Word & Image; this collection covers objects that show the working process of design, so this can include a wide variety of material from architectural drawings to fashion designs and textile patterns. Next year I will begin a six-month secondment to the Asia Department where I will be cataloguing and researching a holding of nineteenth-century Indian photography.
A significant aspect of my role in Designs section is involvement with the V&A+RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Architecture Partnership. One of the first projects I got involved with when I started at the museum was working with the Architecture Education officer to devise a 7-month season looking at Islamic Architecture, both historical and contemporary, entitled 'Alternating Currents'. This season included a wide variety of events, including object-handling talks and off-site study day visits. A significant aspect of this project was the decision to archive a large amount of the material resulting from the talks and discussions on the V&A website, so that the season could exist as a permanent resource for students/researchers etc.
My day-to-day role can be very varied, ranging from activities such as answering email enquiries from researchers regarding the Designs collections, delivering gallery talks, or working on the enquiries desk of the Prints & Drawings Study Room which offers visitors the chance to access the vast proportion of the Word & Image collections which is not on display. I have recently finished co-curating a display in the Architecture Exhibition Gallery, entitled 'On The Threshold' which looks at contemporary housing schemes. This work took about 8 months to complete, from initial discussions to the display finally opening in early November. The tasks included researching contemporary architect practices and projects, arranging transport and insurance of loan objects, working with designers and technical teams on the look-and-feel of the show and the installation of the objects, liaising with the Conservation department, and writing the gallery text for the object labels.
I was temporarily promoted in October to the role of Curator, Designs. This is a 6-month maternity cover position, and I am looking forward to making the most of this temporary role: rising to the challenge of greater responsibilities, visibility and accountability, especially in relation to the V&A+RIBA Partnership.