MA Research Placement at the V&A: Carter Jackson (2019)

Carter Jackson was awarded the 2018-19 York-V&A Student Placement for an MA student in the Department of History of Art. 

Here, he describes the research he undertook and his experience at the V&A during the placement, in May 2019.

During the month of May, I had the pleasure of working within the V&A’s Design, Architecture and Digital Department (DAD), as the University of York’s MA research placement student. As my application for the placement emphasised my interest in 19th-century architecture (specifically country houses), most of my time at the V&A was spent on a related project: cataloguing the museum’s collection of construction drawings for Kinmel Hall, a Welsh country house renovated extensively in the 1870s. After meeting the team within the DAD department, my first week was spent investigating the history of Kinmel Hall and the work of its architect, William Eden Nesfield. I then began to familiarise myself with the collection of 83 construction drawings for the house and the museum’s standards of cataloguing.

William Eden Nesfield, Kinmel Hall, drawing no. 133, V&A

William Eden Nesfield, Kinmel Hall, drawing no. 133, revised plan for entrance hall; ink, watercolour and pencil on paper., ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The following weeks were spent measuring, photographing and noting the most significant aspects of each drawing, before adding them to the Collections Management System. However, my work at the V&A extended beyond my contribution to the Kinmel Hall drawings. I also worked with a curator from the Word & Image Department to catalogue drawings for a 19th-century school that were loaned to the V&A in the 1960s. This work included handling very fragile paper and searching the archives for drawings that were missing—something that was incredibly rewarding when we were successful! When time allowed, I visited the National Art Library to search country-house inventories and sale catalogues, and I also analysed numerous drawings held by the RIBA. These sources not only enriched my understanding of Kinmel Hall, but they have been beneficial to my MA dissertation, which is investigating the relationship between decorative art and architecture in the 19th-century English country house.

While the primary sources were informative, my favourite parts of the placement were the conversations I had with museum staff. The DAD team invited me to various meetings across departments where I met curators, observed exhibition installation, and developed a new appreciation of the importance of collaboration and open-mindedness. I am especially grateful to the curators who took the time to explain their own paths to the V&A and for the advice they offered me. In my final week at the V&A, I wrote a blog post explaining some of the aspects I found most interesting about the collection of Kinmel Hall drawings.

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