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V&A to offer theatre archive research course

A portrait of Queen Elizabeth I attending a performance at the Globe, part of the collection from the Victoria and Albert Museum
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The Victoria and Albert Museum and Royal College of Art are launching a new performing arts-led archive course based at the V&A’s theatre collections.

Called the history and material cultures of performance, it is a new optional strand of the V&A and Royal College of Art’s existing 15-month MA programme in the history of design. Students will be able to dedicate their entire curriculum to performance.

The course strand will focus specifically on the performing arts, with students working with artefacts including the Joey puppet used in the National Theatre’s War Horse and the D’Oyly Carte’s Gilbert and Sullivan archive.

Based at the National Collection of Performing Arts at the V&A, it is being described as the first of its kind and will allow students to work with material held at the collection, including costumes, posters, designs and archives, in order to explore how the history of objects and artefacts provides a way of examining the culture and politics of performance.

It is aimed at people with backgrounds in drama and theatre academia as well as performers and creatives, and those with experience in museum studies and art history.

The course has been developed by the V&A’s director of theatre collections Geoffrey Marsh and Simon Sladen, senior curator of modern and contemporary performance.

Sarah Teasley, head of history of design at the RCA and V&A, said: “The new pathway builds on the RCA’s and V&A’s common commitments to artefact-based research, experimental approaches and close engagement with diverse audiences. It emerged out of these shared interests, and from recognition of the importance of the V&A’s collections for understanding theatre and performance history.

“The programme would appeal to humanities graduates interested to combine a passion for theatre and performance with research into cultural and social history, as well as theatre and performance professionals interested in a career that combines research and practice.”

The course will start in September 2017, subject to validation.

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