Behind the Scenes at the Museum

Students behind the scenes at the museum

This small scale research project was designed to respond to the issues raised in the baseline research

Project leader: Beth Cook

CETLD baseline research identified that students and tutors of design who engage with museums have a clearly perceived desire for behind the scenes access to those museums. The form that this takes, what such access is like, and what it achieves in terms of learning and teaching is less clearly expressed in the research. The Behind the Scenes at the Museum project is a small scale research project that aimed to further investigate both the museum and university standpoint regarding this popular but contentious issue.


It is very typical of designers at all levels that they want to get to see what they cannot see to understand how something works and is constructed’.
(Anonymous Design tutor)

This small scale research project was designed to respond to the following issues raised in the baseline research (Fisher 2007) and took the form of three stages:

  • An investigation into what the V&A and other national museums currently offer in the way of behind the scenes access, and who benefits.  This included a survey of curators’ views on the issue
  • Qualitative research with students and tutors from the University of Brighton into what they believe behind the scenes access will provide them with that a normal visit to the museum will not.  This was conducted with Cynthia Cousens, Senior Lecturer in Materials Practice, University of Brighton
  • The formation of a report, which summarises findings of the work, including acknowledgement of the issues and challenges faced by the museum, and recommendations for ways in which this issue can be addressed by both the museum and the HE community

Both the CETLD Student Placement Programme and Behind the Scenes research project respond directly to the needs of design students’ use of museum collections at the V&A.