Dr Emanuela Vai BA, MMus, MEd, MPhil, PhD

Head of Research - Keeper of the Bate Collection, Ashmolean Museum; Faculty of History
College office: 
Head of Research (Humanities), Senior Research Fellow

Dr Vai has held positions at the University of Cambridge, the Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies at the University of York, the Centre d’Études Supérieures de la Renaissance de Tours, the Royal Academy of Music, and the I Tatti - Harvard Centre for Italian Renaissance Studies.

Her work has received the support of fellowships and grants from the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust, the EU Commission, the AHRC, the Royal Historical Society, the Renaissance Society of America, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the École Pratique des Hautes Études, and the Newton Trust at the University of Cambridge, among others. 

Research interests: 

Dr Vai’s research is located at the interdisciplinary intersection of art history and music history and her publications focus on musical instruments, soundscapes, space and the senses in Renaissance social life. Her work combines the analysis of historical materials with 3D virtual modelling, GIS platforms and acoustic analyses, to investigate the relationship between art, music, space and the senses in the Renaissance. 

She is the founder and academic lead of the Digital Humanities and Sensory Heritage Network: Space, Objects and the Senses at TORCH, an interdisciplinary team of scholars, museum professionals, and performers working on digital humanities, musical instruments, space and sound from a variety of perspectives and across disciplines.

Her current project, entitled Fantastic, Monstrous and Marvellous Musical Instruments of the Global Renaissance (Digital Humanities and Heritage) explores the carvings of human and nonhuman figures, monsters and grotesque creatures on the scrolls and headstocks of stringed musical instruments. This work, based with the Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford, has been funded by the British Academy/Leverhulme Trust and is now expanding its horizons thanks to a major international grant by the EU Commission, and constitutes the first comprehensive study of these instruments and their features, exploring what they say about the visual, material and non-auditory dimensions of Renaissance culture.

Her research has appeared in publications by Cambridge University Press, Bibliotheca Hertziana, Brepols, Olschki and Skira, among others, and in journals such as Renaissance QuarterlyRenaissance Studies, and Art History.

Selected publications: 

A complete list of publications, conferences and lectures is available at: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1552-5964