Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Colour our Collections!

The first week in February saw Twitter being taken over by collections crying out for colour! Led by The New York Academy of Medicine, libraries and special collections were invited to share images suitable for colouring on social media along with the hashtag #ColorOurCollections.

We had a great response to collection images from MoDA (Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture) posted on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. We were particularly delighted to see this beautiful work-in-progress sent in by one of our Twitter followers.

Design for a textile or wallpaper by Archibald Knox from the Silver Studio Collection SD25628, Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, thanks to @soy_evelyna 

For museums, it’s another great way to encourage people to engage with collections, as well as highlighting the multitude of applications for museum objects. Through colouring a Silver Studio design (as seen above), greater attention is paid to its intricacies, as well as imagining what colours may have been intended for the final product.

With a tendency for increasingly busy lifestyles, particularly in London, we can see how taking the time to stop and be ‘mindful’ can help with relaxing and de-stressing.

The craze for colouring appears to be continuing, with colouring books topping Amazon’s best-sellers list, the Wellcome Trust trialling teaching mindfulness in schools, and even hospitals using them as a calming technique, for example before an operation.

With a whole host of claimed therapeutic effects (as well as fun and nostalgia!), why not give it a go yourself? Visit our Pinterest page for a selection of images to download and colour in.

And don’t forget to share your masterpieces on Twitter - #ColorOurCollections @modamuseum.

Palladio wallpaper design, SC51, Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

UCL student explores MoDA's Japanese collections

Museum Studies student Sahava Baranow is currently on a placement at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDA).  Zoe Hendon finds out how she's been getting on:

ZH: Sahava, can you start by telling us about yourself and your course?

SB: At the moment I am doing an MA in Museum Studies at UCL, where I am learning about the history of museums, and how they can be effectively studied to improve what they are doing. The course is divided into a theoretical part and a practical part, so I have had to write academic essays as well as budget plans, and I have also learned things like how to build crawling insect traps.

My previous academic background is in transnational history, with a focus on the period around 1900, but I have always loved museums and the work they do. So after having done some volunteering, I decided that completing a degree to learn about museums in a more structured way would be the best thing for me to do.

ZH: Why did you want to do a placement at MoDA?

SB: Since I have developed a focus on Japanese collections in the last year or so, I got quite excited about the possibility to work with MoDA and when I found out that they were looking for somebody to do some work on their Charles Hasler collection, I applied immediately with the hope of being able to look into Japanese objects along the way. When I came in for an interview, however, I ended up talking more about Japanese material culture than anything else. The museum got back to me and told me that I could do a research project around katagami (Japanese stencils) to create a placement that fits the needs of the collections as well as my personal interests.

ZH: What have you been doing at MoDA?

SB: I have been doing some research into katagami, which are part of the Silver Studio collection to find out more about their design and their significance in Japanese aesthetics and mythology. I also got a chance to go to ULITA in Leeds, to look into their collection of katagami.

At the same time, I have been able to make the most of my German by looking at some of the German-language objects in MoDA’s collections.  [look out for another blogpost on these in the next few weeks].

ZH: What have you learnt as the result of your placement here?

SB: During my time here I have learned practical things, like how to use the museum catalogue and how to handle fragile books and magazines. I have learned about the intricacies of archival and object-based cataloguing methods and how a museum within a university can operate. Working here has also led me to be more creative in thinking about different ways of displaying objects in museums. Of course, I have also learned a lot about katagami and their meaning within the collection, and the culture they came from.

ZH: Was there anything unexpected about this placement?

SB: What impressed me most at MoDA was how nice everybody here is. I have worked in other museums before and I have always found that people in cultural institutions are friendly, but at MoDA I felt welcome, taken care of and I was always looking forward to my days here.

ZH: What’s next for you now?

SB: After this placement I am going to focus on finishing my MA and some projects I have been working on at other museums in London.  But I’m also really pleased that I have just been offered the post of Assistant Curator at the Museum of East Asian Art in Bath, where I will help to redevelop the permanent collection displays.

Sahava has been a great asset to the team while she's been here, and we wish her every success in her future career.  

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Images of Inspiration

How have designers used photography to inform their work?  Zoë Hendon, Head of Collections at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture looks at this question in relation to the Silver Studio Collection. 

Where do designers get their ideas from?  These days we are familiar with the idea that designers might look to instagram for their reference sources, but in the late nineteenth century photography was a new technology that enabled creative people to get access to new ideas. 

Design museums often intended that their collections should be a resource for contemporary manufacturers.  But they did not  expect people to necessarily visit in person: they published collections of images of items in the museum for the purposes of inspiration.  This example is from the Museum of Art and Industry in Lyon, France.  

Silks and Specimens of tissue  from the collections of the Museum of Art and Industry, Lyon, 1870-1900
SR210, Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture

Arthur Silver, who established the Silver Studio in 1880, was chiefly a designer of wallpapers and textiles.  But he was so convinced by the usefulness of museums as sources of inspiration that he published his own selection of photographic images from the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A).  He called this the Silvern Series and marketed it to manufacturers as a design resource. 

Label for the Silvern Series (here shown as 'Silvein') of photographs from the
South Kensington Museum, published by Arthur Silver in 1889
SD484, Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture

Some of the loveliest photographic images in the Silver Studio collection are by Japanese photographer Kasumasa Ogawa, who pioneered photographic techniques in Japan. 

Image from Ogawa's Some Japanese Flowers, 1894
SR189, Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture

It is clear that the Silver Studio's designer used this kind of reference material frequently in the development of designs for wallpapers and textiles:

Design for textile or wallpaper by the Silver Studio, 1890s
SD9323, Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture

Correspondence in the Silver Studio collection also confirms that Rex Silver frequently bought books like this well into the twentieth century in order to keep the Studio's ideas fresh.   

The use of photography as part of the design process has been explored recently by MA student Mercedes Giralt from the University of Sussex, and her thesis makes interesting reading.  There is probably plenty more research to be done on the ways in which photography influenced the design process in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

In the meantime, students and practitioners continue to use museum collections as a source of inspiration, only nowadays they are able to view images online.  Many images from MoDA's collections are available on our website. A further selection of 500 more images will be made available on the Visual Arts Data Service in the next few weeks - so watch this space!

If you would like to make an appointment to see MoDA's collections in person, please contact us by emailing modastudyrm@mdx.ac.uk.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Monkey & Dog under the Mistletoe!

MoDA's Business Manager, Claire Isherwood, has searched through the collections at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture in search of new Christmas content and has come up with some crackers! 

The tradition of sending Christmas Cards began in 1843 with the commission of a card by an influential entrepreneur, Sir Henry Cole, who is credited with devising the concept of sending greetings cards at Christmas time. The Victorians embraced this new tradition, but the first Christmas cards rarely showed winter or religious themes, instead sentimental images of children and animals, flowers and fairies.

Recent research at University of Exeter has found that designers of Christmas Cards during this period used fine art on their products as there was concern that the festival was becoming commercialized. The use of fine art in a affordable product was also a means to inform the average, middle-class consumer of the aesthetic value of the decorative arts. 

The strangest in MoDA's collections is this one below featuring a monkey and a dog under mistletoe. It is certainly very unlike any I have received this year.

Christmas Card from the Charles Hasler Collection (CH/5/4/2/2/11) 

Equally bizarre is this card featuring characters sitting on a yule log with a hogs head, a goose head and a Christmas pudding head playing kitchen implements as instruments.

Christmas Card from the Charles Hasler Collection (CH/5/4/2/1/7)

As well as these Victorian Christmas cards MoDA also holds some rather more modern ones, as featured in our Christmas post last year, including many designed by key figures in post-war design. Many of these are part of the Charles Hasler Collection; Hasler was an avid collector of all kinds of printed ephemera and typographic material, and a selection of some of the best items from his collection feature in our recent publication Charles Hasler Sends His Greetings

MoDA staff wish you all a Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2016.

If you are interested in viewing items from our collections in the New Year please make an appointment by emailing modastudyrm@mdx.ac.uk

Monday, 7 December 2015

MoDA and the Festival of Britain

Sophie Rycroft, MoDA's new Collections Assistant, finds out more about some of the interesting booklets and pamphlets in the museum's collections:

Ninety-five pamphlets from our collection here at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDA) have received some TLC and are now back and ready to be explored. Following the much-needed conservation work, the pamphlets can now continue to be a vital resource for all.

The eclectic collection focuses on domestic design, interiors and textiles, but also includes subjects as varied as zoology and alpine plants.  

Amongst the collection is the programme for the Southbank Exhibition, part of the Festival of Britain, held in 1951. This extensive festival encompassed exhibitions relating to a great variety of themes, including Britain’s landscape, architecture, art, photography, industry and science. What better way to signal an optimistic look forward for a post-war Britain, having suffered years of austerity, than a celebration of all things British?

The pamphlet commences with the grand statement ‘all through the summer, and all through the land, [the Festival’s] spirit will be finding expression in a variety of British sights and a great range of British sounds.’ (p6)

South Bank Exhibition; A Guide to the Story It Tells, BADDA2594, Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture

The Festival of Britain programme and associated materials are particularly relevant to MoDA. Firstly, MoDA holds the archive of mid-century designer Charles Hasler (1908-1992) who was chairman of the Typographical Panel for the Festival. A great deal of attention was paid to the visual identity of the exhibition to celebrate advancements in contemporary graphic design. Hasler was also involved in the production of what we would now call branding guidelines for the use of logos, colours and fonts. The colour scheme of blue, red and white further contributed to the desire to re-construct National identity for Britain.

Photograph of Staff Designers at the Festival of Britain, 1951, CH/1/1/5, Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture. In the right foreground is Charles Hasler 
Display letters designed for the Festival of Britain, 1951, CH/1/1/1, Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture

Secondly, the Festival had a lasting effect particularly in terms of domestic design. The cheerful and contemporary ‘Festival of Britain Style’ found its way into ordinary homes, perhaps as a way for individuals to replace furnishings they associated with tough times during the Second World War. The Festival sparked a frenzy of home improvements in the 1950s, with many adopting styles exhibited at the Festival itself. For example John Line’s 'Limited Editions' wallpaper collection was brought out to coincide with the Festival. The example below shows an abstract design which was displayed in a room set in the Homes and Gardens Pavilion. It was used as part of Robin Day's scheme for a 'low cost living room'.

John Line’s ‘Limited Editions’ wallpaper, SW2082, Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture

Magazine culture was also an important source of inspiration for many home-owners during this period. Magazines such as ‘Practical Home Decorating on a Small Budget’ contributed to, and encouraged, affordable home improvements through providing practical and stylistic suggestions. 

Practical Home Decorating on a Small Budget, BADDA1339, Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture

Herbert Morrison, the former leader of the London County Council, described the Festival as the British showing themselves to themselves - and the world'. It seems that it was this sense of pride that the British sought to emulate in their own homes. 

To find out more about MoDA’s Charles Hasler archive you may be interested in our new publication, 
Charles Hasler Sends his Greetings, available here.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Thirtiestyle publication relaunch

MoDA's Business Manager, Claire Isherwood, announces the re-release of one of the museum's most popular publications: 

One of the best selling publications from the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture,  Thirtiestyle: Home decoration and furnishings from the 1930s has been re-printed and is now available to order online here 

Thirtiestyle is a fascinating and colourful guide to all aspects of decoration and design in the 1930s home. A compendium of contemporary illustrations and photographs, the book shows the choices available to consumers during this period. Author Katie Arber drew on MoDA’s extensive collections of retail and trade catalogues, domestic magazines and household manuals to produce a vibrant and beautifully illustrated guide to the 1930s interior.  The book provides comprehensive coverage of the features of a home, including detailed sections on: bathroom and kitchens, fixtures and fittings, furniture, wallpapers and paints, carpets, cushions and upholstery, fireplaces and heating, lighting and finishing touches. Each area is covered in a way that is highly informative while at the same time hugely enjoyable to read.

If you are interested in reading more about the 1930s in MoDA's collections take a look at this guest blog post by recent MA graduate Ellen Martin, of Brighton University.  If you would like to make an appointment to view similar items or any other material in our collection please email modastudyrm@mdx.ac.uk

ThirtiesStyle is just one of a whole range of publications produced by MoDA.  Other titles in the series are: Turn of the Century Style, Fiftiestyle, Sixtiestyle and Seventiestyle. All of these - plus the Museum's other publications - can be purchased from MoDA's online shop and postage is free! 

For Trade Enquires contact Central Books Ltd 

Monday, 26 October 2015

Charles Hasler PhD Studentship opportunity

MoDA's Head of Collections, Zoe Hendon, is pleased to announce a new PhD studentship opportunity:

Following the recent publication of our new book Charles Hasler Sends His Greetings, we're delighted that Middlesex University has agreed to fund a PhD studentship to support more research on this fascinating collection.

The Hasler Collection has belonged to the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture since the 1990s, but until now it has remained a largely untapped resource.  The Charles Hasler Sends His Greetings book (available via the Middlesex University online store) was intended to prompt further scholarly research into the collection, and it's great that this is happening already.

Prospective PhD candidates should take a look at the details on the Middlesex University website:

If you are thinking of applying you should make yourself aware of the scope and content of the Hasler collection by making an appointment to visit the museum in the first instance (please email moda@mdx.ac.uk).

You should then discuss your proposal with Professor Anne Massey, Director of Research in the School of Art & Design, Middlesex University (a.massey@mdx.ac.uk) before submitting your application.

The deadline for applications is 20th November and interviews will be held in December 2015.

Good luck!  we look forward to your applications.