As a university museum, much of our time and energy here at MoDA goes into helping Middlesex students explore the potential of accessing a museum collection. Since the beginning of the Autumn term, MoDA's Learning Officer, Richard Lumb, and I have been speaking to Art & Design students from a range of courses. For many the idea of using archive material is something new. Our aim is to demystify this process as much as possible, and to show them just what an exciting and inspiring experience exploring a museum collection can be.
Those looking for visual inspiration might want to focus on original hand-drawn designs or samples of fabric and wallpaper. For others it might be our collection of magazines and journals, furniture catalogues or knitting patterns. They can photograph whatever takes their fancy, sketch particular details that appeal to them, or take notes.An initial sense of trepidation some feel when they first walk through the door quickly evaporates as the boxes are opened and their contents revealed:"I love that!" "That really reminds me of ...." "That's going to work really well with what I'm doing." "That's a bit strange!" All very typical responses from all our visitors, not just the students who come to see us.
A desire to represent and reinterpret a modern and fast changing world is a recurring preoccupation amongst designers. Exploring the designs at MoDA enabled Magda to see her own attempts to do this within a broader historical context, as well as get some fantastic visual inspiration from the designs themselves.
Tomorrow I'll be working with one of our BA Illustration students. Her project involves creating a wallpaper design suitable for a kitchen and bathroom. I'll be showing her a range of papers from our collections designed with these two spaces in mind, from the washable 'sanitary' papers of the late nineteenth century, to the quirky and colourful designs produced for kitchens in the 1950s. Hopefully she'll be just as enthused and inspired as Magda.