Friday, 16 December 2011

Busy, busy, busy!



It's been an extremely busy few weeks in the Study Room at our new Collections Centre in Colindale. We've been pretty much fully booked up until Christmas, and the diary is already filling up for January and February 2012. Obviously the move has done nothing to dampen people's enthusiasm for our fantastic collections! Here is just a brief overview of some of the fascinating research taking place at MoDA at the moment:


Dr Sally Anne Huxtable, Northumbria University - is researching the influence of Indian design on British fashion and interiors,between 1900 and1947. Sally has been looking through the Silver Studio's Daybooks and photograph albums, analysing to what extent Indian design influences can be seen in the work produced by the Studio during the first half of the twentieth century.




Phillip Smith, 20th Century Specialist at Mallams Fine Art Auctioneers - Phillip has been researching an early twentieth century jug believed to be designed by Archibald Knox. As well as looking at designs for silverware contained within the collections here at MoDA, Phillip also looked at some of our early Liberty's catalogues.

Felicity Ford, Sonic Artist - Felicity has spent this month recording the responses of a variety of different people to the MoDA wallpapers she's selected for the  Sonic Wallpapers project.


Guilia Ricci, Artist-in-Residence based within Middlesex University's Fine Art Department - Guilia has been taking inspiration from designs produced by the Silver Studio during the 1930s, specifically abstract and geometric patterns. She will be introducing this work to Middlesex Fine Art students over the coming months, and we're looking forward to welcoming some of the students to the archive in 2012.

Peter Cope, Independent Researcher - Peter has been researching the early twentieth century designer Will Kidd, for an article for the forthcoming edition of the Wallpaper History Society Journal. Peter has found at least two fabric samples within MoDA's collections he believes were designed by Kidd, and we are looking forward to his research continuing in the new year.

Mary Burgoyne, PhD student, St Mary's University College, Twickenham - research for her doctoral thesis on the work of the author Joseph Conrad led Mary to MoDA and our diverse Magazines and Journals Collection. Within the collection is a copy of the The Daily Chronicle Christmas Supplement, 1906, which contains the first appearance in print of Conrad's short story 'The Brute'. Mary had spent the past year trying to locate a copy of this elusive supplement in various archives and collections, and it seems that not even the British Library hold a copy. We were thrilled to learn our own (extremely fragile!) copy appears to be so rare, and would like to thank Mary for letting us know, and for her patience: she originally contacted me back in April 2011 when we were preparing for our move to Colindale.


Husnara Bibi, Conservation trainee with the National Trust - Husnara is working on a project looking at the numerous wallpaper samples found at the National Trust's Birmingham back-to-back houses. She has over 100 samples of wallpaper to identify, with nothing more to go on than small and often damaged samples of the papers themselves. It was extremely exciting to see Husnara looking through some of our wallpaper collections and being able to identify a number of papers during her visit.


We've also welcomed several undergraduate students to the Study Room, including:
  • Middlesex students from Fashion and Illustration
  • Jane Ellison, Surface Design & Printed Textiles at Northampton University
  • Dominic Goetz, Film Studies & Creative Writing at London Metropolitan University. Dominic is writing a short story based in Hampstead in 1917. He is keen that his depiction of middle-class life in this London suburb is as historically accurate as possible, and has been looking at various publications from the time for a clearer idea of the interior fashions and social conventions of the period.
It's great to see our collections are relevant to such diverse research interests and can inspire so much creativity. And it it doesn't look as if there'll be much of a let up in 2012. Better make sure I recharge my batteries over the Christmas break so I can cope with it all

Friday, 9 December 2011

Happy Christmas from MoDA

Well, it's been a busy year!  We've moved to a new home, we've started this blog, and we're adapting to a whole new way of sharing our collections with you, our audiences.  Thank you to all of you who have followed us on our journey.  Thanks, too, to those of you who have come across us more recently - we hope you like what we're doing.

Christmas card designed by the Silver Studio, 1901
Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture, SD1560


















We're looking forward to launching our new website in January.  Keep following this blog for more updates, and feel free to let us have your comments too!

Sonic Wallpaper project update


Screen printed wallpaper 'Gothic Screen',
Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (BADDA 2298)














Regular readers of this blog will be aware of MoDA's Sonic Wallpapers project that we are currently working on with Felicity Ford, sound artist. Felicity's idea was to explore wallpapers from an auditory and social perspective, asking what would it be like if we decorated our homes with sounds. We were so impressed by her innovative approach that we commissioned Felicity to undertake a research project based on audio responses to wallpapers.

Flock wallpaper, Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (BADDA2301)




















Since the summer, Felicity has been busy researching the collections and has selected over fifty wallpaper samples. She chose samples she thought would stimulate memories and stimulate interesting discussion.




















These wallpapers were presented to a number of invited guests over the last week or so. Felicity recorded their conversations, and she'll use these as the basis of her audio works. Felicity commented that "'powerful narratives" emerged as guests discussed the wallpapers in terms of "'atmospheres and memories", not simply in terms of design, fashion and history. Interestingly, some apparently "boring" wallpapers provoked lots of comment and discussion, whereas others which you might have thought seemed more dynamic elicited very little response at all. The next phase of the project will see Felicity editing the recordings to see which themes emerge, and she'll be documenting this process on her blog.















The initial idea was that the project would result in a conventional approach to touring exhibitions - with around twenty wallpapers shown in a single space. But as the project develops we are starting to realise that it might be possible to do things very differently, showing the papers not in a single venue but in a number of different places, both real and virtual. Working with Felicity is helping MoDA staff to think more creatively about what it means to "exhibit" stuff in a social media-dominated world, and how to engage audiences with the contents of MoDA's collections, in a rather Museum 2.0 kind of way.

"'I am very excited about this next phase of the project", Felicity commented, "and about translating the rituals of home decorating into audible content and wallpaper you can listen to". Like Felicity, we are also very excited about this innovative project and will keep you updated on its progress. In the meantime take a good look at both wallpapers featured and then consider what sounds, if any, they make you think off. Let us know what you come up with.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Kerry Howley receives the Arthur Silver Award 2011


Kerry with Zoe Hendon and Richard Lumb, MoDA Staff

Last Thursday evening, MoDA staff were on hand to see Kerry Howley receive MoDA's Arthur Silver award for 2011 at Middlesex University's annual awards ceremony. During the evening we managed to record a quick interview with Kerry in which she explained how her work was inspired by the museum's collections.

The interview is published below. It lasts just over a minute and if you are interested either in Kerry's work or how creative people are inspired by our collections - I am sure you will enjoy it. Please let us know what you think of the video as this is the first piece of video that we have added to the blog and are keen to do more!

video

Thursday, 1 December 2011

The Student Experience at MoDA


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.


Some have quite definite ideas about what they want to see. Others are understandably less sure. There is no 'right' way of approaching the collections as far as we are concerned, and I'm more than happy to chat to the students about what they are looking for. I can then suggest different aspects of the collection that might be useful. Most students are working to tight deadlines, and we do our best to arrange appointments as soon as possible.

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.

So who's been in lately and what have they been looking at? Pictured is Magda Durka who is in her 3rd year of the BA Fashion & Textiles course here at Middlesex. Her focus is the idea of the future, and the application of emerging technologies in the design and production of fashion textiles. Not a theme you might naturally associate with an archive collection! Yet I was able to point Magda towards designs within MoDA's collections from the 1930s. Many designers deliberately turned away from traditional, historical influences during this period and sought to develop a 'modern', forward-looking aesthetic based on geometric pattern and abstract forms.

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.