Monday, 30 April 2012

A spring range in the study room

My first month working at Beaufort Park has flown by. Supervising study room visits over April has introduced me to the variety of people with specialist interests who make use of MoDA's collection: from shoe designers to Museum curators, historians and third year art & design students.

This month we have had two Middlesex University student visitors who came to use the collection as a source of inspiration for their respective third year projects. Both are interior architecture students and potential candidates for the Arthur Silver Award. We wish them well with their applications. 

Students from other universities have also made use of the collection this spring. Aisyah Ajib is from the Royal College of Art and writing her dissertation for an MA in Architecture. Aisyah is researching the domestic interior in a globalised world and hoping to link suburban London with suburbs in her home country of Malaysia.

Eloise Moss is a PhD student studying Burglary and Burglars in London 1860 to 1939. She used MoDA's collection to investigate domestic security technologies. Her research uncovered some interesting publications in our collection including instructions for a home made burglar alarm! Eloise recently published an article in the Historical Journal ('Burglary insurance and the culture of fear in Britain', November 2011). You can read about her research work in 2011, here

Roger Whidden was our most international visitor, coming all the way from New York City. He is interested in promotional brochures for flats and housing estates in the US and the UK and spent an afternoon searching through our pamphlet collection. Roger found out about MoDA through the Explore Twentieth Century London website which features various objects from our collection.

On a completely different note, we welcomed shoe designer Salem Yohans to the Collection Centre. She came to look at 1950s wallpaper sample books and textile designs as inspiration for her next season's range.

Did you know that stainless steel was invented in 1912? Lucy Cooper, the metalwork curator at Museums Sheffield, spent a day at MoDA researching for an exhibition on the history of stainless steel which will open next year.

On the topic of exhibitions, last week we received an update from Stephen Jackson at the National Museum of Scotland about a previous request for a wallpaper from our collection to reproduce in a new gallery. The wallpaper 'Emily' by Mary Storr for John Lines & Sons is now on show in the refurbished Art and Industry gallery which will be open until 2014. If you are interested in the relationship between design, style and new technologies, this will be the exhibition for you. Thank you Stephen for letting us know how the design has been used. 

Display in the Art and Industry gallery, National Museum of Scotland. Photo credit: Stephen Jackson

It has been an inspiring month in the study room. Please let me know if you are interested in booking a visit ( email or 020 8411 5445)

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Illustrating Shakespeare – a couple of treasures in the Mary Peerless Collection

Yesterday was the (purported) birth date of England’s most famous wordsmith, Mr William Shakespeare. The bard’s 448th birthday this year coincides with the start of the World Shakespeare Festival; a four month long event which draws on the talent of local and international performing art organisations to celebrate the plays and poems of Shakespeare.

Printed editions of Shakespeare's works were first produced in the late sixteenth century. Five centuries later, he still manages to make most top selling authors’ lists each year. 

MoDA holds a few, special publications of Shakespearean plays and poems in the Mary Peerless Collection. Mary Peerless was the step-daughter of Rex Silver and heir to the family business, the Silver Studio. It was she who donated the Silver Studio Collection to the then Hornsey College of Art (now part of  Middlesex University). This collection went on to become the foundation of the museum. In 1980 Peerless added to her original gift a donation of 130 fine illustrated books that had been kept in her step-father’s home. Ranging from novels and poetry to treatises on design, the Mary Peerless Collection showcases illustration and reproduction techniques of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Many are the work of significant artists of the day and two of the finest examples just happen to be illustrated works of Shakespeare. 

Two books from the Mary Peerless Collection: Songs From the Plays of Shakespeare (1899) and The Tempest (1901). [Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture BADDA3130 and BADDA3051]

The Freemantle & Co 1901 publication of Shakespeare's The Tempest is considered one of the best examples of illustrations by Robert Anning Bell (1863-1933). Bell was a British artist and designer associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement. He is remembered as a sculptor, illustrator, designer of mosaics and stained glass. MoDA holds other examples of his work, including some pieces published in the Arts and Crafts magazine The Studio.  The illustrations in The Tempest exemplifies Bell's characteristically flat, elongated drawings and borders of Arts and Crafts influenced decorations. 

Opening scene of The Tempest [MoDA, BADDA3051]

A contemporary of Bell was Paul Woodroffe (1875-1954) who illustrated Songs From the Plays of Shakespeare, edited by Ernest Rhys and published by E.P. Dutton and Co.,1899.  This beautiful publication is a collection of illustrated poems including  'Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more' and  'Orpheus with his lute made trees...'. As well as illustrations, Woodroffe is well known for his stained glass window designs and his 1920s travel posters for the London Underground (Here is an example in the London Transport Museum's online collection). 

A full page illustration by Woodroffe in Songs From the Plays of Shakespeare [MoDA, BADDA3130]

Verses from the play Twelfth Night, illustrated by Woodroffe in Songs From the Plays of Shakespeare [MoDA, BADDA3130]

MoDA recently began a project to identify, research and promote the illustrated books in the collection. The new Documentation Project Assistant Sarah Campbell has started on this and each day she is uncovering more treasures in the store. Sarah will be writing about some of her discoveries soon. For now, I hope you like the Woodcroffe and Bell illustrations and Happy Birthday Mr William Shakespeare. 

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The Etiquette of Outdoor Games: helpful advice for Olympic athletes

Today marks 100 and 133 days respectively until the start of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. MoDA joins with the rest of the country wishing Team GB well in the countdown to the games. We took to the collection store this afternoon to see if we could find any helpful advice to accompany our best wishes to the Olympians.  

Most of you are aware MoDA’s collection contains various publications, journals and magazines proffering advice on how to comport oneself in the domestic sphere. These range from Victorian household management guides to 1950s DIY magazines and also include etiquette books from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

"What Shall I Say?": A Guide to Letter Writing for Ladies, published by Ward, Lock & Co., ca.1890 [Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, BADDA2442]

Whilst we found a range of books dedicated to domestic activities such as letter writing, we were hard pressed to find anything on the topic of behaviour at sporting events. That is, until we came across these 1925 partner books ‘Etiquette for Ladies’ and ‘Etiquette for Gentlemen’ which contain whole chapters on ‘The Etiquette of Outdoor Games’.

'Etiquette for Ladies' and 'Etiquette for Gentlemen', published by Ward, Lock & Co., 1925 [Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, BADDA2425 and BADDA2424]

'Etiquette for Ladies’ advises sportswomen to remain good natured in triumph or defeat and to also guard their reputation by ensuring their behaviour is above reproach.

The etiquette of games is governed by the simplicity and consideration for others which denotes a gentlewoman in every sphere. Nowadays girls on the playing-field and tennis-court learn to “play the game”, and have realised something of that spirit of sportsmanship which rejoices in the victory of the winner, no matter which side he or she represents. 
In taking part in any sport two or three outstanding rules should be kept in mind, namely:
Don’t lose your temper on any provocation whatsoever. Nothing is more ill-bred or “gives one away” more readily than openly to rejoice over a personal triumph or to display annoyance when one’s partner makes a bad move.
Don’t take any unfair advantage of partner or opponent, as you value your reputation let your scoring be perfectly truthful. 
Don’t attract attention to yourself by loud talking and vulgar gestures or by criticism of the players or their game.

‘Etiquette for Gentlemen’ takes a different approach by recalling the relationship between gentlemanliness and sporting prowess.

To feel comfortable in the society of his fellows, a man must be well versed in the things in which he and they are concerned. A well-bred man should be able to handle gun, golf clubs, tennis racket, oars and the bat, as well as the tools of minor sports. Such a man will be above most small short-comings. Nor should boxing be neglected. We do not live as the Elizabethans, whose young men saw a quarrel in everything they could, in order to prove their skill as duellists, but the art of self-defence is a very necessary accomplishment.

Nothing keeps a man healthier or saner than a love of sport – good clean sports such as Britain is favourably known for all the world over.

The chapter goes on to remind men of their manners towards ladies and opponents even in competitive venues such as tennis courts:

Be as courtly to the women playing with you. It may make all the difference in the world to their enjoyment and ensure you a welcome on these occasions. Do not take advantage either of an opponent’s weakness or your partner’s energy: share the work of the game as you hope to share the honours. At the end of the set do not omit to thank both your partner and your opponents for the pleasure of the game.

Whether playing or looking on, do not criticise play audibly 
...  If you are the stronger player do not partner solely with people of your own class: contrive to gladden the hearts of weaker players by inviting them to play you occasionally. 

We can only speculate what the Olympic Games will be like if this advice from 1925 is taken on board. We wish all Olympians well for the final days of preparation before 27 July 2012.