Wednesday, 18 December 2013

layers of inspiration

MoDA's Head of Museum Collections, Zoe Hendon, looks forward to a project starting in the New Year

Like many museums, at the Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (MoDA) we often talk about the ‘inspirational’ nature of our collections.  Our annual ArthurSilver Award for students, for example, requires students to use MoDA’s collections as the basis of their inspiration for a piece of studio work.  But having run this Award for a number of years, we’ve observed that – whatever the quality of the students' final work – students often find it hard to explain the process by which they have moved from initial inspiration to final finished piece.

We began to realise that we were making a lot of assumptions about inspiration and the creative process.  So we’re about to embark on an exciting project which will ask students to articulate what’s going on for them.  Work in this area has tended to focus on the visual aspect of ‘influence’, or how history informs current creative practices, but the process by which this occurs has not so far been articulated. 

We’re delighted to have received some funding from the London Museums Group’s Share Academy project.  I will be working with Linda Sandino from Universityof the Arts (UAL); we're inviting students from the MA Textiles course at ChelseaCollege of Art to visit MoDA to explore its holdings, and attempt to articulate the process of ‘inspiration’. We’ll be using qualitative interviewing as the means to articulate and make manifest how designers use museum collections. I'll be blogging about this more as the project develops.

Layers of Learning

One of the really interesting things about this project will be the different layers of learning that are going on at the same time.  For students, the priority will be learning from objects, creating new work, and developing their practice. 

But for Linda and I this won’t be our main concern.  Of course we hope that students produce great work, and we look forward to seeing some of it at the Chelsea MA Textiles Degree Show in September 2014.  But the quality of the final work is less interesting to us than the students’ ability to help us understand the process of inspiration.  What is it that happens when a creative person encounters something that sparks their imagination, gets their creative juices flowing, or takes them in an entirely different direction to the one they would have anticipated?  And by implication, how can we help this to happen for students for whom it all seems like something that happens to 'other people'? 

And interestingly, yet another kind of learning will also be in play.  The project is funded by London Museums Group (LMG), who have in turn received their funding from Arts CouncilEngland (ACE).  For LMG, the aim is to find out more about how people from museums and Higher Education Institutions (HEI) can work together, and to see if it’s possible to draw up any kind of model or guidelines for similar collaborations in future.  So again, LMG is less interested in the ostensible outcomes achieved by MoDA and UAL, and much more concerned with the process by which we get there.  They want to find out what the barriers are (bureaucracy? inertia? workload?) to collaboration between museums and HEI's, and what can be done to smooth this path.

We're looking forward to getting started in the New Year - watch this space for updates on our progress!

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