Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Jessica Kelly and the Architectural Review

Last week Middlesex University PhD student Jessica Kelly returned to MoDA to continue her research on JM Richards and the Architectural Review. It's always a pleasure to have people like Jessica visit the study room to remind us of significance aspects of the collection that we sometimes overlook. Here, she explains a bit about her research and why we should appreciate unbound magazines:

Jessica Kelly studying booklets released by the Ministry of Information from the JM Richards Collection at MoDA.

How do architects, as specialized, expert professionals communicate and engage with the general public? This question preoccupied modern architects throughout the twentieth century and is the subject of my PhD research.

Entitled “The Ardour of the Layman: the Architectural Review and a discourse of modern architecture for the layman, 1933-1971”, my research is focussed around the collection of The Architectural Review (AR) held at MoDA. The Museum holds unbound issues of the magazine covering most decades from the 1890s to the 1970s in the archive of James Maude Richards, who was the editor of the AR for nearly 40 years. These copies of the magazine, owned by Richards, have formed a central part of my research. I am exploring the magazine’s relation to the various other media used by architects, artists, writers and critics to generate public discussions of modern architecture in the mid-twentieth century.

One of the chief advantages of MoDA’s collection of the Architectural Review, is that unlike other library and museum collections where the magazines are bound in sixth month batches, at MoDA the magazines remain as individual issues complete with their front covers. Below are six of my favourite AR front covers in J.M. Richards’ collection at MoDA, spanning the period of his editorship.


Six front covers of the Architectural Review, 1933 to 1970 [MJ8, Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture]

The benefit of unbound magazines is that you hold each issue as it would have been held by the original reader, which is a great feeling. It’s also helpful for research purposes - the size and weight of the magazine is significant if you're thinking about how it might have been read or how it might be stored in a home or a club. Also, it makes comparison of the magazines easier. Because those in MoDA’s collection were Richards’ personal magazines, a few copies have annotations or slips of torn out articles included - giving an insight into how he used them. 

Although I have finished most of my archival research at MoDA, I was back in the study room to look at the books Richards’ edited while he was working for the Ministry of Information. He left the AR to pursue this war work in 1942, leaving Nikolaus Pevsner in the role of editor. Richards returned to the post in 1948 following a stint as book editor at the Architectural Press from 1946. The AR changed during the period as a result of the new editor but also through the exigencies of the war including paper rationing and bombing. By studying Richards' work for the Ministry of Information, I hope to uncover some interesting points about the development of the AR in this period.  

This Friday, Jessica is delivering a paper titled 'The Live Architecture exhibition and the MARS exhibition' at the Museums and Galleries History Group conference Cultures of Curating: Curatorial Practices and the Production of Meaning c.1650-2000. You can read more of Jessica's writing on her blog. If she's inspired you to look again at magazines for research, you can browse some of the series in MoDA's collection here.

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