Monday, 24 September 2012

Looking to the past to inspire the future

We're constantly delighted by the different ways that students and researchers use MoDA's collections to create exciting new stuff.  Felicity Ford's Sonic Wallpapers, for example, takes MoDA's wallpaper collection into a whole new, previously unexplored, audio realm.  

But though people like Felicity use MoDA's collections in innovative ways, the idea that students and designers should use museum collections to support their studies is nothing new.  In fact, many design and/or decorative art museums originated from the idea that students needed to be able to look at and learn from real stuff as part of their studies. Museums like the V&A were initially established as educational institutions, with the goal of improving both the standard of training for designers of manufactured goods, and of raising the 'taste' of consumers.  

Arthur Silver, founder of  the Silver Studio, was himself an enthusiastic champion of museum collections for practising designers.  Looking at real examples of textiles was in his view vital for anyone wishing to be able to design textiles.  With this in mind he created the 'SilvernSeries' of photographs, consisting of images of items from the South Kensington Museum (now known as the V&A).  He intended that these photographs as an educational tool for other designers and manufacturers, looking for an understanding of technique and for visual inspiration.

Silvern Series photograph No. 185, 1889.
showing a textile which is V&A Museum no. 5662-1859
Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture 

Today's students continue to use MoDA's collections in a similar way to that in which Arthur Silver used the South Kensington Museum: as a source of ideas.  The suggestion that wallpaper could be used as the basis for sound pieces would almost certainly have been far beyond  Arthur Silver's wildest imaginings.  But he would certainly have applauded the use of collections for creative inspiration.  With the new academic year starting soon, we're looking forward to seeing what innovative ideas anyone comes up with next.

1 comment:

  1. I am reading a book called "Museum Materialities" at the moment, which explores the value of interacting with physical objects for learning and knowledge. I keep thinking about how much inspiration for the Sonic Wallpaper project came from physically touching and going through the MoDA wallpaper samples. It's wonderful to learn that Arthur Silver himself was also a fan of consulting Museum collections for inspiration!