Almost Forgotten: The International Exhibition of 1862 – just published

Very pleased to see the papers from the WSG 2012 conference published thanks to the Decorative Arts Society and to the Royal Commissioners for the Exhibition of 1851, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and Giles Waterfield for their generous financial support.    203 pages with many colour illustrations. Copies can be obtained for £25 from Richard Dennis Publications, The New Chapel, Shepton Beauchamp, Ilminster, Somerset TA19 0JT. Tel: 01460 240044 / email:

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Member, Expert Group, Exploring British Design

A University of Brighton Design Archives  with JISC, and in partnership with the Design Museum, project. Funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council and entitled Exploring British Design, the aim is to test how data in different archives can be connected, and to investigate changing research patterns in digital environments.

We are very pleased to announce that the Archives Hub has joined forces with The University of Brighton Design Archives for an exciting new project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, ‘Exploring British Design’. The project is funded as one often new ‘Amplification Awards’ from the AHRC.

We will be working with Catherine Moriarty, Curatorial Director of the University of Brighton Design Archives and Professor of Art and Design History in the Faculty of Arts.  Catherine, myself and others on the project aim to provide you with updates and insights through the Archives Hub blog over the next 12 months.

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The project will explore Britain’s design history by connecting design-related content in different archives. A collaboration between researchers, information professionals, technologists, curators and historians, the aim is to give researchers the freedom to explore the depth of detail held in British design archives.

We will be working with researchers to understand more about their use of archives and methods of archival research within design history. We aim to answer a number of research questions:

1. How can we link digital content and subject expertise in order to make archival content more discoverable for researchers? How can we increase the discoverability of design archives in and beyond the HE sector?

2. How can connected archival data better recover ‘lost moments of design action’? (Dilnot 2013: 337)

3. How might a website co-designed by researchers, rather than a top-down collection-defined approach to archive content, enhance engagement with and understanding of British design? How can we encourage researchers, archive and museum professionals, and the public, to apprehend an integrated and extended rather than collection-specific sense of Britain’s design history?

4. How can the principles of archive arrangement/description be made meaningful and useful to researchers? Are these principles sometimes a hindrance to public understanding, or can they be utilised to better effect to aid interpretation?

We want to use this opportunity to explore ways of presenting archival data beyond the traditional collection level description. We will be working with three main sources of data:

1) We will be utilising and enhancing the data within the Archives Hub, starting with the descriptions of the collections held at Brighton Design Archives, but also utilising other descriptions of archives held all across the UK, covering manufacturing history, art schools, personal perspectives and professional contexts, so that we make the most of the diversity of the archives described on the Hub.

2) We will be creating archival authority records, using the EAC-CPF XML format for ISAAR(CPF) records

3) We will be working with the Design Museum and looking to integrate their object-based data into our data set

We will also be working to integrate other sources of data into our authority records.

We aim to provide a front-end that demonstrates what is possible with rich and connected data sources. Our intention is to be led by researchers in this endeavour. It will give us the opportunity to explore researcher needs and requirements, and to understand more about the importance of familiarity with interfaces compared to the possibilities for ‘disruptive’ approaches that propose more radical solutions to interrogating the data.

We are grateful to the AHRC for giving us the opportunity to explore these important questions and take digital research to another level.

Successful Nomination for Honorary Faculty Fellowship, University of Brighton

I have just received news that the University Board have approved my nomination as Honorary Faculty Fellow to the Faculty of Arts at University of Brighton in recognition of my work relating to the RSA and design history.

The University of Brighton Design Archives is an internationally significant research base with a curatorial team that initiates and promotes collaborative activity through a programme of publication and exhibition projects. Founded on a scholarly resource focusing on British design and global design organisations in the twentieth century, we contribute substantially to the research profile of the University. The Design Archives welcome scholars and students from many academic disciplines researching the designed environment, the design profession and design practice.
Since the 1990s we have undertaken a range of innovative projects with a variety of partners including AHRC-funded collaborative doctorates and JISC-funded digitisation projects. In 2010 the Design Archives were awarded core funding from the HEFCE Museums and Galleries fund.

List of my talks at March 2013

Flyer of talks

‘The Society that pokes its nose into everything’

From its 18th century beginning the RSA has played a major part in all aspects of social and economic history.  This talk provides an overview of its activity ranging from artistic endeavour to public health by way of chimney sweeps, prostitutes and examinations.

Merit rewarded.  The Society of Arts and the encouragement of artistic endeavour in the 18th and 19th centuries.

By awarding money and medallic prizes the Society of Arts encouraged young girls and boys to improve their artistic skill.  Among the ranks of these artists who went on to become household names can be found Landseer, Millais and Moser.

Moor Park Mansion, Hertfordshire.  From Tudor Palace to Golf Clubhouse

Over its long history Moor Park has been home to many figures of history: Cardinal Wolsey, the Duke and Duchess of Monmouth, Admiral Anson, the Grosvenor family and Lord Leverhulme.  It also played a part in the Second World War.  This listed Palladian mansion with its Baroque interior is now the headquarters of Moor Park Golf Club.

Georgiana Jane Keate (1771-1850).  An Accomplished Amateur Artist in Georgian England

Georgiana’s story is representative of young girls born into the upper classes in Jane Austen’s England.  She became an accomplished artist mixing with most of the artistic and literary circles of her day.  Georgiana’s husband, an amateur artist himself, was an early patron of J.M.W. Turner

Sir Gordon Russell CBE, MC, RDI (1892-1980)

Sir Gordon Russell believed that everyone should have access to good, honest, well-crafted and affordable furniture.  The Utility Furniture scheme, the Festival of Britain and the establishment of the Design Council can all lay thanks to his guiding hand.