• The Victoria and Albert Museum, 'modern' design and audiences: the New Art Display of 1901 and Britain Can Make It Exhibition of 1946

Elliot, Laura, 2008, Thesis, The Victoria and Albert Museum, 'modern' design and audiences: the New Art Display of 1901 and Britain Can Make It Exhibition of 1946 MPhil thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

My thesis is about the V&A's changing relationship with contemporary design in the first half of the twentieth century, and concerns the perceived differences of needs and behaviours of different audiences in relation to this. I have chosen two very different representations that introduced new design to the Museum. The first is the New Art Display of 1901, which featured a new movement from the Continent and US that was primarily intended for an audience of students, artisans and manufacturers of industrial design. The second is the Britain Can Make It Exhibition of 1946 which, although held at the V&A, was organised by the Council of Industrial Design. The Exhibition featured exclusively British design and aimed at a new post-war audience that represented the Council's ideal new British consumer. The Museum's intentions towards contemporary design and its effectiveness in areas of collection, display, and other public provision, in order to engage different audiences, is examined.

I introduce key design and social concepts that are relevant to the Museum's tradition of design reform from the mid-nineteenth century. In taking a design historical overview, I also bring to bear sociological, museological and cultural-political related disciplines. Because the case studies show different types of design my approach has been to establish a strong analytical parity between them in the structure of inquiry. One main theme is reform, which was the Museum's primary role in the nineteenth century and also relates to the institution's rearrangements of 1908-9 and 1947-51. Other themes are distinction and relocation, which concern how contemporary design was deployed to different audiences in different geographic and cultural locations in London: between the affluent cultural quarter of South Kensington and industrialised centre of Bethnal Green.

My research is largely intended to discover new knowledge and understanding of the V&A as it evolved in the twentieth century and, indeed, the twenty first. In so doing, I hope to provide new insights that may be relevant to policy in the presentation and interpretation of contemporary material as this continues to change and audiences do also. Furthermore, because the V&A was the prototype for other decorative arts museums in Europe and the US, my thesis may have wider applications to museology and cultural studies.

Qualification Name: MPhil
Subjects: Other > Historical and Philosophical studies > V300 History by topic > V370 History of Design
Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies
School or Centre: School of Arts & Humanities
Additional Information:

This thesis has been digitised as part of a project to preserve and share the RCA Library's historic thesis collection. If you own copyright to any material in this work and would like it to be removed from the repository then please contact repository@rca.ac.uk.

Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2023 13:56
Last Modified: 16 Oct 2023 13:56
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/5554
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