The University of Brighton has built and retains a central position of international importance in the field of historical and critical approaches to design and material culture, complemented by strengths in the theory and social history of visual culture, art and photography. This provides both a disciplinary specialism which draws the highest calibre researchers and partnerships at all levels, and opportunities for interdisciplinary thematic research collaborations across the College of Arts and Humanities.
Research carried out at the University has influenced the form and content of design courses around the world. Particular faculty expertise and research interests span the fields of –
The Design History and Material Culture Research Group developed from the Design History Research Centre.
In 1993, the Design History Research Centre was established at the University of Brighton. Many of its initial objectives been achieved, such as collaborations with national and international institutions, and its programme of work, including the provision of expertise, support and specialist resources for researchers, is maintained through the Centre for Research and Development.
Since the 1990s, research and teaching of design history at the University of Brighton expanded into an interdisciplinary practice within the multi-disciplinary field of arts and humanities. The discipline is a reflection of this: exchanges between the different disciplinary perspectives directed towards the interpretation of material worlds brought together a group of researchers. Debates within anthropology, archaeology, art history, cultural history, dress history, the history of decorative arts, the history of science, museum studies and visual culture as well as design history have all informed the research of the members of the Group.
This interdisciplinary focus is expressed through the Group's seminar series, entitled iota. The provision of research seminars was one of the initial Design History Research Centre objectives and the iota series is one of the ways that its work is being continued by the Group.
In 2014, the College launched Internationalising Design History, a cluster providing the framework for developing a series of events, symposia, international conferences, research leading to exhibitions and publications, as well as building new opportunities for research students and staff.
Structure and development
As with all research areas in the College, the pursuit of excellence in the fields is guided by four principles:
• to encourage productive research and teaching partnerships as a key means to address significant challenges in an increasingly complex, fragile and interconnected world
• to embrace unpredictability, often intrinsic to original research, as well as encourage rigorous development and translation to users and beneficiaries
• to support future generations of researchers and their career development within a challenging and inspiring environment
• to stimulate and build the vitality of the research environment
The historical and critical study of design, material and visual culture joins research across other social histories, language and literary studies in the thematic development of a strand for History, Culture & Heritage. Scholarly practices in these fields contribute to the unearthing and reshaping the cultures, histories and politics of place, with a range of major achievements in both cross-institutional projects and individual monographs.
The University of Brighton Design Archives (est.1994) directed by Professor Catherine Moriarty, promotes and supports research in four interconnected fields: 1) Design and the State, and government-sponsored design promotion; 2) the organisation and shaping of the design professions, 3) the practices of designers within wider socio-economic, political and cultural contexts and; 4) the impact of digital technology on research practices for historical, curatorial and professional inquiry. The international research significance of the Design Archives was recognised by HEFCE in 2010, when it was included among the group of 31 collections nationally to receive support from the Museums, Galleries and Collections Fund. See also REF3b .
The Screen Archive South East (SASE, est.1992) directed by Dr Frank Gray, is a moving-image archive that collects, preserves and promotes screen material and the histories of pre-cinema and early cinema, comprising over 10,000 films,10,500 19th-century lantern-slides and unique historical documentation. Its mission is to capture and curate many aspects of life, work, creative endeavour and representations of regional and national public history.
The College’s partnership with the Victoria and Albert Museum that began in 1997 continues our ongoing commitment to research focusing specifically on museological and curatorial strategies for contemporary design culture. Led by Professor Guy Julier it focuses on bringing academic work, the creative professions and the museum into dialogue around design activism and social design.
Building on the University of Brighton's experience with the V&A, we have developed a new partnership with Brighton and Hove Museum and Art Gallery, and consolidated new relationships with a further five collaborative doctoral studentships with the Chartered Society of Designers, Action in Rural Sussex and the Design Museum.
We have welcomed independent researchers and academics to work within our srchives We have created research opportunities for residencies and fellowships in other HE and non-HE organisations. Our partnerships include: Politecnico di Milano; the National Autonomous University of Mexico; the Prague Academy of Art, Architecture and Design; KU Leuven, Belgium; the Universities of Notre Dame, and Case Western in Cleveland, USA; Nagoya University of the Arts, Seoul National University; Tsinghua University, Beijing.