‘Disseminating Design: museums and the circulation of design collections, 1945 - present day’
Christopher Marsden (Senior Archivist and Head of Designs, Victoria & Albert Museum)
The key aim of this investigation is to provide an historically informed understanding of the economic, cultural and social impact of touring design collections in order to contribute to future national and regional strategies for museology and design education.
Until government cuts in 1977, the Victoria and Albert Museum had an historic commitment to regional design education, successfully fulfilled by its Circulation Department which sent small and large touring exhibitions to museums and art schools around the UK. Today widening regional access and cultural regeneration are on the government agenda for national museums, while design is seen as an important tool for economic success, global competition and improvements in quality of life for all.
This evaluative study of touring design collections examines the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Circulation Department in the period 1947-1977 as a means of better understanding the impact of a national museum beyond its London base. The research establishes the role played by the Department in the collection and interpretation of modern objects and in the public dissemination of design across the British Isles, an area previously unexplored to any substantial depth.
This investigation into the achievements and limitations of the Circulation Department will provide an important vehicle for examining the many debates – social, political, economic and cultural – concerning the wider context of design promotion after the Second World War. The thesis will consider the Circulation Department of the V&A as a uniquely distanced but authoritative locus between state, design culture and industry with implications for the history, theory and practice of design and its intersection with museology and museum policy. The V&A currently promotes regional access to its national collections through touring exhibitions, a developing commitment to centres at Sheffield, Blackpool and Dundee and an award-winning website. This project will provide a distinct regional perspective on the Museum’s contemporary initiatives with implications for DCMS policy on cultural regeneration.
Arts and Humanities Research Council Collaborative Doctoral Award Scheme; additional funding from the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Joanna Weddell delivered a paper entitled 'Unpacking the Metropolitan Monolith: the Victoria and Albert Museum's Circulation Department in the Regions' as part of the Museums & Exhibitions Group session on 'Travelling Artworks' at the Association of Art Historian's Annual Conference at the University of East Anglia 9-11 April 2015. Conference attendance was generously funded by the University of Brighton Research Student Conference Support Fund.
Joanna Weddell co-edited with Liz Farrelly 'Design Objects and the Museum' for Bloomsbury Academic, 2016.
Joanna Weddell contributed a chapter on 'The ethos of the V&A Circulation Department 1947-1960' in 'Design Objects and the Museum' for Bloomsbury Academic, 2016.
Joanna Weddell’s new primary research into the Circulation Department’s impact on post-war British design contributed to the V&A exhibition British Design 1948-2012: Innovation in the Modern Age (31 March – 12 August 2012) and accompanying book (ed. C Breward and G Wood, British Design from 1948: Innovation in the Modern Age, March 2012). More on the exhibition and on the V&A and its commitment to the UK as a national museum.
‘Room 38A and beyond: post-war British design and the Circulation Department’, an article on the initial research appears in V&A Online Journal 4, published Summer 2012
Joanna Weddell convened a session on 'Design Objects and the Museum' with fellow University of Brighton AHRC CDA Liz Farrelly (Design Museum, London) at the 2013 Association of Art Historians Conference at the University of Reading 11-13th April 2013. Full details of the session and speakers at: http://www.aah.org.uk/annual-conference/2013-conference/session8. Conference attendance was generously funded by the CRD and RSF, University of Brighton Faculty of Arts and the Research Department, Victoria and Albert Museum.
Joanna Weddell delivered a paper on ‘The Social Implications of Circulation’ to the Social History Society Conference, Theory and Methods Strand on Promotion, Technology and Circulation, held at the University of Leeds 25 - 27th March 2013. The paper discussed the ethos and aims of the Circulation Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum in the period 1947-1960 under its Keeper Peter Floud. Conference attendance was generously funded by the CRD and RSF, University of Brighton Faculty of Arts.
Please visit my academia page to see my current research activity.