History of Design: The New Term Has Started!

by Christine Guth and Simona Valeriani

 

The new term has started!

The first year cohort of 24 students on the V&A/RCA History of Design MA programme has arrived. These students from 8 countries have joined the second year and MPhil, PHD students already enrolled on the course. After introductions to the spaces, the people and the processes that make the museum work, as well as to the collections -both in the galleries and in storage- students and staff travelled to Ironbridge for three days. The three hours bus ride, bunking in the Youth Hostel and local pubs helped us to get to know one another. This year, luckily, no one fell into the Coalport canal!

V&A/RCA History of Design students and staff at Ironbridge, photographer: Katrina Royall.

V&A/RCA History of Design students and staff at Ironbridge, photographer: Katrina Royall.

We got an early start the morning after our arrival. Demonstrations of slip casting, ceramic painting, transfer printing, and flower making at the Coalport China Museum kept us busy all morning. Who could imagine that 19th century women could produce up to 900 ceramic rose buds in a day?

 

Coalport China Museum (http://www.ironbridge.org.uk/our-attractions/coalport-china-museum/?gclid=CKWn693Ps8ECFVDItAodhk4AQA), demonstration of flower making by Ms. Charlotte Hughes, photographer: Katrina Royall

Coalport China Museum, demonstration of flower making by Ms. Charlotte Hughes, photographer: Katrina Royall

Coalport China Museum, furnace with saggars, photographer: Katrina Royall

Coalport China Museum, furnace with saggars, photographer: Katrina Royall

In the afternoon we visited the Ironbridge Gorge Museum and nearby remains of the first blast furnace, followed by the highlight of the trip: the sight of the famous Ironbridge of 1782 at sunset and in moonlight.

The Ironbridge, photographer: Katrina Royall

The Ironbridge, photographer: Katrina Royall

Next, thanks to demonstrations and explanations by John Challen at Blists Hill Victorian Town, we got a deeper understanding of the complexity, danger, and physical strain involved in casting iron. The trip stimulated a lively discussion about progress, modernity and the industrial revolution.

 

Sandcasting demonstration at Blists Hill Victorian Town, from http://www.ironbridge.org.uk/our-attractions/blists-hill-victorian-town/

Sandcasting demonstration at Blists Hill Victorian Town, courtesy of Blists Hill

Now that we are back in our darkened seminar rooms with slides projected on the screen, we miss the open air and space, but are eager to take the discussion further and begin our own projects. Teaching is intense all week but Thursday is particularly busy, with three courses offering context for understanding material culture in different geographies and times. The day culminates with our Research Seminar, starting at 5 pm, to which anyone who is interested (you too!) is invited.

History of Design seminar series 2014/15, poster by Dario Szorza

History of Design seminar series 2014/15, poster by Dario Szorza

The research seminars series introduces students, staff and colleagues to the lively scholarly community in London and beyond by presenting new research and new approaches to design history and material culture from a number of different perspectives: anthropology, cultural geography, and history of science and technology amongst them.

Students are encouraged to engage actively with the presentations and the visiting scholars and have been given space on the V&A Research Department blog to share their thoughts and comments. So, watch this space!

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