Making Histories: design curation and curricula in Britain and the USA

Submitting Institution

Northumbria University Newcastle

Unit of Assessment

Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

The two main impacts resulting from the research concern museum curation in Britain and educational curricula in the USA. The research has influenced museum curatorial practices around collections of 20th Century Design and collection development of the internationally significant Henry Rothschild Study Centre at Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead. The research has provided the basis for curriculum development at the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian National Design Museum and Parsons School of Design, New York. This large body of research has had an impact on museum professionals and their fund-raisers, researchers across the UK and US, educators, post-graduate students, practitioners and the general public.

Underpinning research

Research relating to 20th Century Design has been undertaken by Buckley (independently and collaboratively) between 1980 and 2012. At Newcastle Polytechnic and latterly at Northumbria University, whilst a lecturer (1980-85) Buckley began research on émigrés and aspects of modernist practice in 20th Century Britain. Between 1985 and 1994 she focused on women ceramic designers and theories of design and gender. This progressed to her researching women in ceramic design in the USA; fashion and femininity (with Fawcett); and gender and design while a Reader (1994-2007). From 2007 to present Professor Buckley has developed this research further, working on transnationalism and design (independently and with Hochscherf and Barker); fashion and everyday life (with Clark); and gender and design (independently). Aspects of this research were pioneering (research on gender and design has been continually cited and reprinted). The research has attracted funding from AHRC (2000, 2011, 2012, 2012), Paul Mellon (2007) and British Academy (2002). This large body of research includes three on-going and at times overlapping strands:

  1. Transnationalism and design specifically relating to ceramics
  2. Design and gender, particularly ceramics and fashion in Britain and the USA
  3. Design and modernism(s) in Britain including the geographical periphery

Key research insights include:

  • Fashion within the context of modernity in 20th Century London and New York engaged with the ordinary and everyday as much as it was concerned with the extraordinary and the novel (begun 1998, continuing 2013-REF output- Design Issues article 2012- Reference 2)
  • That European transnational émigrés brought distinctive and novel design features/sensibilities to design in Britain, (designers included Grete Marks, Ruth Duckworth, Lucie Rie and Hans Coper) (begun with PhD research 1985-1991, continuing 2013-REF output- book chapter `Authenticity, tradition and modernity: Marguerite Wildenhain and Ruth Duckworth, émigré studio potters, 1936-1964', 2012- References 3+4)
  • That modernism in Britain was plural not singular and that design in the regions also engaged in modernist design practices on the level of the everyday as well as the exceptional (begun 1982, continuing 2013-REF outputs- Journal of Design History, 2010 and Studies in Decorative Arts, 2008- Reference 6)
  • That fashion worked in particular ways in 20thC Britain to define `feminine' identities (begun 1995, continuing 2013- REF output- Design Issues article 2012 - Reference 2)
  • That the wide range of design roles undertaken by women in ceramics made an important/contribution to design in Britain, including the work of Jessie Tait at Midwinter in 1950s' Britain: this led to comparable research on the role of women designers in US ceramics (begun with PhD research 1985-1991, continuing 2013-REF output- book chapter `Authenticity, tradition and modernity: Marguerite Wildenhain and Ruth Duckworth, émigré studio potters, 1936-1964', 2012- Reference 4)
  • That women designers' roles and work was shaped by patriarchy and subsequent `gender studies' and post-modern theories posed particular theoretical problems and questions for feminist scholars (begun with PhD research 1985-1991, continuing with invited conference paper, 2010, Parsons The New School for Design- References 1+5)

References to the research

Buckley, C. (2007) Designing Modern Britain, Reaktion. (ISBN 9781861893222). Available on request from Northumbria University.

Buckley, C., (2010) `Designing Women, Gender and Design', in No Longer in Exile. The Legacy and Future of Gender Studies, March 2010, The New School for Social Research, New York. Available on request from Northumbria University.

Buckley, C. (2012) `Authentizität, Tradition und Keramik aus dem Atelier: Emigrierte Keramikerinnen in den 1950er und 1960er Jahren', text+kritik, Munich (5th volume of their series, Women in Exile). Available on request from Northumbria University.

Buckley, C. and Hochscherf, T. (eds.) (2012) `Transnationalism and Visual Culture in Britain: Émigrés and Migrants 1933 to 1956', in Visual Culture in Britain (special edition), vol. 13, 2. (ISSN 1471-4787 (Print), 1941-8361 (Online))

Buckley, C. and Clark H. (2012) 'Conceptualising Fashion in Everyday Lives', Design Issues, vol.28, no. 4. (doi:10.1162/DESI_a_00172)

Buckley, C. (2012) `Made in Patriarchy: Towards a Feminist Analysis of Women and Design (2012), in PAD. Pages on Art and Design, 08, 2012, This article extracted from Design Issues, Vol. 3 (2) (Autumn), The MIT Press, Cambridge 1986, pp3-14.

Details of the impact

The research findings regarding 20th Century design in Britain have directly impacted upon museum curation in the North East of England. Buckley has contributed as advisor in the formation and on-going development of the Henry Rothschild Study Centre (HRSC) at The Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead; and as consultant for their Heritage Lottery Fund project `Collecting 20th Design'. Her research insights have contributed to the Gallery's transformation over the last three years as one of its most important collections has been opened up to the public, museum professionals and to academics and its design collection has benefited from a distinctive rationale underpinned by key purchases.

The combined benefit of Buckley's research from 1986 to present (emigrés, ceramics, modernist design in Britain) developed the curatorial and public understanding of the collection particularly with regard to emigrés, modernism in Britain and, retailing of crafts and was, firstly, to develop understanding of an internationally-important collection of studio ceramics and the role of collector, Henry Rothschild through the establishment of the HRSC; secondly, to contribute to the presentation and exhibition of ceramics; and thirdly to underpin the on-going enhancement of the HRSC's mission with the successful AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award studentship (as this added and developed preliminary research on Rothschild).

Buckley, through her research, engaged with the Friends of the Shipley's strategic aims, contributing to the establishment of the HRSC. The HRSC's goal is to communicate academic research to the wider public through and alongside their ceramics collection and archive. From May 2009 Buckley was involved in a key initial meeting organised by the Friends of the Shipley Art Gallery and its curatorial staff, to plan the development of the HRSC. Buckley was engaged in subsequent meetings with curators to determine the remit and purpose of the Collaborative Doctoral Award (starting September 2011).

The research findings had an impact upon the curators of the Shipley Art Gallery, as Buckley was one of three experts on an Advisory Panel (with Gareth Williams, RCA, and Christopher Wilk, V&A), with Buckley included due to her specialist knowledge of the regional design history as well as ceramics. The Panel advised on the selection and acquisition of design for `Collecting 20th Century Design' project (May — June 2009). It changed curatorial strategy as Buckley proposed, on the basis of her research insights, that the Shipley choose objects which demonstrated the ways in which modernism had contributed to the visual and material culture of the North East of England, rather than to reiterate a London-centric approach. It achieved wider public value by influencing museum-practices outside the capital city. To date, the project has resulted in the collection of several key design objects that tell a different story about design in Britain as well as view established designs through the different prism of networks of design normally ignored.

The strategic research findings on design and gender, design in Britain and fashion have had a direct impact in relation to the development of design curricula in the USA. This has been through new MA programmes at Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian National Design Museum In New York (MA Decorative Arts and Design degree) and Parsons School of Design in New York (MA Fashion Studies). Three intensive MA modules have been developed and taught `Design and Gender' (2008, 2010), `Designing Modern Britain' (2009, 2011) and `Fashion and Everyday Life: Britain and America, 1890-2000' (2012). These modules have had a direct impact on 85 mature students who came to the MAs from a variety of backgrounds, including business, design practice, journalism, and academia. Sarah Lawrence, Dean of Art and Design at Parsons School of Design credits Buckley's research, saying it "helped to re-invigorate a well-established but theoretically under-developed Masters programme..." Buckley's third module was an intellectual cornerstone of the newly established MA Fashion Studies. MA curricula for these two internationally-renowned MA programmes were fundamentally changed as a result of the underpinning research, thus bringing benefit to students studying for this MA; the course directors and educational institutions; interns; and design practitioners.

Buckley's ongoing impact is extended through her research strand `transnationalism and design specifically relating to ceramics'. Buckley is developing a collaborative project with the Dorman Museum, Middlesbrough (funded by the AHRC Cultural Engagement grant, 2012) exploring Christopher Dresser's Linthorpe Art Pottery and Dresser's collecting of art pottery. This will benefit the Dorman Museum's users and its curatorial practices. As with the HRSC, the Dresser collection at the Dorman Museum, recently enhanced by the Lyons Ceramics Collection, generates huge international interest but its reach is underplayed; the collaborative project will seek to address this.

Sources to corroborate the impact

The Head of Shipley Arts Gallery confirms the advisory role of Buckley: "Prof. Cheryl Buckley was invited to act as an advisor in order to develop an understanding of the collection itself and the role of the collector, and to develop the Henry Rothschild Study Centre as a site of learning and research for artists, academics and the wider community. [...] Due for completion in March 2015, this research will further develop our understanding of the collection and inform future exhibitions, workshop and projects around the Henry Rothschild Study Centre."

The Shipley's design collection has benefited from key purchases underpinned by Buckley's research. The Head of Shipley Art Gallery can provide corroborating evidence of changing display within the Shipley Art Gallery.

Correspondence between the Head of Shipley Art Gallery, Keeper of Art and Curator of Design at Shipley Art Gallery and Buckley can be made available. These corroborate the advising on selection of objects.

Comments from Visitors' Book corroborate the success of the collection, e.g. "Wonderful facilities for studying the collection. Should be copied by all museums."

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award studentship, three years 2011-2014, `Henry Rothschild: patronage, collecting and transnationalism in post-war British crafts'. This corroborates the collaboration with the Shipley Art Gallery. See

Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian National Design Museum (MA Decorative Arts and Design degree)

Parsons School of Design in New York (MA Fashion Studies):

The Head of the MA programme and Dean of Art and Design History and the Course Director for MA Decorative Arts and Design, both at Parsons, can be contacted to corroborate the impact on curricula.