Design History and Material Culture

Archiving and design history research group

This research group brings together specialisms in design history, material culture, and textiles theory and history. We investigate the nature of consumption, its history, its objects and its cultures.

Areas of expertise and research interest include Design History, Fashion Design History, Textile Design Theory and History. In addition, staff members have research interests that cover aesthetics, working class taste and the politics of taste, museology and museum practice and aesthetic education in the 19th century to present day. The study of Material Culture is central to our research group and this covers aspects of the domestic sphere, the retail environment and museums in conjunction with consuming designed objects.

The School of Design has access to a number of unique archives for purposes of research and PhD study, most notable are the Yorkshire Fashion Archive, the Marks and Spencer Company Archive and the International Textile Collection.

One of our key research findings in recent years is that different cultures have different geometrical preferences, expressed through their visual arts; such a perspective requires a detailed knowledge of the underlying processing technology as well as, in this case, an understanding of systems of geometric classification and comparison. 

Impact 

Textile-heritage research at the University of Leeds has informed and improved public awareness and understanding of textile heritages among target audiences, especially school children, community groups, volunteers, interns and teachers. Through hands-on workshops, conventional publications, talks and lectures, a strong website presence and public exhibitions, the research has engaged and inspired audiences and has underpinned a ‘best practice’ resource for other museums and archives.

Our research impact is demonstrated through direct feedback from workshop participants, evidence of community engagement, commentary in the visitors’ book, website hits, and also from accreditations, awards and endorsements from key national arts organisations in recognition of initiatives enhancing public appreciation of textile heritage.

Facilities

The School of Design has access to a number of unique archives on campus, for purposes of research and teaching, most notable are the Yorkshire Fashion Archive, the Marks and Spencer Company Archive and the International Textile Collection.

Members

The following staff members are part of this research group: