The first assignment that we undertook as nascent Design Historians on the V&A/RCA MA course was an object essay based upon an item in the V&A collection, from which we learned how inextricable the history of objects are from the contexts they inhabit. Similarly, this monthly column will take a single object as its starting point and develop a Design History discourse around it. Fig. 0 will approach objects as manifest narratives rather than as fixed signifiers, revealing complex life-cycles and tales of shifting meanings and perceptions as the world changes around them. Thinking about objects in the broadest sense, from furniture to interfaces, systems to machines, this column will unpack the complex relationships of which material and immaterial culture is a product.
This object is likely to be a débutante favor that was kept by New York débutante Pauline Robinson and fixed into her 1900-1901 débutante yearbook (fig.1). I came across this object during my research for my dissertation, in which I looked at the débutante and the débutante season
A Patchwork Portfolio: Thoughts on a Kathi bhitiyav — In 1994, a very remarkable object arrived at the V&A by way of some very strange circumstances. Sometime earlier, a Mr Jerome Burns had discovered the object abandoned outside a New York warehouse. A note from curator D A Swallow in
While searching the National Archives patent records I ran across this from September 11, 1823: ‘Specification of “Certain means of securing the bodies of the dead in Coffins” -consisting in fastening the body by chains, bars, & c. to a false bottom, and affixing this false bottom of
One reading of an object In our first year on the History of Design course, Colleen, Zara, Alex and I chose a porcelain figure of a woman breastfeeding a child on which to do our presentation. The Victoria and Albert Museum records for this object give it the title
The object for fig. 4 is a food blog, Made by Margie, that is one of many who are driving the ‘foodie revolution’ in the UK. The author of this blog is Margie herself, a professional chef who uses her blog to publish recipes, restaurant reviews and cooking advice. It
December’s object will be a homemade gingerbread house. Thoughts of gingerbread houses conjure ideas of Christmas, with white icing creating snow, the scent of ginger, molasses (depending on your recipe) and spice warming the air; a family working together to decorate the gingerbread house with gum drops and
This object is a small asparagus server made at William Duesbury’s Derby porcelain factory in the late eighteenth century, most probably between 1770 and 1785. It is roughly seven centimeters long and made in soft-paste porcelain, hand-painted in underglaze blue. The English porcelain industry was well established by the 1770s