The Life of Stuff (2)

Reading Susannah Walker’s wonderful account of objects her mother had assembled and then metaphorically buried in her house in Worcester and how they could be used to understand and interpret her own life history has made me think about how far she was influenced by her experience of the teaching on the V&A/RCA MA Course in the History of Design, which she refers to in her acknowledgements. In particular, it has made me go back and listen to a talk which John Styles gave at the Open University in a conference on ‘the Domain of Design History: Looking Back Looking Forward’ on the Course and its origins in the V&A:-

Much of this is about the Course’s institutional origins and development in the museum. It perhaps misses out the aspect of the Course which I remember best: the idea that objects, and particularly objects in the museum, have their own life and history, which help to illuminate, and provide an understanding, of the past, which is what Susannah Walker’s book demonstrates so beautifully.


4 thoughts on “The Life of Stuff (2)

  1. ottermatron says:

    Susannah here (I have no idea why I have given myself this name for WordPress comments, it must have made sense at the time. )
    The book owes a great deal to my time at the V&A and RCA, and to the course in particular; we were all very lucky to be there then and to be part of such an unusual mix of people and thinking.
    One of the things that I always missed slightly in the museum, then, was the sense that objects had their own biography which had brought them to be there; more than just being ‘fathered’ by a factory and a designer, they had a life journey as well. This is more recognised now, but even so, I would love to see a museum which told all the stories of individual objects, not just as types. This really comes from my first visits to the museum, when I would go to the Costume Gallery and all I wanted to know was who had worn these things, and then, how had they survived until now?
    Hello Kate!

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