MoDA’s Assistant Curator Maggie Wood and I were invited to run a workshop at a recent event organised by the Design HistorySociety. The Teaching Design History Workshops take place annually, and provide an excellent forum in which to showcase new approaches and share ideas. The majority of participants tend to be those teaching design history to art and design undergraduates in UK universities. However the workshops are also open to students who might be considering a teaching career in this field, as well as those working in museums and archives which support teaching and learning at HE level.
There is a long tradition of art & design students ‘learning’ from museum objects, and a belief that this type of engagement has the potential to enrich and add depth to a student’s work. But it is also a process which we know is a struggle for many students, and which does not appear to come as ‘naturally’ to many of them as we might initially believe. MoDA’s collections are used by Middlesex University students from a broad range of art and design disciplines. At the heart of our work with these students is the Arthur Silver Award; an annual prize offered by MoDA to 2nd & Final Year art, design & media undergraduates whose work has been ‘inspired’ by our collections.
The approaches we demonstrated in this workshop stem from our attempts to unpick what it means for art & design students to ‘be inspired’ by museum collections: how might we start to break down this process in order to help students not only to find inspiration in our collections, but also be able to articulate how that moment of inspiration has developed and informed their creative practice?
We asked participants to ‘road-test’ a number of different object analysis approaches, using real objects from MoDA’s collections. Our aim was to recreate as much as possible the type of object handling sessions we offer at MoDA, and to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the strategies we’re currently developing.
Overall we received positive feedback from participants and as a result we will be looking to incorporate these approaches into future student sessions in the MoDA Study Room. It is also worth noting that the use of MoDA objects in the workshop represented the first time that objects had been used in this way outside of the museum. Consequently we will be looking to explore other opportunities to introduce Middlesex students to MoDA’s collections beyond our Collections Centre in Beaufort Park, including on the University's main campus at Hendon.