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Personal profile

Research interests

Dr Harriet Atkinson is a historian of design and culture with a particular interest in the uses of design for propaganda, nation-building, diplomacy and resistance, from the 1930s to the present day. From February 2019 to January 2023 Harriet is on research leave as AHRC Leadership Fellow and Principal Investigator on the project '"The Materialisation of Persuasion": Modernist Exhibitions in Britain for Propaganda and Resistance, 1933 to 1953'. This builds on her recent University of Brighton Rising Stars Award (2017-18), for a project entitled 'Information, Persuasion, Citizenship: Public Exhibitions 1914 to now'. 

Scholarly biography

Harriet is currently writing a book entitled The Materialisation of Persuasion: Modernist Exhibitions in Britain for Propaganda and Resistance, 1933 to 1953 and co-editing (with Verity Clarkson and Sarah Lichtman) an essay collection entitled Exhibitions and Transnational Exchange: Art and Design, Borders and Boundaries from 1945 (forthcoming, Bloomsbury 2020). She is also making a documentary film about Modernist exhibitions in Britain in collaboration with filmmakers Four Corners (for launch in 2022). 

While a Faculty Fellow based in the University of Brighton Design Archives from 2010 to 2013, Harriet wrote a number of essays, reviews and her first monograph The Festival of Britain: A Land and its People (I.B. Tauris, 2012). Harriet was awarded her doctorate from the Royal College of Art and Victoria & Albert Museum's joint history of design programme in 2007. She studied for a BA (Hons) in English and Related Literature with History of Art at University of York and for a MA in Art Museum Studies at the Courtauld Institute, University of London. Harriet is an elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. 

Harriet has previously held research awards from the AHRC (Doctoral Award), British Academy (Small Grant) and Wingate Foundation (Wingate Scholarship). She is a member of the Management Board of University of Brighton's Centre for Design History and since 2015 has been Trustee and Research Grants Officer of the Design History Society

Harriet is on the Advisory Board for the Bloomsbury Design Library. She regularly undertakes peer reviews: for journals + publishers including Journal of Design HistoryThe Sculpture Journal, Literature & History, Contemporary British History and Bloomsbury Academic, Berg, Palgrave Macmillan, Manchester University Press; for academic conferences including DHS, International Conferences on Design History and Studies (ICDHS), Design Research Society (DRS), International Association of Societies of Design Research (IASDR); for academic grant applications + awards including Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland and the Icelandic Research Fund. 

Harriet teaches across all years and pathways of the BA (Hons) History of Art & Design (History of Art & Design; Visual Culture; Fashion & Dress History; Philosophy Politics Art); as well as Critical & Cultural Studies to BA (Hons) Graphic Design and BA (Hons) Illustration. Previously she has also taught on the BA (Hons) Design and Craft and the BA (Hons) Fashion and Textiles. In 2018-19 she was Admissions Tutor for the four History of Art & Design pathways. She has a PGCert in Teaching & Learning in Higher Education and is Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Before studying for a PhD Harriet worked in cultural policy and funding for various organisations including as Policy Adviser at Department for Culture Media & Sport, Grants Officer at Heritage Lottery Fund and Culture and Regeneration Manager at Association of London Government.

Supervisory Interests

Harriet is interested in supervising PhDs on the history of visual communication for propaganda or protest; government engagements with design, design politics and policy; design as the focus for diplomatic exchange or displays of 'soft power'; relationships between design history and design practice; and the design of exhibitions and displays, particularly beyond museums and galleries.

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, Royal College of Art

Master, Courtauld Institute of Art

Bachelor, University of York

External positions

Fellow, Higher Education Academy, Higher Education Academy, UK

Jul 2019 → …

External Examiner, University of Reading

Jun 2019Jun 2020

Elected Fellow, Royal Historical Society, Royal Historical Society

2019 → …

External Examiner, Birkbeck University of London

Jul 2016Sep 2019

Executive Trustee, Design History Society, Design History Society



  • NC Drawing Design Illustration
  • NX Arts in general
  • N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
  • NA Architecture


Research Output

1951: Festival Pleasure Gardens

Atkinson, H., Mar 2020, 2 p. London

Research output: Other contribution

Exhibitions and Transnational Exchange: Art and Design, Borders and Boundaries from 1945

Clarkson, V. (ed.), Atkinson, H. & Lichtman, S. (ed.), 2020, (Accepted/In press) Bloomsbury Academic.

Research output: Book/ReportBook - edited

Exhibitions as political ‘demonstrations’? Artists International Association’s For Liberty exhibition, London 1943

Atkinson, H., 1 Feb 2020, (Accepted/In press) ICDHS Conference Proceedings 2020.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNConference contribution with ISSN or ISBN

  • Artists, Refugees and the Festival of Britain

    Atkinson, H., 1 Mar 2019, Insiders/Outsiders: Refugees from Nazi Europe and Their Contribution to British Visual Culture. Bohm-Duchen, M. (ed.). London: Lund Humphries

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapter

    "Past and future meet and discuss": The 1951 Festival of Britain as point of historical liaison

    Atkinson, H., 2019, (Accepted/In press) In : V&A Journal.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Activities

    Design History Society Conference 2020

    Harriet Atkinson (Member of programme committee)
    3 Sep 20205 Sep 2020

    Activity: EventsConference

    Architectural Review and the MARS Group Exhibition 1938

    Harriet Atkinson (Presenter)
    8 Jul 2020

    Activity: External talk or presentationOral presentation

    RCA Professional Practice Seminar

    Harriet Atkinson (Presenter)
    20 Nov 2019

    Activity: External talk or presentationInvited talk