Disseminating design
: The Post-war Regional Impact of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Circulation Department

  • Joanna Weddell

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis establishes the post-war regional impact of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Circulation Department (Circ) which sent touring exhibitions to museums and art schools around the UK in the period 1947-1977, an area previously unexplored to any substantial depth. A simplistic stereotypical dyad of metropolitan authority and provincial deference is examined and evidence given for a more complex flow between Museum and regions. The Introduction outlines the thesis aims and the Department’s role in the dissemination of art and design. The thesis is structured around questions examining the historical significance of Circ, the display and installation of Circ’s regional exhibitions, and the flow of influence between regions and museum. Context establishes Circ not as a straightforward continuation of Cole’s Victorian mission but as historically embedded in the post-war period. The Historical Study outlines the Department’s origins and then divides into three sections; 1947-60 under Keeper Peter Floud, 1960-75 under Keeper Hugh Wakefield, and 1975-77 until closure, also covering Circ’s legacy within the Museum. Debates concerning the industrial and commodified inform an investigation of Circ’s acquisitions; design displays are discussed in relation to practices of vision. The evaluation concludes that Circ’s approach was tripartite, based on scholarly provenance, attention to design process and embrace of the contemporary, presented with some innovative displays. Two chapters concerning Impact on Regional Museums and Impact on Schools of Art, Designers & Industry make an original contribution to knowledge in establishing a balanced picture of the regional impact of the Department. Circ’s post-war activities are assessed using new primary research conducted at archives in Brighton, Cardiff, Liverpool, and Manchester, and interviews with former Circ staff. Circ is posited as a uniquely distanced but authoritative locus between state, design culture and industry and as historically significant in design and museology. The Conclusion summarises the Circulation model.
    Date of AwardApr 2018
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Brighton
    SupervisorJonathan Woodham (Supervisor)

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