Eleanor Watson profile

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Eleanor Watson

Kingston University London (2023)


Professor Penny Sparke


Developing semi-permanent design displays in an era of rapid climate change


This Collaborative Doctoral Award between Kingston University and the Design Museum explores the role and format of the semi-permanent design display, and how this traditional museum format can be adapted to accommodate and communicate key twenty-first century issues. The focus of the project will be on the ability of semi-permanent displays to capture the rapid changes brought about by climate change.

The project will use the Design Museum’s upcoming rehang of its semi-permanent display ‘Designer Maker User’ as a central case study, undertaking extensive research into the current and proposed display as well as the collection on which these displays are based. In response to this research a series of small experimental displays will be staged at the Design Museum to test new curatorial approaches, challenging accepted formats for semi-permanent displays and opening up new avenues of exploration. These displays will inform the project’s final output: the development of a thesis and curatorial plan that will offer long-term guidance for the production of semi-permanent displays and associated collecting policies applicable, and of value, to other comparable institutions.

This research will make a significant contribution to both design and museological discourse. While the project will be firmly linked to the Design Museum, insights and inspiration will be drawn from comparative international institutions. These will be gathered through individual interviews with leading curators and design educators, as well as through a roundtable discussion to be hosted in the second year of the project. Participant recruitment will prioritise marginalised voices typically excluded from mainstream design discourse and the project will actively seek to address the museum’s current Western-centric focus.