The present thesis investigates educational aspects of material culture, examining the I.L.E.A./Camberwell Collection as a case study for the teaching of ‘good design’ in post-war Britain from 1951 to 1977. The methodological approaches used are drawn from the disciplines of design history, material culture studies, educational theory,museology and sociology. The main objectives of the thesis aim to examine ‘good design’ as an educational project, to establish the socio-cultural contexts that produced the I.L.E.A./Camberwell Collection, to relate these contexts to the premise of ‘good design’, and to assess the Collection’s educational affordances, both historical and contemporary. In order to illuminate how the I.L.E.A./Camberwell Collection represented the didacticism of ‘good design’, the investigation locates the historical and educational roots of ‘good design’ in relation to specific time-frames and practices, especially with regards to initiatives driven by government. The thesis examines good design’s alignment to the terms ‘modern’/‘modernism’/ ‘modernity’ as these have been used within design history, and it demonstrates how signifieds pertaining to ‘good design’ change over time. I have used Bourdieu’s theory of taste-formation to investigate the extent to which the formation of taste, as identified in the project of ‘good design’, had been implemented with regards to the I.L.E.A./Camberwell Collection in order to influence social positioning and consumer choices. However, the thesis argues that the modalities of language and vision,which Bourdieusian analysis relies on, need to be extended. I have therefore considered the contribution of ‘handling’ and I have argued its importance as an educational method. The thesis shows that as education in Britain evolved from didactic models to learner-centred, coconstructiveones, the Collection’s educational pertinence shifted from the aesthetic exemplar to the handling resource. The investigation demonstrates the significance of the I.L.E.A./Camberwell Collection as a resource in itself and as paradigmatic of object-based-learning. In addition, the thesis presents a methodological example of how a poorly-documented collection may be examined, thus adding new approaches to the repository of design historical research.
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