About Harriet Atkinson

Harriet Atkinson is a Senior Lecturer in History of Art and Design at University of Brighton. She leads the AHRC-funded project: The Materialisation of Persuasion.

A Festival of Brexit?

On Tuesday 5th November, Harriet was interviewed by James O’Malley, journalist and creator of the Pod Delusion podcast about the government’s idea for a 2022 Festival of Brexit, which, despite being subject to much criticism when it was first announced in 2018, was revealed this week still to be in development. Harriet talked about the critical reception of the Festival of Britain in 1951 and the Millennium Dome in 2000 and the potential for an event in 2022 to be a success. Listen to the conversation here at 14.50.

While AHRC Fellow Harriet has researching in an extensive private archive of material about the development and design of the Millennium Dome.

Exhibitions and Transnational Exchange: art and design, borders and boundaries since 1945

Work is progressing well towards publication of Exhibitions and Transnational Exchange: art and design, borders and boundaries since 1945, the collection of essays that Harriet is co-editing with Dr Sarah Lichtman (Parsons The New School) and Dr Verity Clarkson (Brighton), coming out with Bloomsbury Academic in 2020.

Harriet presents her research at Tate Britain

On Friday 18th October 2019, Harriet presented a paper entitled ‘”From the tail of the class to the front row”? The impact of Bauhaus exhibition technique on Britain’ at a one-day workshop at Tate Britain. This paper drew on new research she has been carrying out as AHRC Fellow.

In the paper, Harriet analysed exhibition designer Misha Black’s claim, which he made in 1950, that after years languishing ‘at the tail of the class’, Britain had pioneered a new approach to contemporary exhibition design, bringing them to the ‘front row’. This, he said, was the recent creation of ‘informative and story-telling’ exhibitions, a form in which Britain now led the world. The archetype of this style, according to Black, was the London MARS Group Exhibition of 1938 for which László Moholy-Nagy had acted as co-ordinator, handing the role to Black on his departure for Chicago. Harriet’s paper questioned the extent to which the ‘new’ approach to exhibition design, the reproducible textual-visual spatial hybrid form used by the Ministry of Information as World War Two propaganda, could be attributed to the impact of Bauhaus ideas and ideals.

The workshop, entitled “Reconfiguring Relationships: Britain and the Bauhaus”, convened by Elizabeth Darling (Oxford Brookes), Emilie Oléron Evans (Queen Mary University of London) and Rachel Rose Smith (Independent, Tate Research), brought together scholars and curators with research interests related to connections between Britain and the Bauhaus school.

Further details are on the blog of University of Brighton’s Centre for Design History blog.

Design History Society Conference 2019: The Cost of Design

In September 2019, Harriet chaired a session related to her research interests – on the theme of ‘Exhibitions and Persuasion’ – at the Design History Society‘s 2019 conference on the theme of ‘The Cost of Design‘. Held at University of Northumbria and co-convened by Dr Elizabeth Kramer and Dr Janine Barker, the conference explored the complexities of the historic and contemporary relationship between design and economy.

The panel included three papers: ‘Reorienting Identities at the Imperial Fairground: British Malaya and North Borneo’, by Dr Jesse O’Neill, Lecturer, Glasgow School of Art; ‘Design’s diplomatic turn: Contemporary design festivals as a tool of and for soft power’ by Enya Moore, Doctoral Candidate, University of Technology Sydney and ‘Regulating Movement: The ICOM Customs Label for Circulating Exhibitions’ by Nushelle de Silva, Doctoral Candidate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Harriet appointed Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Following her award of a Postgraduate Certificate (PG Cert) in Teaching & Learning in Higher Education, completed at University of Brighton in summer 2019, Harriet has been appointed Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. To mark the culmination of her PG Cert Harriet exhibited a research poster at University of Brighton’s Teaching & Learning conference in July based on work she carried out for the Educational Enquiry module entitled ‘What is the role of the extended essay in a Visual Communications degree?’

Harriet Atkinson presents at the University of Brighton Research & Enterprise Festival

On Friday 5th July 2019, Harriet attended the University of Brighton’s Research & Enterprise Festival to speak to a university-wide audience about how her Rising Stars Award led to a successful AHRC Leadership Fellowship. She addressed a packed lecture theatre and then answered questions alongside fellow Rising Stars recipient colleagues Dr Suna Eryigit-Madzwamuse, Senior Research Fellow, Health Sciences; Dr Melanie Flint, Reader in Cancer Research; and, Dr Marlon Moncrieffe, Senior Lecturer in School of Education.







Building-Object-Design-Architecture at Birkbeck College

On 8th June Harriet chaired a session at ‘Building-Object-Design-Architecture: exploring interconnections‘ at Birkbeck College. The conference set about exploring old, new and future interconnections between Design History and Architectural History. It addressed the disciplines’ shared historiography, theory, forms of analysis and objects of critical enquiry, and drew attention to how recent developments in the one could have significant implications for the other. Harriet chaired a session on the theme of ‘Interiors’, with contributions from Panagiotis Doudesis (Pembroke College, Cambridge) on ‘Between micro- and macro-: The design of an ephemeral construction for a nocturnal divertissement at Versailles in the summer of 1674’, Aurora Laurenti (University of Turin) on ‘Design and Decoration in Rococo carved interiors’ and Alistair Cartwright (Birkbeck) on ‘Partitioning Practices in Postwar London Interiors, c. 1960’.

Anglo-Swiss Connections in an Expanded Field: Modernism in Typography and Graphic Design, 1950-80

On 3 and 4 June 2019, Harriet co-convened and co-chaired a University of Brighton research workshop through Centre for Design History entitled ‘Anglo-Swiss Connections in an Expanded Field: Modernism in Typography and Graphic Design, 1950-80‘, working with Professor Jeremy Aynsley (Director of Centre for Design History), Dr Sue Breakell (Design Archives) and Dr Lesley Whitworth (Design Archives). The two-day workshop drew international graphic design researchers together to introduce the Anthony Froshaug and Richard Hollis archives and to reflect on the research significance and potential of those archives. Contributors included Davide Fornari on ‘The Sources of Jan Tschichold’s The New Typography’, Sandy Jones on ‘Networking diaspora collections: the Jan Tschichold purchases of New Typography’, Robert Lzicar on ‘Ideologies of Modernism: On Anthony Froshaug’s “Typography is a Grid”‘, Robert Harland on ‘Mesographic theory: analysing the City of Westminster street nameplate’, Vaibhav Singh on ‘Modernism’s unfinished projects? The Indian connection’, Tania Messell ‘Humanitarian Relief and Graphic Design: Transnational Circuits’, Jeremy Aynsley on ‘Graphic Design Magazines in the 1950s’, Jessica Jenkins on ‘Swiss Posters in the GDR’, Dora Souza Dias on ‘Locating Transnational Interactions in Brazilian design in the 1960s’ and Priscila Farias on ‘From Utopia to dystopia: modernist typography in Brazil 1950-1980’.

Harriet Atkinson appointed to join the Editorial Advisory Board of Bloomsbury Design Library

Harriet is delighted to have been appointed to join the Editorial Advisory Board of Bloomsbury Design Library, the digital resource for design and craft studies of Bloomsbury Academic.  The Library, which launched in July 2017, aims to provide a comprehensive resource for students and teachers of moving image studies. The site’s General Editor is Clive Edwards, Professor Emeritus of Design at Loughborough University. 

The main collection comprises eBooks published by Bloomsbury, including the major reference works Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design, Victor Margolin’s World History of Design, and Encyclopedia of Asian Design. The site also includes lesson plans and bibliographic guides on key topics in the study of design and craft which are in front of the paywall and free to access; an exhibitions archive and over 100 designer pages with links to related content. There are also image collections from major international museums and galleries such as the Museum of Art and Design in New York. 

Previously, Harriet acted as one of six section editors for The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design, working with overall editor Professor Clive Edwards. The Encyclopedia, which forms part of the Bloomsbury Design Library, provides entries on design from 1800 to the present day, with global coverage by leading international design scholars and design historians. Harriet was responsible for commissioning all entries related to the dissemination of design ideas and methods: through museums and exhibitions, art and design schools, journals and department stores, amongst other means. She commissioned around three hundred entries from international historians (from Australia, to Japan, to India and the USA and beyond). Harriet also wrote a number of entries reflecting her particular research interests in exhibition design and design theory. Other entries in the volumes are on key topics in the history and theory of design, addressing a range of design forms including graphic, textile, furniture, metal, ceramic, fashion, stage and film, vehicle and product design, as well as national histories of design and key design movements. The Encyclopedia was chosen by Choice, the publication of the American Library Association, as one of their outstanding academic titles of 2016.

Harriet contributes to a new book about refugees from Nazi Europe and their contribution to British visual culture

Materialisation of Persuasion lead researcher Harriet Atkinson has contributed a chapter entitled ‘Refugees and the Festival of Britain’ to a new book, published this week, entitled Insiders Outsiders: Refugees from Nazi Europe and their Contribution to British Visual Culture.The book is edited by Monica Bohm-Duchen and published by Lund Humphries.

The book examines the extraordinarily rich and pervasive contribution of refugees from Nazi-dominated Europe to the visual culture, art education and art-world structures of the United Kingdom. In every field, émigrés arriving from Europe in the 1930s – supported by a small number of like-minded individuals already resident in the UK – introduced a professionalism, internationalism and bold avant-gardism to a British art world not known for these attributes. At a time when the issue of immigration is much debated, the book serves as a reminder of the importance of cultural cross-fertilization and of the deep, long-lasting and wide-ranging contribution that refugees make to British life.

Essays in the book are written by: Richard Aronowitz, Harriet Atkinson, Michael Berkowitz, Morwenna Blewett, Monica Bohm-Duchen, Charmian Brinson, Andrew Chandler, Hans Christian Hönes, Leyla Daybelge, Rachel Dickson, Keith Holz, Amanda Hopkinson, Shauna Isaac, Swantje Kuhfuss-Wickenheiser, Simon Lake, Sarah MacDougall, Anna Müller-Härlin, Sir Norman Rosenthal, Anna Nyburg, Michael Paraskos, Antony Penrose, Alan Powers and Daniel Snowman

Find out more about the 2019 Insiders Outsiders Festival here.