Fandom as ‘Design History in Praxis’: Fan-led practices of Pop Music Memorabilia Collection and Curation
My research throughout the duration of my time on the History of Design MA course has focused on the material products of 20th Century popular music cultures in the UK. As a member of the Performance pathway, this focus on popular music has engaged with questions surrounding the ephemeral nature of performance fragments and the tension this has with ideas of preservation. Additionally, my research has interacted with wider questions surrounding the place of popular cultures within history-making, and the museum.
For my first, object orientated, essay I examined a 1908 phonograph cylinder and box that is housed in the V&A’s Prints and Drawings Department. This essay dealt with the relationship between this physical, designed object, and the experiences and sensations that it evoked. Following on from this, my second historiographic essay examined interactive record cover designs from the 1970s, exploring various historical explanations that academics have presented as an explanation for this brief period of a specifically multi-sensory sleeve design.
My dissertation project continued the emphasis on consumers of popular music and its associated material cultures. In this sustained research, I traced the practices of fans who collect pop music memorabilia from the 1960s to 1980s, but continue to collect up until the present day, drawing on oral history interviews and material from fan websites and magazines. My findings concluded that pop music fan collectors are sophisticated in their practice, and constitute rich resources of material and lived knowledge surrounding pop music. My second chapter went on to weigh up how museum institutions working on pop music projects might benefit from various types of collaboration or co-curation with these fans and their private collections. Completing this dissertation research has left me with a keen interest in the way in which popular culture, more generally, can be represented in museum spaces in a way which encourages inclusivity and goes against cultural gatekeeping.