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Tomas Brown

Dissertation Title

Ware and Care: Repair as Design at the Turn of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

Tomas Brown

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My research focuses upon repair as a design activity – exploring how we can understand mending as a process that pulls together all sorts of material and human agents, from users far in the future, to a chip or fracture far in the past. Over the course of the History of Design MA, I have enjoyed working across a range of archives and subjects – from bone boxes tooled in Napoleonic prisoner of war camps, to the practice of stitching ceramic mends together with brass. In January 2020, I was selected for an exchange with the Bard Graduate Center, and worked with eminent conservators while taking part in their teaching surrounding digital archaeology and issues in conservation.

This time partially inspired my dissertation project, which looks at mending as a democratised design process, and the interplay between semi-professional restoration and conservation. I’m working with two radically different case studies; a 1896 instructional work by Charles Leland, ‘A Manual of Mending and Repairing’, and the experiences of graduates and staff of the RCA/V&A’s Conservation MA. Particularly during COVID19, these are demanding a willingness to experiment with my research methods – at the moment I’m experimenting with reconstruction and interviews! In the future, I would like to pursue a PhD surrounding mending and repairing, and to look for a way to blend academia with practice. Coming from a background in philosophy, where research tends to be exclusively cerebral, I’m interested in writing histories which are ‘hands on’, and thoroughly grounded in the material.