The potential for use of museum collections in ceramic higher
education courses with particular reference to the Victoria & Albert
Museum Spiral Project
This seminar was arranged in response to a request to Nache from
the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, for comment and ideas
about the future use of their new Spiral building extension designed
by Daniel Leibskind.
A paper was submitted by Oliver Watson which was used to form a
structure for the discussions.
Delegates from eighteen Nache member courses participated and this
paper is published as a consequence of the seminar.
This paper will form the response from Nache to the V&A and
will also be circulated to the complete membership.
Nache Seminar report
Edinburgh College of Art, Lauriston Place, Edinburgh EH3 9DF
Wednesday March 11th 1998
The potential for use of museum collections in ceramic higher education
courses, with particular reference to the Victoria & Albert
Museum Spiral Project.
To debate a wide range of ideas in relation to the subject
To address some of the issues identified in the paper from Oliver
To formulate a response from Nache to the V&A in the form of
a paper published as a consequence of the seminar.
Paper from Oliver Watson
What would make groups of students visit the V&A more frequently,
for longer, more profitably; ie what services / facilities do you
need that we do not offer at present?
Course work visits
Workrooms? for how many? for how long? Particular requirements?
Ability to access objects? Need they be gallery objects or just
a handling collection?
How specific need such objects be ( ie could we devise a small series
of "standard" object groups, or would each object group
have to be tailor made for each student visit?
Do you need more information about the things themselves, if so
what exactly? Technical? Social? Historical? Bibliographies.
How best would information be delivered? via electronic, paper or
human based systems?
Are on-line catalogues of large numbers of objects useful?
Would such information be used from college independent of a visit.
Ability to request certain combinations of things on display?
How large a display?
Are there set themes (eg teapots) which could be scheduled regularly?
Could there be liaison between colleges to agree a joint theme for
a term / year ? Scheduling in advance - what sort of notice is needed
- weeks - months - years?
Organised events (lectures, conferences, etc.)
Scheduling in advance - what sort of notice is needed? weeks -
months - years?
Topics - how best to decide?
Would there be a call for Nache to arrange talks etc. here?
Summary of points raised
The opportunity to easily access and handle objects
of quality is absolutely vital.
The interaction between people and objects, sharing ideas, is recognised
as producing the best educational experience.
The potential exists for interaction between courses and groups.
Staff would like to be able to go along with small and larger groups
of students and have staff from the V&A available to work with
the groups, contributing their particular knowledge and expertise.
Regional museums already offer good opportunities to work with student
groups within their collections. It was noted that the V&A has
examples of most types of ceramic where regional museums do not.
The potential for the use of themes was well supported.
Themes would facilitate having groups of objects which could be
Theme lectures and events around displays.
Mesh theme displays within the wider context of museum holdings.
Break down the departmental ways in which the V&A is structured
so themes may be addressed.
A group visit to a special display is one way of instilling curiosity;
how can we encourage returning to engage in further study?
Time scale- It is most likely that the majority of group visits
would take place during late autumn - early spring .
How the V&A is used by ceramic groups may set examples for other
It was noted that our students may come up with far more interesting
ideas than us.
Nache may be able to develop themes which could be put forward
A Nache representative should included in planning for the future.
The potential is there to make demands on the V&A from Nache
The need for liaison in planning and preliminary work and the following
up of an experience was recognised as vital.
The should be more interactive collaborations between universities
Projects which develop curatorial skills, primary research and post
grad access would all benefit from liaison.
Not everything should be displayed behind glass; handling should
not be a really difficult area for the V&A to deal with.
There is much interest in cross referencing materials and processes.
There are good collections to be seen and used throughout the country
so it must be emphasised that it is special at V&A.
The context in which objects are seen is vital.
How we read objects, bringing different people together, the human
element inputs from staff, are important considerations in display.
There is potential for developing linear historical groupings of
20th century studio pottery, a topic which many recognised as a
common taught area.
Electronic communications are very important.
Planning for visits may be better undertaken with the use of a digital
catalogue of the holdings. The more complete the description the
Partner institutions from abroad may be brought in to collaborate
in this field.
The museum should be looking more at contemporary practice.
There must be interest from the V&A in contemporary European
ceramic work being shown.
Our partners in Europe can find prestigious venues for outstanding
work to be shown; the V&A should be operating in this field.
Major retrospectives of British potters which currently cannot find
a London venue should be brought into an exhibition programme.
Practice can become divorced from the history of the subject there
are opportunities here to draw it back in.
The V&A should be involved in lecture programmes and debate
rather than demonstrations which are currently readily available
It was recognised that a good seminar space is invaluable and ideally
a 20 bed hostel within the new building would help promote educational
use of the holdings.
There will be a growth in demand for dissertation research opportunities
as university departments begin to handle these aspects of their
- There is potential for developing greater use of the V&A
museum by Nache member courses. In order to facilitate this a
representative of Nache should be included in future planning.
- The new building offers opportunities to supplement some of
the ideas which Nache is involved with in the promotion of current
ceramic work.The established connections, with the V&A and
Nache exhibitions, should continue and begin to explore new possibilities
brought forth within the Spiral.
- The potential for developing research possibilities within
the fast growing area of post graduate and research work in the
ceramic field should be investigated.
Report prepared by the Nache events committee 1998.
Alex McErlain, Martin Smith, Felicity Aylieff.
Bretton Hall College
University of Derby
Edinburgh College of Art
University of Cardiff
Limerick School of Art & Design
University of Wolverhampton
Bath Spa University College University
University of the West of England
University of Central Lancashire
Manchester Metropolitan University
University of Ulster
National College of Art & Design, Dublin
University of Central England in Birmingham
Loughborough College of Art & Design
Royal College of Art
Victoria & Albert Museum
Liverpool Hope University