Dr Claire I R O'Mahony

Course Director MSt in the History of Design

Biography

Having joined the Department for Continuing Education in 2006, I created the MSt in the History of Design Programme for which I am Course Director. I am a Fellow of Kellogg College and and Associate of the History Faculty. I have served as Admissions Tutor for Kellogg College (2011-3); Director of Graduate Studies for the Department for Continuing Education (2013-16).

Whilst researching my doctorate under the supervision of Professor John House at the Courtauld Institute, Municipality and the Mural: Townhall Decoration in Third Republic France, I began my teaching career at the Courtauld, Birkbeck College, Reading and Thames Valley. My other roles have included of Director of History of Art Lifelong Learning at the University of Bristol (2002-7), Curator for 'Brunel and the Art of Invention' exhibition Bristol City Art Gallery (Brunel 200 project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund) 2006, Education Officer for Community and Secondary School groups at the Courtauld Gallery and Exhibition researcher at the Richard Green Galleries London, founding Assistant Editor of Art on the Line, Research Grant Coordinator on the Executive Committee of the Design History Society (2004-2008), member of the Centre for the Study of Visual and Literary Cultures in France, University of Bristol (2002-7).

Teaching

Postgraduate

My teaching addresses the history of art and design in modern Europe (1848-1968). I am Course Director of the Master of Studies programme in the History of Design, taught part-time over two years, described in this vodcast

Doctoral Supervision

At present I am supervising three doctoral projects in Architectural History looking at turn-of-the century luxury hotels in London (Emma Anderson); newsreel cinema design in interwar Britain (Kay Carson) and post-war British social housing 1945-80 (David Beardmore) . I welcome proposals from prospective doctoral candidates seeking to research visual and material cultures and design produced in Europe between 1870 and 1968.

Research interests

My research centres on the history of decoration in Europe particularly between 1870 and 1968; Third and Fourth Republic France are my primary focus. The relationships between design writing, materiality and the communication of private and public identity led me to a particular interest in the dialogue between Republican politics; aesthetic writing; decorative objects and interiors. Civic mural painting projects; glass, furniture, jewellery and tapestry; exhibition and theatre scenography have been the core case studies of my research. These sites and objects capture debates about regional identity and leftist politics with particular acuity. Fin-de-siècle decoration also affords insight into the sympathies and tensions between pantheistic organicism and natural science. The ways in which 'decoration' has been formulated as a gendered practice and ideological construct informs my investigations into the moral and pragmatic dilemmas between industrial processes and handicraft. 

My next project will explore decoration as a manifestation of regionalist political engagement since 1870. The argument focuses on the local creative industries of three borderland environments: glass produced during the annexation and post-1918 recuperation of Alsace-Lorraine; tapestry woven in Aubusson in the central region of the Creuse which became the border between zones during the 1940-4 Occupation and interior design for the international border spaces of transport design and high office in the 1960s. The methodology of the project is to provide an interdisciplinary cultural history of modern France examining how designed objects and environments embodied the Republic through its regions and the contested geo-political and aesthetic borders they represented.

Select Publications

Forthcoming:

  • 'Introduction' and 'Chapter 7 Exhibitions and Display' in A Cultural History of Furniture (six-volume series) editor of modern period volume (Bloomsbury Press, 2018)

 Books, Chapters and Articles:

Public Engagement

Academic Convenor:

  • 'Forest Green: Ecotopian Design for Travel, Sport and Food' session for 'Making and Unmaking the Environment' Design History Society Conference Univeristy of Oslo 7-9 September 2017
  • 'Bletchley, Cultural History and Creative Industry' Symposium 9 June 2017 Kellogg Colege
  • Design History Society Annual Conference 'Design for War and Peace' 4-6 September 2014 Department for Continuing Education (see Virtual Proceedings - films of 3 keynote lectures and 37 podcasts of academic papers)
  • 'Revisiting the Rite' conference 2013 held at Kellogg College  
  • Mid-Century Modernism conference 2012 held at Kellogg College  

Films of Public Lectures

Awards

Grant Funding

  • Pasold Fund Research Activity Grant in support of research into tapestry design for public buildings and ocean liners in Le Havre, Aubusson and Paris (2017).

  • Women in the Humanities Research Grant in support research trip to France exploring women's role in the modern tapestry revival (2015).

  • John Fell Fund grant in support of 'Design for War and Peace' 2014 Design History Society Conference and ensuing publication (2014).

  • Design History Society Research Conference Grants to support 'Revisiting the Rite' conference 2013 and Mid-Century Modernism conference 2012 both held at Kellogg College.