Young woman wearing Donald Duck sweatshirt

Art and design, visual and material culture research

Explore our research expertise in histories and theories of art and design, visual and material culture

Our research locates the historical and contemporary production and consumption of art, design, visual and material culture in wider social, cultural, political and economic contexts. We explore how the meanings of artefacts are not just fixed at the point of production — they change through time, having multiple and sometimes conflicting meanings. We have a particular interest in curation and exhibitions.

Our research covers the following topics

  • Visualising history
  • US and UK popular culture
  • Cultures of collecting
  • Curatorship and curatorial practice
  • Spectacle and display
  • Domestic design
  • History of the home
  • House histories

Methods and facilities

We use qualitative research techniques, such as ethnography, visual
and textual analysis. We also use practice and theoretical research in curation.
Our primary research is conducted in museums, galleries and archives on historical artefacts and related documentation.

We have facilities to explore practical experimentation and prototyping – these include the Eldon Production Centre (EPC) with 3D printers, plastic, wood and metal workshop, digital fabric printers, screen printing workshops with letter press and photography studio. We also have access to facilities in CCIXR.

Collaborations and funders

We've worked with the Wellcome Trust, the V&A museum and others to curate exhibitions using their large collections. We're supervising Collaborative Doctoral Partnerships with the Science Museum and Portsmouth City Museum and Art Gallery and previously with Hampton Court Palace.

The Wellcome Collection’s exhibition ‘Brains: The Mind as Matter’, was directly informed by our research and the curatorial practice of guest curator, Dr. Marius Kwint. Marcus also co-curated the acclaimed Biennale collateral event ‘Frontiers Re-Imagined: Art that Connects Us’.

Professor Deborah Sugg Ryan is series consultant and onscreen expert to the BBC Two documentary series, ‘A House Through Time’ (Twenty Twenty Television). 

Recent funders for our work include the AHRC, British Academy, Paul Mellon Centre, Ruskin University, the Film Hub SouthEast and the Henry Moore Foundation. We've also been involved with EU funded projects.

Discover our areas of expertise

Visual and material culture is one of the areas of expertise within our Art and Design: Practice, Theory and History – explore the others below.

Fashion, textiles and material futures

Our fashion, textiles and material futures research is addressing important issues around fashion and textile design and its associated industries.

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Graphic and communication design

Our research is looking at the history of design, and ethnographic studies in relation to design, design usability, legibility studies, design knowledge, and epistemology.

A monochromatic piece of graphic design
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Illustration, Drawing, Artists Books and Zines

Our research explores how self-publishing can allow a more diverse range of authors to communicate with an audience and investigates authorial illustration as an emerging genre.

illustrator drawing in sketch book, close-up
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We're using the photographic image in its expanded field as an investigative tool. Our research explores photography as a medium, and investigates how photographic practices shape individual subjectivity and modernity.

Student taking a photo with DSLR
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Our members

Marius Stuart Kwint Portrait

Dr Marius Kwint

Reader in Visual Culture

School of Art, Design, and Performance

Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries

PhD Supervisor

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Deborah Sugg Ryan Portrait

Media ready expert

Professor Deborah Sugg Ryan

Professor of Design History and Theory

Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries

PhD Supervisor

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Trevor William Keeble Portrait

Professor Trevor Keeble

Executive Dean

PhD Supervisor

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Oliver David Gruner Portrait

Dr Oliver Gruner

Senior Lecturer

School of Art, Design, and Performance

Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries

PhD Supervisor

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Simon Ian Hobbs Portrait

Dr Simon Hobbs

Senior Lecturer

School of Art, Design, and Performance

Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries

PhD Supervisor

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Interested in a PhD in Art & Design?

Browse our postgraduate research degrees – including PhDs and MPhils – at our Art & Design postgraduate research degrees page.