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Title: Designing display in the department store : techniques, technologies, and professionalization, 1880-1920
Author: Orr, Emily Marshall
ISNI:       0000 0004 6062 5969
Awarding Body: Royal College of Art
Current Institution: Royal College of Art
Date of Award: 2017
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Between 1880 and 1920 displays in leading department stores reached an unprecedented level of artistic and commercial ambition that required professional skill, engaged with technology, earned consumer attention, and provided distinction between stores. Merchandise arrangements conveyed technical proficiency and innovation specific to the retail setting while their form and content were also in conversation with current events, art, urban life, and popular culture. This thesis explores the making, viewing, and meanings of display. Discussion will be framed around the following questions: What role did display design play in the development of department stores in Chicago, New York and London at the turn of the twentieth century and how can the impact and significance of display be identified in the stores’ material and visual cultures? Drawing from a diverse range of unexplored primary resources and archives, this thesis reveals a set of previously underrepresented design roles, tools, and techniques of display production in the practice of architects, window dressers, shopfitters, and interior decorators who employed manual and mechanical methods to create displays that were on constant view and in continual flux. In this newly changeable retail environment, display’s alignment with fin-de-siècle modernity is explored through the themes of speed, variation, fragmentation, rationalization, and theatricality. Overall this thesis analyzes how display achieved an agency to transform everyday objects into commodities and to make consumers out of passersby.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: British Association of Victorian Studies ; Hagley Museum and Library ; Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation ; Pasold Research Fund ; Royal College of Art Student Research Conference Fund ; Royal Historical Society
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: W290 Design studies not elsewhere classified