Programme finalised and Registration open!

The programme for the Art, Aesthetics and Function workshop has now been posted! We have an exciting range of topics to be discussed, from portable art in the Palaeolithic, to an examination of propaganda printed in children’s magazines from the USSR to the USA, and the design of the everyday light bub and cassette player; as well as how these everyday objects have been integrated into museum spaces.

The full programme can be found here, and our registration page has instructions for how to attend the workshop. Space is limited, so make sure to sign up quickly!

We are looking forward to welcoming you all on April 20th!


Aims, Context, and Participation

Aims and Context

This seminar will bring together a group of speakers to present and discuss their research interests and findings on the themes of art, aesthetics and function – themes that can be applied across a range of disciplines, such as archaeology, anthropology, philosophy and numismatics. While the proposed seminar’s scope is wide, the themes allow speakers to highlight the interwoven aspects of aesthetics and function in a way that will promote collaborative research and discussion.

The content of the seminar will be focusing on commonplace and everyday objects, the aesthetic choices made during their production, and the ways these choices impact on their functional lives.

The possibilities that these aesthetic choices are dictated by the politics of propaganda, inspired by oral or literary histories, influenced by rites or rituals or a reflection of individual or collective identities will be explored. Did the individuals or groups behind these objects follow aesthetic traditions or break from artistic conventions, and did such deviations from convention transform the functions of objects? A detailed insight into how various cultures incorporated these conventions and deviations into everyday objects may contrast with often more explored visual culture behind larger or rarer objects created solely for artistic or monumental purposes.

By focusing on everyday objects, researchers are able to re-fashion narratives of the past and challenge the assumptions which scholarship has constructed around extraordinary and exceptional objects. This is especially important when considering empires that contained multiple, diverse cultural groups, as well as states whose craftsmen and merchants created objects with a view to a foreign markets and tastes. We hope it might be possible to access the experience of commonplace aesthetics on a human scale in this way and consider the contribution of this habitual experience to individual and collective identities.

We hope that this different approach to aesthetics will provide a chance to bring new life to many of the commonplace objects that fill the stores of museums, and provide new perspectives on what it means for an object to be “everyday”.


This event has been specifically designed with the postgraduate, early career researcher and professional community in mind, both inside and outside the British Museum, hence its very broad remit. We are hoping to pull in papers and expertise from as many disciplines and time periods as possible, with the aim of creating a truly collaborative environment, where we can share knowledge and ideas with researchers from a diverse range of backgrounds. This event aims to provide a valuable chance for networking and cross-pollination, as well as a chance to catch up with each other’s research.

A spate of recent publications has illustrated the fact that aesthetics is currently a much discussed topic among collaborative researchers in the humanities. The Return of Aesthetics to Archaeology project, for example, is co-organised by the archaeology and philosophy departments of Durham University and explores themes relating to the way archaeologists deal with aesthetics; subjectivity for example. Recent publications such as Art and Archaeology: Collaborations, Conversations, Criticisms (Russell and Cochrane 2013) and Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture (Ingold 2013) have further demonstrated the increasing willingness of archaeologists and anthropologists to collaborate with the art world and explore the presence of aesthetics in archaeological discourse beyond symbolic reasoning or typological classification.

We hope that, through this seminar, we will be able to further contribute to this discussion, and broaden it out to a wider range of academic disciplines, and we would love as many of you as possible to be involved – whether you’d like to present your research or just come along and participate in discussion.

Forthcoming Workshop February 12th – In(ter)ventions

In(ter)ventions: Object Histories Outside and Inside the Museum is the next CDA student-led workshop scheduled to take place in the British Museum’s Sackler Rooms on 12th February 2015. This exciting workshop, organised by Naomi Lebens (Courtauld Institute of Art/British Museum) and Felicity Roberts (King’s College London/British Museum) will explore how ‘museum objects have been used, changed and re-contextualized over the course of their existence’.

The In(ter)ventions programme is now finalised and can be found on the workshop’s website. The themes, expertise and topics are diverse, including ancient gems, birds of paradise skins, reliquaries, Tibetan book covers and Suffragette coins. The accompanying keynote paper by Arthur Macgregor and the discussion to follow will, no doubt, be just as interesting.

Registration opens soon! See you all there!

Call for Papers

Art, Aesthetics and Function: Collaborative Approaches to Everyday Objects

20/04/2015, The British Museum (Sackler Rooms)

Organisers: Alex Magub (British Museum/SOAS), Helen Chittock (British Museum/University of Southampton).

This full-day workshop hosted at the British Museum intends to bring new life to the everyday objects that are more often found among storage shelves, rather than in full sight of the public eye.

Each speaker will have 15 minutes to share their interests and research findings on the theme of everyday objects, and how the art, aesthetics and function of these objects interact in everyday life. Each paper will then be followed by 10 minutes of discussion. These object-driven stories may highlight the kinds of aesthetic choices being made, such as whether an object’s design was dictated by the politics of propaganda, inspired by oral or literary histories, influenced by rites or rituals, or reflect individual or collective identities. Has the maker of the object in question followed aesthetic traditions or broken away from convention? How do such aesthetic deviations transform the function of these objects?

A second aim of this workshop is to invite discussion from people with experience in various disciplines, such as archaeology, anthropology, philosophy and numismatics. While the workshop’s themes revolving around art, aesthetics and function in everyday objects is wide, this event will give speakers the opportunity to hear feedback on their research subject in a collaborative and interdisciplinary environment. This event aims to help speakers and audience members further their research by thinking about new methodologies and approaches to everyday objects.

Aesthetics has become a widely discussed topic among collaborative researchers in recent years and the energy behind these areas of dialogue will be applied to everyday objects in this workshop, so that new aspects about these objects may be highlighted in contrast to the often more explored visual culture behind larger or rarer objects created for solely artistic or monumental purposes.

If you are interested in attending the seminar, but do not intend to give a paper, please check this website for registration details. We will update the registration page once the schedule is finalised.

Please send an abstract of your paper of no more than 250 words, together with a brief biography or CV, to by January 30th. We hope to receive contributions from postgraduate students, early career researchers, and museum and gallery professionals.