14 July 2017 -

Report: DHS Student Travel Award by Karen Price

My dissertation is an investigation into the promotion of and participation in handicrafts by members of the Armed Forces during World War II. Although the use of handicrafts as a tool for rehabilitation in both World Wars has been well studied, my research is exclusively focussed on the work done by Servicemen through organised courses and through private endeavour during active service. There is widespread textual and photographic evidence of courses and exhibitions that were organised throughout the United Kingdom during this time, but artefacts are much more difficult to find. The Design History Society Student Travel Award funded 7 days, 4 ferry journeys, 2 flights and numerous bus journeys in and around the Orkney and Shetland Islands, where I was able to study first-hand objects made by members of the Armed Forces during World War II.

In the Orkney Islands I visited Lyness Visitor Centre, the Orkney Museum, Stromness Museum, and the Orkney Library and Archives. I was also able to study local papers, as well as The Orkney Blast, the newspaper produced by the Forces, for the Forces on the islands. Most excitingly, I was able to study several toys made by Servicemen for local residents. The Shetland Museum and Archives had various ephemera relating to Army Arts and Crafts exhibitions held from 1942-1945. Additionally, they have in their collections a rabbit that was made using the same pattern as one in a file of templates and patterns used by the Education Officer of the Shetland Garrison during World War II.

Courtesy of Orkney Museum.

Courtesy of Shetland Museum and Archives.

Travelling up to the Orkney and Shetland Islands allowed me to make significant progress with my research, particularly with being able to link evidence and sources located at the Imperial War Museum, London with artefacts and primary sources in the Shetland and Orkney Isles. As a result of the trip, the importance of the Central Advisory Council for Education in H.M. Forces has become evident, and my research is now developing to focus on the development of a progressive educational system to promote individuality for the Servicemen; the shift from a rehabilitative to preventative approach to treating war neuroses; and, lastly, towards the psychological importance of the toys themselves, for both the Servicemen and the recipients that they made the toys for.

Courtesy of Orkney Museum.

I am really grateful to the Design History Society for facilitating my trip, and also to the numerous people at the Orkney Museum and the Shetland Museum and Archives, who made my trip so successful, and who are continuing to provide me with help from afar!

Karen Price
MSt Student, Department for Continuing Education, University of Oxford

Headline image: 1944 Home Fleet Art Exhibition: Soft Toys Class. © IWM (A 26886).


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