17 December 2019
My five years as Chair of the Society seem to have flown by.
I step down with the sense that the subject of Design History continues to flourish and grow, and yet it is also clear that challenges lie ahead. On a positive note, across postgraduate taught and research degrees, nationally and internationally, there is a vibrant energy. However, from the perspective of the UK, where art and design is being marginalised within the national school curriculum and recruitment to BA courses is endangered, the number of dedicated courses in Design History is shrinking. We must continue to lobby for our subject and represent it through every formal and informal channel.
Taking stock, 2017 was a landmark year, when the Society and Journal celebrated respectively their 40th and 30th anniversaries. Together, they continue to hold an important place within the subject as they seek to provide a supportive forum for debate and dialogue. The DHS research grants are an established and vital source for design historians to realise outputs of excellence, at all stages of their career. In recent years, we have introduced an annual programme of events and we invite you to join us in growing this for the future. Our Communications Officers and Ambassadors are reaching audiences far beyond our actual membership through innovative use of social media. And the award of the Student Essay prizes remains a special highlight at our annual conference.
One way to distinguish the Society’s years is to recall the venues of the conference. The diversity of recent venues is remarkably striking – San Francisco, Middlesex, Oslo, New York and Newcastle. The Society has been extremely fortunate that so many colleagues have generously acted as hosts with such flair and imagination.
All trustees contribute their expertise, skills and time on a voluntary basis. This means Saturdays spent in meetings in Farringdon and squeezing DHS matters often into evenings or weekends. On behalf of our members, I extend my warmest thanks to all of the trustees I have had the pleasure to work with during my term of office. Further, the role of Chair would be inconceivable without the support of the administrator. Elli Michaela Young has been in this post for at least eight years. Her dedication, good humour, patience, and sheer hard work deserve a medal. We wish Michaela all the best for the future as she steps down from her position at the end of the year.
To close, back in September 2014 my term of office began with an election during the War and Peace conference at Department of Continuing Education, University of Oxford. How fitting is the symmetry that I pass on the baton to Claire O’Mahony, who as many of you will remember, was the organiser and most welcoming host of this Oxford event.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish Claire a happy, rewarding and most successful time as the new Chair of the Society.