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K-State Today

April 29, 2016



Associate professor presents at Museum of World Culture

By Thom Jackson

Vibhavari Jani, associate professor in the interior architecture & product design department in the College of Architecture, Planning & Design, was invited to present at the Design Beyond the West: Ethnographic Collections and the History of Global Design workshop at the National Museum of World Cultures, in Sweden and the Netherlands.

The aim of this workshop is to develop a research and collections agenda for the National Museum of World Cultures around global design, as well as come up with ideas toward possible exhibitions. The workshop coincides with recent attempts to try and imagine a design history beyond the west, beyond the beaux-arts conception of design and its history.

Scholars, curators and designers from around the world are invited to participate in this workshop and think with the curators at the museum to generate a new agenda for design. Jani is the only Indian architect and North American designer invited to participate in this workshop based on her extensive research and groundbreaking publication "Diversity in Design: Perspectives from the Non-Western World" published in 2012. This book won Best Book award from the Interior Design Educators Council in 2012.

The workshop took place at the Research Center for Material Culture, April 19-20, in Leiden, Netherlands. Each year the center offers an ongoing series of academic and public programming around issues related to questions of "cultural" subjectivity, materiality and representation, which includes research fellowships, lectures, workshops and conferences.

The workshop was divided into three sessions: Global design histories, rethinking ethnographic museum collections through the lens of design, and curatorial approaches: acquisition and exhibitions. Jani presented her reflections on global design histories, and instigated conversations with academics, curators and designers to develop strategies and methodologies toward a more global conception and history of design. She also led vision development and brainstorming sessions.

The workshop participants explored important questions including: What role collections held in ethnographic museums can play in the rewriting of design histories, how might the critical lens of design thinking help one understand and shape the ways in which we interpret and utilize museum collections differently, what strategies the museum can employ to develop a more global history of design and to which earlier histories do they connect? What are the under explored histories of ethnographic museums within global design histories? What conceptions of design exist outside of traditional Western definitions?

Based on the workshop findings, Jani will continue to work with museum team in developing exhibition design ideas that promote the contributions of non-Western cultures in the development of design.