Helen Cresswell and Ruth Mason graduated together from the Victoria and Albert Museum and Royal College of Art’s History of Design MA in 2012. It was while studying on this course that they first became interested in the material culture of the 1862 International Exhibition and the nineteenth-century.

Helen Cresswell is a freelance design writer and curator with a specialism in textile history.  After studying a BA in Classical Archaeology and Ancient History at Oxford University, she returned to her roots in Lancashire where she became involved in the Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth Textile Collection (now the Gawthorpe Textiles Collection).  This craft initiative and collection became the focus of her dissertation at the V&A/RCA, where she became interested in how women create cultural networks through textiles.   Helen has worked for the V&A in the Furniture, Textiles and Fashion Department, contributing to the delivery of the Clothworkers’ Centre for the Study and Conservation of Textiles and Fashion.  Alongside her current research projects she has also been collaborating with the embroiderer Diana Springall, working upon a documentation project of the artist’s contemporary textile collection.

Ruth Mason is now a PhD student in the Geography department at University College London. Having studied a BA in Art History at Oxford University and presently the recipient of the 2013-14 History Wolfson Scholarship, her academic interests span and combine the various disciplinary areas she has, and is, working within. Her PhD research is concerned with the design of spaces of Methodist practice in Britain between 1851 and 1932. Defining both ‘design’ and ‘spaces of Methodist practice’ very broadly, she is interested in how humans, objects and activities design locations of Methodist worship, evangelicalism, social relations and even business practice. It is hoped that consideration of these locations as designed spaces will provide an alternative insight into the practices of Methodists from the bottom up. This PhD project combines Ruth’s broader interests in nineteenth-century British society and the role of material culture and spatial design as sources of insight into historical lived experiences.

Helen and Ruth are also members of Fig.9, the experimental design history collective.  The group are all from the V&A/RCA History of Design student class of 2012.  During their studies they founded Unmaking Things: A Design History Studio – the online space for exploring innovative approaches to the study of design and objects, currently in its third year.  To discover more about the collective and their current projects please visit www.fig9collective.com or email: editors@fig9collective.com