Postgraduate taught 

Art History: Dress & Textile Histories MLitt

Shaping Modern Artefacts: Material Form and Function HISTART5130

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Culture and Creative Arts
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: No

Short Description

This course considers the form, function and style of modern material artefacts of applied arts and social history to understand what they are made from, how and when they were made, and how they were used and valued. It aims to enable students to recognise synthetic and other modern materials made since the 1850s by artefact shapes and to develop observational and critical skills in object-based studies.


1 x 1hr lecture per week over 10 weeks as scheduled on MyCampus

1 x 1hr seminar per week over 10 weeks as scheduled on MyCampus

1 x 1 hr external visit

Excluded Courses





Written essay, 2,000 words (40%)

Written report, 2,000 words (40%)

Practical assessment oral report, 10 mins (20%)

Main Assessment In: April/May

Course Aims

This course aims to:

■ Introduce typical forms, functions and styles of modern material artefacts in collections of applied arts (decorative, fashion, design) and social history.

■ Develop knowledge of characteristic construction and production features for classic objects made since the 1850s to recognise and identify synthetic and other modern materials in their manufactured state as commercial goods.

■ Develop knowledge of historical availability and choices of modern materials through case studies and major technological and artistic development to enable dating of artefacts and explain their material condition.

■ Introduce theoretical concepts of cultural and societal values and attitudes towards the significance of modern materials as artefacts.

■ Develop observational and critical skills for object-based studies of modern materials by object examination and documentation and archival technical material investigation methods to investigate and communicate research findings.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to: 

■ Recognise common modern material artefacts of applied arts (decorative, fashion and design) and social history by characteristic object appearances, manufacture, uses and dates.

■ Critically discuss modern material artefacts for every-day and designed products in contexts of historical technological, artistic developments, and social and cultural values.

■ Critically identify and interpret modern materials artefacts using cultural heritage methodologies of object examination, technical material investigation and research of archival information sources.

■ Communicate evidence of interdisciplinary observations and investigations for historical modern materials.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.