Core Project

At the heart of the Centre’s research is a broad-ranging analytical survey of the ways that western interiors have been represented over time. A key feature of the Core Project is the compilation of a database of visual and textual sources representing the domestic interior from 1400 to the present. The Core Project links and informs a series of more detailed Focused Studies (see link), which involve in-depth research into a variety of aspects of the domestic interior in particular places and periods.

The Centre’s research projects are comparative across time and space and share a set of common questions, in particular:

• What are the limitations and possibilities of the available sources for studying the history of the domestic interior?

• What is the relationship between precept and practice in the history of the domestic interior?

• What are the criteria – aesthetic, functional, and experiential – by which domestic interiors have been judged?

! • Did women’s cultural association with the domestic sphere translate into control of the appearance and use of the domestic interior?

• What have been the long-term processes of specialization in the use and character of domestic spaces, objects, and decoration?

• What have domestic interiors represented to those who experienced them?

• Has the physical and visual character of the interior constituted a system for the regulation of behaviour?

• To what extent have domestic interiors been sites of production?

• How useful is the distinction between élite and vernacular for analyzing the history of domestic spaces?

The methods used to answer these questions will vary according to the evidence available for different places and periods. Such methods include the critical analysis of images, objects, architectural plans and drawings, inventories and wills, letters and diaries, periodicals and advice manuals, novels and plays, as well as surviving interiors. Work on the twentieth century and after also involves the use of oral history and ethnography.