Volume 11 Issue 2 (2015): Experiential Knowledge, Expertise, and Connoisseurship
Main Articles

Developing Expertise and Connoisseurship Through Handling Objects of Good Design: Example of the I.L.E.A./Camberwell Collection

Maria Georgaki
University of the Arts London
Published December 8, 2015
  • design history,
  • material culture,
  • pedagogical practice,
  • object-based learning,
  • sensory engagement,
  • cultural capital,
  • connoisseurial knowledge
  • ...More


This article takes an existing collection of design objects, the I.L.E.A./Camberwell Collection, to discuss issues of expertise, connoisseurship, and taste-formation. The article examines how the discipline of design history provides appropriate methodologies which explain expertise and connoisseurship in design with reference to the taste agenda informing the I.L.E.A./Camberwell Collection. The investigation focuses on disentangling and appraising the collection’s dual identity: as the repository of a historically contained notion of taste and as an active educational agent, being currently utilized in the University of the Arts London as a learning resource. The article proposes “handling” as a relevant research perspective. Handling’s particular advantages in investigating material culture are presented with reference to the increased importance of object-based learning and the need to extend the dominance of vision and language as the main learning modalities. The conclusion argues that while taste-formation on the principles of “good design” proved a flawed project, the practice of handling objects is of unique pedagogical value and fosters the development of expertise and connoisseurship in design.