MA Design History and Material Culture - AD456P

The MA in Design History and Material Culture is a pioneering course that examines the history of design and material culture from the eighteenth century through to the present day, providing a unique forum for the study of objects, architecture and interiors. In 2024 the MA will run as a part-time course i.e. one day a week in class, over 2 years.

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Watch our Postgrad Futures Week Design History and Material Culture Webinar Here!

Duration: 2 Years

Starts: September 2024

Credits: 90 MA / 120 MFA 

The MA Design History explores objects, systems, buildings and spaces in their contemporary and historic contexts. At its heart is an enquiry into the relationships of spaces, things, users and makers: how have we shaped the material world, and how does it shape us?

The Design History and Material Culture MA programme is taught through seminars and guided research, equipping students with the skills to research, analyse and write about the material world in its various historic and contemporary contexts. Students conduct supervised research and write a dissertation, which they submit at the end of the programme. A list of dissertation topics can be downloaded here.

The programme offers deep engagement with a wide range of research practices including object analysis, archival research, ethnographic method, oral history and philosophical enquiry. Students have opportunities to undertake high level research, to test and employ new critical concepts, and to engage in a wide variety of writing practices.

Through themed modules students explore a wide range of topics such as fashion and textile history from the eighteenth century to the present day; histories of urban space and architecture; histories of technology; histories and practices of making; the material culture of everyday life in the eighteenth century; twentieth-century Irish material culture; contemporary design writing and more.

Students benefit from behind-the-scenes access to museum collections. A strength of the course is its relationship with local and national institutions, with modules built around collaborations with (for example) the Irish Architecture Foundation, the National Library of Ireland and the National Museum of Ireland.

2024 Scholarship

There is a full tuition fee scholarship available for one student on the 2024/25 programme.

To apply, include a 500 word document explaining why you should be awarded the scholarship with your online application for the course. Deadline Friday, 31st May 2024. 


Opportunities to Engage

External Partners

MA DHMC students benefit from the programme’s close partnership with the National Museum of Ireland as well as a range of other joint initiatives with a wide range of museums, cultural institutions and historic properties such as The Little Museum of Dublin, the National Library of Ireland, NUI Maynooth Department of Anthropology and others.


Students who wish to gain relevant work experience have been assisted by the DHMC course team in organising internships at appropriate institutions.

Public events 

The programme regularly hosts public lectures, workshops and conferences. Information about forthcoming events will appear on NCAD's In Public website.

You can see our 2020 online webinar on 'The Urban Everyday' featuring talks by graduates from the programme and Professor Ben Highmore below.

Education Standard

All applicants are expected to present an approved Bachelor degree at minimum level of 2nd class honours (2.2)

Applicants who do not meet the minimum academic entry requirements may be considered on the basis of prior work or learning experience (RPEL). Candidates may be required to pass a qualifying examination set by the relevant department before being accepted to a Masters degree programme. Attendance at selected undergraduate lecture courses at NCAD, together with related written work may be prescribed. 

You may apply for the programme if you are currently completing your Undergraduate Degree. NCAD will review the rest of your application If necessary, we can make you a Conditional Offer. When your degree is completed and you send us final transcripts we will upgrade this to a Full Offer

Essential Supporting Documents

  • A Statement of Interest - 300-500 words framing your reasons for applying to the programme

  • A recent CV

  • Certified transcripts of previous programmes followed

  • Certified copies of degree/ certificates and/or other appropriate third level qualifications bearing the official stamp of the institution.

  • Reference 1 (Academic)

    • Some referees prefer to submit the reference directly to the college. If this is the case, please instruct your referee to email a standard reference to Please make sure all references contain the letterhead and the institution contact email address for the referee

  • Reference 2 (Tutor or Current/Recent Employer) 

Document Description

When uploading documents please make sure you clearly label them using the Description Box like in the example below 

English Language Requirements

All programmes in NCAD are taught through English. International Applicants are asked to provide proof of their English Language Proficiency.

Full details of acceptable tests and the standard required can be found at the following link English Language Requirement.

After Your Degree

The programme consistently receives excellent feedback from both external examiners and students. Students on the programme have received internationally recognised awards for their work and many have gone on to pursue doctoral research at NCAD and elsewhere. Graduates have published their work in peer reviewed journals and many are working within education (second and third level), art / design practice, galleries, museums, historic houses, film, theatre, publishing and government bodies responsible for arts/craft promotion.

To find out more about the careers of graduates, please click on the names below:

Murieann Charleton (graduated 2007)

Susan Curley Meyer (graduated 2018)

Elaine Manley (graduated 2020)

Séamus Nolan (graduated 2019)

Glen O Sullivan (graduated 2014)

Donna Rose (graduated 2019)


For information on tuition fees please follow this Link 

There is an application fee of €55.00*


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Programme Team

The MA Design History Material Culture is taught by internationally recognised leaders in their fields and draws on wide-ranging academic expertise in architectural history, dress and textiles history, contemporary craft practice and craft history, contemporary design theory and material culture studies.

Dr Anna Moran

Dr Anna Moran is a design and material culture historian with a particular interest in craft history. Anna has published widely on glass in journals such as Irish Architectural and Decorative Studies and the Journal of the Glass Association. Recent book chapters include contributions to anthologies such as Speculative Minds in Georgian Ireland: Novelty, Experiment and Widening Horizons (Four Courts Press, 2023) and In Sparkling Company: Reflections of Glass in the 18th-Century British World (Corning Museum of Glass, 2020). She is also co-editor, with Sorcha O’Brien, of Love Objects: Emotion, Design and Material Culture (Bloomsbury, 2014). 

Professor David Crowley

Professor David Crowley is the Head of the School of Visual Culture. Before joining NCAD, he was a professor in the School of Humanities at the Royal College of Art in London. He has a specialist interest in modernism in art and design, often with a focus on the histories of Eastern Europe under communist rule. His books include Warsaw (2003) and Pleasures in Socialism: Leisure and Luxury in the Eastern Bloc (2010). He writes regularly for Eye magazine, Creative Review, Frieze and other art and design press titles. Crowley also curates exhibitions, including ‘Cold War Modern’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2008–9; and ‘Notes from the Under-ground: Art and Alternative Music in Eastern Europe 1968-1994’ for the Muzeum Sztuki, Lodz, 2017 and Akademie der Kunst, Berlin, 2018. His writing can be found at:

Dr Lisa Godson, MA, PhD

Lisa is a lecturer in History of Design, and was previously NCAD Fellow at GradCAM and tutor at the Royal College of Art. Her research interests include contemporary design and twentieth-century Irish material culture. Her co-edited volume Making 1916: the visual and material culture of the Easter Rising was published by Liverpool University Press in 2015.

Hilary O’Kelly, MA

Hilary O’Kelly is a dress historian focusing on the material culture of fashion. Her main interest is in exploring the power of dress as cultural communication. From perspectives of creativity and manufacture to issues of consumption, economies and politics her research embraces issues of identity and culture, inclusivity and marginalization. In NCAD she teaches this subject on many courses from BA to PhD, and with her colleagues Dr. Nikki Gordon-Bowe and Dr Paul Caffrey, established the MA in Design History and Material Culture in the year 2000.

Her research interests developed through undergraduate study of Art-History (UCD) and a Master’s degree specialism in History of Dress at UCL (Courtauld Institute). The aspects of dress explored in her research, lectures and publication have sprung variously from the visual (portraits/photographs/illustrations), the actual and material (dress practices, jewellery, knitwear) to the embodied immaterial (identity; national, gender and social). The material Culture of Fashion, prioritises neither the dress itself, nor the theoretical form, but brings together objects, ideas and social practices,
to analyse how dress has meaning in people’s lives; as a form of cultural formation, negotiation and re-formation.

Cleo: Irish Clothes in The Wider World received the overall Golden Fleece Award. Published in 2014, it was selected as one of seven books for the yearly reviews edition of Fashion Theory; The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture (Vol 19, Issue 4, Sept 2015)

‘Parcels from America’ in Old Clothes, New Looks: Second Hand Fashion (2005) Berg is a chapter on American clothes in Ireland, their domestic and emotional significance, as well as their ambivalent reception in terms of gender, age and class. The socio-economic politics of style in Ireland has been a long-standing subject in her work published in a number of edited volumes: ‘Reconstructing Irishness; Dress in the Celtic Revival, 1880 – 1920’ (1992) in Chic Thrills; a Fashion Reader. Pandora ‘Set Up Before the People; Images and Ideals of Boys’ Clothing in Ireland c. 1910- 1940’ in Constructions of the Irish Child in The Independence Period, 1910-1940, Palgrave Macmillan. & ‘Dressing rebellion: national revival dress and 1916’ in Making 1916, Liverpool.

‘Famine & Workhouse Clothing’ in The Atlas of the Great Famine (2012), UCC, a multi award-winning publication.

Alongside publications in dress she has also written about craft including essays, reviews and catalogues on individual craftspeople and craft collectives for the Crafts Council of Ireland (now DCCOI).

Admissions Team