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Professor Deborah Sugg Ryan

Associate Dean (Research), Professor of Design History and Theory

Deborah Sugg Ryan


I joined the University of Portsmouth in 2016 as Professor of Design History and Theory and Associate Dean (Research) in the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries. After working as a curator at the V&A, I started lecturing in universities in 1990. My current research focuses on houses, interiors and domestic design, I also have another strand of research on twentieth century historical pageants. An experienced broadcaster for television and radio, I am series consultant and a presenter for the BBC2 television series A House Through Time.

Research Interests

I am currently researching the past, present and future of the kitchen, which will result in a monograph contracted to Reaktion Books. I was a member of the Editorial Board of the Adam Matthew Digital database Trade Catalogues and the American Home. for which I wrote an essay 'The American kitchen, 1850-1950: From workroom to heart of the home'. I wrote 'From the "smart" kitchen to "kitchenism' for the catalogue to the V&A Museum's 2019 exhibition Food: Bigger Than the Plate for which I was also a member of the Advisory Board.

My current research builds on my previous work on the material culture and design of the home and domestic space, focused on the interwar home and the Ideal Home Show. My monograph Ideal Homes, 1918-39: Domestic Design and Suburban Modernism was published by Manchester University Press in the Studies in Design and Material Culture series in 2018. This research was supported by a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship for 2012-13, for which I also undertook a programme of knowledge exchange activities with Media 10, owners of the Ideal Home Show. It builds on my PhD The Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition and Suburban Modernity, 1908-51​ (1995) and Ideal Homes, the exhibition that I curated for the Design Museum in 1993.

I have published several articles on the invention of historical pageants and spectacle in Britain, the US and the British Empire in the twentieth century, mainly focusing on the work of pageant master Frank Lascelles. I was a member of the Advisory Board to AHRC The Redress of the Past: Historical Pageants in Britain, 1905-2016 and have contributed to an English Heritage podcast on Gwen Lally's 1938 Battle Abbey Pageant.

I am an experienced PhD supervisor with completions.I peer review regularly for academic journals and publishers and I am a stategic reviewer for the AHRC Peer Review College. 

Teaching Responsibilities

PhD supervision: Completions

Damon Taylor, Design art furniture and the boundaries of function: Communicative objects, performative things (Falmouth University, awarded by the University of Arts London, 2011)

Angela Butterfield, Resilient places?: Healthcare gardens and the Maggie's Centres (Falmouth University, awarded by the University of Arts London, 2014)

Jason Cleverly, The artist-designer: Situating creative interaction and interpretation in the museum (Falmouth University, awarded by the University of Arts London, 2017)

Julie Ripley, Surf’s Us: Constructing surfing identities through clothing culture in Cornwall Falmouth University, awarded by the University of Arts London, 2018)


PhD supervision: Current students

Lorna Sheppard, A study of llustrated Post-War British cookbooks: The interplay between author and illustrator and class and gender identities (1954-1965)

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