Reflections on the closure of the Moda - Museums Association

Reflections on the closure of the Moda

Mary Mansfield on how this influential institution set the standard for university collections
Closures Collections
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Mary Mansfield

Middlesex University recently announced the closure of the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (Moda).

After 45 years of research and cultural engagement, it will cease operating in July after closing to students and visitors at the start of the 2023/24 academic year. 

The museum, a unique home of design and architectural history, opened a world of inspiration to university and public communities alike by preserving and showcasing the evolution of design in domestic spaces. 

Developed from collections acquired between the 1960s and the 1980s, the institution became known as the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture in the late 1990s.

Moda emerged as a groundbreaking institution, featuring an extensive collection of textiles, wallpapers and material relating to non-elite domestic interiors from the 19th century through to the 1970s. 

Although a small institution, Moda wielded transformative influence and was the first post-1992 institution to receive heritage lottery funding for the construction of a new building, which opened at Cat Hill in 2000.


Exhibitions were crafted to contribute to the academic research community of which it was a part and to engage with the public community, attracting a local audience. 

Kirsty Johnson, a local visitor to the museum, writes: “I remember the museum when it first opened on Cat Hill. The collections were a treasure trove of social history evoking memories for many people. The various exhibitions were eagerly anticipated by visitors as a lot of them were relevant to the local area. Visitors came from far and near to visit.” 

Its approach, which focused on appealing to diverse audiences, distinguished Moda as an influential model for thinking about collections in relation to design and historical movements, without losing sight of public engagement. 

Moda developed not only as a centre for educational initiatives, but also as a standard for the curation of university collections. It was exemplary in its outreach and engagement with students, scholars and the wider community. 

With the closure of the Cat Hill building in 2011, Moda’s move to smaller facilities in Colindale allowed the team to focus on cultivating the collection as a resource for teaching and research, furthering scholarly engagement and fostering student experience with design in history. 

In addition to serving as a research space, the museum worked closely with a range of courses, reaching beyond art and design and encouraging visits from the wider university.


Mark Kirkbride, who works in the School of Arts department at the University of Middlesex, writes: “For two years now I’ve been teaching the on the Creative Writing and Journalism BA and the visit to Moda each year has been one of the highlights of the module for the students and provided many of them with their first publishing credit for their CVs.” 

Collection items from the Museum Of Domestic Design And Architecture

With an interdisciplinary and collaborative focus, the museum hosted placements and encouraged students to develop as professionals.

Nicola Miles writes: “I visited Moda as a student researcher and was really inspired by the collections of textiles and wallpapers. Since then, I have continued my research as a PhD student. I am so sad to see this valuable archive disbanded and hope that good homes will be found for these collections that so need to be available to the public and for academic research.” 

An emphasis on knowledge generation sustained Moda’s vision over the past 10 years, ensuring that the work done on the collections by researchers supported by the museum was fed back into the collections database. The reciprocity of knowledge exchange between the academic community and the museum stimulated research and kept engagement with the collection current, providing a further model for sustainably running research collections in university museums.

Since the pandemic, Middlesex University has faced financial challenges that ultimately led to the museum’s closure. Though physically closed, Moda’s legacy endures as Zoe Hendon and her team at the museum embark on a final project to find new homes for the collection. 


While the university “is committed to securing the future of the collections by ensuring they are housed in appropriate home(s) so they can remain an important resource that are seen by as many people as possible”, many have voiced concerns over the future of the collection. 

Stephen Jackson, a senior curator, furniture and woodwork at National Museums Scotland, writes: “I began my museum career with the Silver Studio collection when at Bounds Green. What Zoe [Hendon] and her colleagues have accomplished since that time is an outstanding curatorial, conservation, educational and outreach achievement. 

"If the component parts of Moda become disaggregated it will be unfortunate. But if is not transferred to registered museums or archives, it will be a tragic loss to the national heritage and a squandering of previous public investment.”

The Moda team are working closely with Museums Association and Arts Council England, and are in discussion with various institutions that might house these important collections, though no formal agreements have yet been made.

If you have memories of Moda please add them to its webpage.

To learn more about University Museums Group and the advocacy work we do on behalf of university museums, galleries and collections, please visit our website where you can join our mailing list and become a member.

Mary Mansfield is the executive assistant at the University Museums Group

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