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Finding Betty Joel: Uncovering the hidden histories of interwar design, making and style – PhD opportunity

Applications are invited for a fully-funded collaborative four-year PhD to commence in October 2023 at the University of Portsmouth. The PhD will be based in the School of Art, Design and Performance and will be supervised by Professor Deborah Sugg Ryan, Professor Trevor Keeble and Emily Worsdale (Curator of Art, Portsmouth Museum and Art Gallery).Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees for four years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£17,668 for 2022/23). Bursary recipients will also be able to claim up to £1,500 p.a. for project costs/consumables.The work on this project will:

  • Explore Betty Joel’s collaborative design and making processes, with particular reference to the roles of named furniture makers and clients.
  • Identify the materials used by Joel in the construction of her furniture and interiors.
  • Explore how the styles in which Joel worked can be located in relation to existing theorisations of Modernisms and Art Deco.
  • Offer a placement with Portsmouth Museum and Art Gallery and opportunities for others elsewhere.

This collaborative PhD with Portsmouth Museum and Art Gallery (PMAG) will uncover and critically examine the career and works of Betty Joel (born Mary Stewart Lockhart) (1894-1985), a Hong Kong born designer of Scottish heritage. It will focus on the furniture company she formed with her husband David Joel in the wider context of a reassessment of the history of ‘modern’ furniture and  interior design and the role of women designers in Britain. It will be centred on holdings at PMAG and Portsmouth History Centre (PHC), along with the Stewart Lockhart Collection, an archive of her family deposited in the National Library of Scotland containing hitherto unexplored personal and business papers and photographs, together with collections at other international, national and local museums and in private collections.

More details and how to apply can be found here:
Please contact Professor Deborah Sugg Ryan ( for further particulars and to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code: AD&P8020423.