About me


I am a design historian who specialises in the areas of product and interior design. I was principal investigator on an AHRC Leadership Fellowship researching women and rural electrification, focusing on the role played by domestic electric products in developing Irish ideas about modernity and domesticity in the 1950s and 1960s.
Project website at : electricirishhomes.org


design history product design interiors home technology domesticity

Member Details

Full Name

Sorcha O'Brien (Professional Historian)

Membership Type

Professional Historian



PhD in the History of Design, University of Brighton, 2011

Postgraduate Certificate, Research Methodology, University of Brighton, 2009

MA History of Design, Middlesex University, 1998

BDes in Industrial Design, National College of Art and Design, 1996


National College of Art and Design – Assistant Lecturer in Design History, 2016 – present

Kingston University, London – Senior Lecturer in Design History & Theory, 2012 – 2019

Trinity College, Dublin – Visiting Lecturer in Critical & Cultural Theory, 2007-2012

Institute of Art, Design & Technology, Dun Laoghaire – Assistant Lecturer in Design History, 2008-11, 2019-20

National College of Art and Design – Associate Lecturer in Design History, 2000-2008; Visiting Lecturer, 2008-12

Institute of Art, Design & Technology, Dun Laoghaire – Associate Lecturer in Design History, 2002-07

Limerick School of Art & Design – Visiting Lecturer in Design History, 2003-04

University of Limerick – Visiting Lecturer in Design History, 2003-04

Dublin Institute of Technology – Assistant Lecturer in Design History, 2002-03

Institute of Technology, Sligo – Assistant Lecturer in Design History, 1998-99

Consultancy work

Educational advice on digitizing analogue images, and online learning (incl. Blackboard and Turnitin)

Management & Administrative experience

Worked a lead designer in an eLearning company for several years, managing and training a group of up to 50 designers


Teaching 3D design history to undergraduate design students and some art and design history undergraduates. Design history teaching and supervision at MA, MRes and PhD level.

Outreach activities

Oral history project with women who were rural housewives in the 1950s and 1960s, as part of AHRC Leadership Fellowship on rural electrification in Ireland

Committees & Associations

Design History Society
Society for the History of Technology


Arts and Humanities Research Council Leadership Fellow, 2016-19

Design History Society Research Travel Grant, 2015

Fundació Història del Disseny 2nd Alfaro Hofmann Collection Research Grant for the Study of Domestic Appliances: The Vacuum Cleaner, 2015

Society for the History of Technology Brooke Hindle Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2014

Society for History of Technology Travel Grant, 2007

Art & Humanities Research Council Doctoral Award, 2005

Royal Hibernian Academy Thomas Damman Junior Memorial Trust Award, 2005



Powering the Nation: Images of the Shannon Scheme and the Electrification of Ireland, Irish Academic Press, 2017

Subject editor for Practitioners, Bloomsbury Encyclopaedia of Design, general editor Clive Edwards, London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015

Love Objects: Emotion, Design and Material Culture, co-edited with Anna Moran, London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014

Book Chapters

'Technology & Modernity: The Shannon Scheme and Visions of Progress’ in Elaine Sisson & Linda King (eds.) Ireland, Design and Visual Culture: Negotiating Modernity, 1922-1992, Cork: Cork University Press, 2011

'Images of Ardnacrusha: technology, modernity and photography in the Irish Free State’
in Eoin Flannery & Michael Griffin (eds.) Ireland in Focus: Ireland and Visual Representation,
Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2009

'Photographic Connections: electrical technology in the making of Ireland in the 1920s’
in Jonathan Glynne, Fiona Hackney & Viv Minton (eds.) Networks of Design, Boca Raton,
FL: Universal Publishers, 2009

‘MUJI: A study of nation, international and corporate identity’ in Nicola Gordon Bowe (ed.) Thought Lines: An Anthology of Student Research, Dublin: National College of Art & Design, 1998

Electronic Publications

‘’Made in Ireland’? National Narratives and Hybrid Identities in Irish Design History‘, Writing Visual Culture, Vol. 8, 2017, https://www.herts.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/187573/8_OBRIEN_MADE_IN_IRELAND_WVC8_2017_Final.pdf

'Behind the Interface: Space, Time and Infrastructure in Internet-Based Delivery for Design Education’, Pilots Channel, 2013, Available at:


‘Review of The Story of Design’, Journal of Design History, Volume 27 Issue 4, 2014

'Exhibition Review of: ‘The moderns: the arts in Ireland from the 1900s to the 1970s’ at The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin’, Artefact, Issue 5, 2011


‘Kitchen Power: Women’s Experience of Rural Electrification’, temporary exhibition at the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, Castlebar, from July 2019 to January 2021