Catherine Rushmore

Catherine Rushmore



Thesis title: Chemicals and their users in the British home, 1930–1980s

Start year:


Research topic

People interact with chemicals in many practical ways in their domestic life, for instance through household chores or in hobbies such as gardening and home photographic processing. Chemicals are a form of labour-saving technology: however, they are barely mentioned in histories of domestic technology, which tend to focus on mechanical appliances.

This PhD will create case studies of domestically used chemicals by researching the promotion, sales and in some cases restrictions, of chemical products between 1930 and the 1980s. I will conduct oral histories to explore the user experiences of these regularly available chemicals. By examining packaging, the delivery technologies of the chemicals, held in museum collections, another dimension about usability and expectations can be opened up by these objects.

My research will investigate of the rise of branded preparations, what the users of these chemical products were promised, the choices consumers made to use them, and the ways that users have been imagined by manufacturers, campaigners and regulators.

My focus is on chemicals that were chosen specifically to be used up in repeated acts. It excludes passive long term exposures to environmental chemicals.

General research interests

Advertising, branding, choice, consumers, domesticity, environmental awareness, leisure, packaging, public understanding of science, risk, social construction of technology, time, usability

Other experience and professional activities

  • Science Curator, Museum of Science and Industry (Manchester)
  • Facilitator (Education, costumed interpretation) Bramhall Hall
  • Volunteer, Quarry Bank Mill and Bolton Museum