A History of the Department Store Building Type

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Research Guide

About this Project

This is a research guide for a history of the department store architecture as a building type. It contains annotated bibliographies of histories selected from the literatures of retail, education, and material culture.

The Interwar years (1917-1939) brought new ways to learn with new communications, new industry, and new relationships in home and community. The department stores were mediaries between the user and the information or objects they wanted to find. They were designed to showcase goods according to strategies of merchandising, to create a "want" in the customer, which were new strategies in nineteenth-century Europe. The rise of the middle class and their increased consumption of goods from factories, were the market for the first department stores.

The guide is organized by reference resource types. The first section covers relevant general reference resources and the second section covers reference resources in art and architecture. The third section covers more specialized reference resources in architecture and the fourth section covers important sources in educational history, history of material culture and history of retail. Meredith Clausen observes that the department store architecture has not gotten due attention in architectural history. This neglect may explain why so many of the important sources consulted in histories of art and architecture usually do not reference this topic. A broad search, however reveals many sources that make a substantial bibliography. More was written on department stores in the early twentieth century, compared to the last fifty years. Perhaps a fuller historiography of department store architecture will emerge in the future.