Amy Crawford, MGS Funded Museum Engagement Officer

Imagine a museum.

Did you think of dusty books, animal skeletons and gothic architecture? If so, then perhaps Dark Academia is up your street.

Dark Academia is an emerging aesthetic sub-culture. As opposed to Cottagecore which I explored in a previous blog post, Dark Academia is as the name would suggest, darker. Less flowers and seaside walks and more dust, books, candles and skulls. Think of a very popular wizarding school and you’ve got the general vibe. It is a new name given to already existing aesthetics surrounding classic literature and art. Unlike Cottagecore which saw a sharp rise in searches during the UK lockdown 2020, Dark Academia has seen a gradual increase in searches since becoming popular on Tumblr in 2015. After fans of the movement graduated to TikTok, it exploded in popularity.

The Google searches for the term Dark Academia also spiked sharply during September 2021, most likely spurred on by school and University students returning to their place of study and looking for ways to incorporate this aesthetic into their lives.

Much like Cottagecore had issues with romanticising the countryside and omitting the not-so-great-parts, Dark Academia tends to romanticise European upper-class education which can be very problematic – the lack of diversity is a serious issue.

However, newcomers who follow the trend are very clear that while the aesthetics may be similar, the mindset is very different. The movement currently encourages inclusivity and breaking down gender stereotypes – a 21st century outlook on old traditions.

So, what exactly does a typical Dark Academia post look like? Usually, a lot are fashion focused posts on tweed, gingham, and endless blazers. There are a lot of diaries, sketchbooks, and scrapbooks too, usually with hand drawn illustrations accompanying them. The photographs themselves are usually darkened and sometimes strong vignetting is used (a photographic technique where a dark border fades into the surrounding area).

Museums are a large part of the Dark Academia world, with popular photograph and video montages of gothic architecture, spiral staircases, and shelves of dusty books all wrapped up with pressed flowers and leaves. The deep yearning for knowledge associated with this trend has boosted the popularity of museums as not just learning institutions but also as social media potential, drawing more young people to experience these buildings and history.

I decided to have a go at creating a few #darkacademia photographs. We have no shortage of items that look like they might belong in the Dark Academia world!

An attempt at a Dark Academia post using some of our medical history objects and a replica skull.
Our medical history models with their unique forms and the corner mouldings in our office make a great dark image.
Heavy vignetting on images is often a feature of the Dark Academia aesthetic

Let us know what you think of our Dark Academia style photographs and come and take your own at our D’Arcy Thompson Museum and collections! Tag us in pictures on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @UoD_Museums #uodmuseums


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