In the 19th century, designers became involved in the public presentation of the past, focusing specifically on the decoration of historical monuments. By exploring ornamental designs and the way they represented the cultural concerns of distant civilizations, and in addressing how color may have originally been applied to exteriors and interiors, designers animated the past and incited a new passion for the ancient world.
A crucial figure in this movement was the designer and architect Owen Jones (1809-1874), who from the 1830s until his death pioneered the study of ancient ornament and its central role in historical traditions of art. Particularly significant were the series of Fine Arts Courts that Jones designed in 1854 for the Crystal Palace's relocation to Sydenham. The ten displays on the great cultures of the ancient world featured detailed re-creations of palaces and courts. Designing Antiquity focuses on Jones's Egyptian Court, which produced a fundamental shift in the way Egyptian art was understood in the second half of the 19th century.