Design Archives win AHRC award
Developing a critical position on digital environments and digital content, and considering what this means for researchers, is central to the work of the university’s Design Archives. A successful bid in the latest round of AHRC Digital Transformation awards ensures the university remains in a key position in this area of debate. As Principal Investigator, Professor Catherine Moriarty explains, ‘If you don’t know how something is made you are less likely to understand what it means. The relationship between constructing digital materials and questioning their place in the information ecosystem is exactly the same. This project invites researchers to play an active part in questioning what data is, how it represents the past, and what value it has in different contexts.’
The project entitled ‘Exploring British Design’ will amplify the content, skills and expertise of the University of Brighton Design Archives and project partner, the Archives Hub at the University of Manchester. Working also with the Design Museum, the aim is to shift agency from the custodian to the user and, in so doing, to promote digital literacy and criticality by encouraging researchers at all levels to explore and navigate directly archival structures. The project will transform the exploration of design by connecting design-related content in different archives across the regions and across the world. A collaboration between researchers, information professionals, technologists, curators and historians, the project will give researchers the freedom to explore the depth of detail held in design archives. As Moriarty says, ‘We argue that a full understanding of the context of digital objects and their archival home is a critical competency in both public and academic digital literacy. Indeed, the project will actively encourage a questioning of the authority of established interpretative practices.’
Produced as part of an investigation into researcher behaviours, and co-designed with researchers, the project will bring about a step change in the understanding of archival research and in the research challenges digital environments present. More than a tool to access material online, it is an enquiry into, as Johanna Drucker has put it, ‘ways of thinking with digital processes.’
The project will amplify the Design Archives’ rich corpora of digital resources, their experience in leading and producing capacity-building digital initiatives, for example the Jisc-funded Designing Britain (2000), and not least Brighton’s significance in shaping the study of design history over a 30-year period. It will create an even richer context for the Design Archives’ current AHRC-funded doctoral students, those taking part in Brighton’s AHRC-funded Research Skills Enrichment programme, and students from the EPSRC-funded Centre for Doctoral Training in Science and Engineering in Arts, Heritage and Archaeology (SEAHA) (run in partnership between UCL, the University of Brighton and the University of Oxford, along with numerous cultural institutions and industry partners).