Black and white image showing a designer's office with products on shelves behind a deskArchival Cultures of Design is an ongoing research theme established in 2021 in support of the Design Archives’ mission and goals to meld academic and professional practice through research-informed stewardship. It reframes longstanding priorities for the Design Archives research team, addressing design archives in theory and practice. In particular, it asks: what contexts and imperatives produce archives of design? What work is the archive doing/being asked to do by diverse practitioners, and what might it do through the development of new research and initiatives? How does an approach focusing on archival cultures challenge, expand or complement existing histories of design? While embodying a distinctive programme, Archival Cultures of Design offers an umbrella for diverse strands of research into the archive as subject, site and source, and supports a range of internal and external collaborations.

Currently, two strands of activity are taking place under this umbrella, led by Sue Breakell, Archive Director, and with support from the Centre for Design History.

Global Archival Cultures of Design is a new initiative building on a longstanding Design Archives interest in developing international design archive networks and collaborations.  In 2021 Research Officer Zara Arshad was appointed for a first stage of the project, to carry out research into the state of the field and collate initial findings on design archives in diverse global environments in academic, heritage, practitioner or community contexts. For the second stage in 2022 Arshad has organised includes a series of workshops to bring together international scholars and curators to discuss key project questions and share knowledge and expertise around the project’s agenda.

Meanwhile, a new event series titled Archive as Method: new approaches to archives of creative practice, is being initiated in November 2022.  The series foregrounds the creative archive as a method for research and knowledge generation, bringing together scholars, archivists, curators and creative practitioners.  In doing so, the series reaches out from design archive to interrogating and learn from broader contexts of archives of creative practice.

Registering for Where Design Fails? Exploring Design Archives* (online events) can be done through this link.

Registering for Archive as Method: new approaches to archives of creative practice (online events) can be done through this link.

Image: ‘Close-up of revolving bookcases displaying packaging and industrial design examples as well as books and drawers for work (behind desk).’ Ref. No: Hen-11 / 6771/1, F H K Henrion Archive, University of Brighton Design Archives.