Archive as Method: new approaches to archives of creative practice

What is ‘archival knowledge’? A new, ongoing Design Archives event series foregrounds the creative archive as a method for research, knowledge generation and exchange. It frames the archive not just as a source but a site, a subject and a structure of knowledge. Bringing together a range of perspectives and practices around creative archives, the series will include scholars, archivists, curators, artists and designer working through innovative archive-based practices. The series forms part of the Design Archives research theme Archival Cultures of Design, in particular asking what work the archive is doing, or being asked to do, by diverse practitioners. In doing so, the series reaches out from design to broader contexts of archives of creative practice. 

The first event takes place on Tuesday 8 November 2022, 1-2.30pm  

Chair: Sue Breakell, Archive Director 

Online via Teams

Free and open to all – to receive joining info, please register at the link below:


Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski Persistence and Resistance as Archival Methodology: Reflections on the Rita Keegan Archive Project  

This paper creates an opportunity to reflect and interrogate the journey and outcomes of the Rita Keegan Archive Project (RKAP), a National Heritage Lottery Funded project (2020 – 2022), which focused on the personal papers, artworks and collections of artist, educator, archivist and curator Rita Keegan.  Keegan’s work explores themes that include memory, history, dress and adornment often with the use of her extensive family archive.  Keegan’s archive provides a vital resource and context for contemporary discussions around art, technology, race, gender, artistic kinships, exhibition histories, curation, art curriculums and archiving.  Rita Keegan’s Papers are held by the Women’s Art Library, Goldsmiths Archives and Special Collections. This paper will explore the role and impact of networks, community, institutions, curation, finance, administration, archives and sustainability in relation to the success and or failures of RKAP. Identifying barriers and challenges faced when facilitating and developing a grassroots community project, such as this.  Providing a review of the ongoing space that Rita Keegan has carved with her focus of creating continuity between past, present and future generations through the Rita Keegan Archive Project. What can be learnt from this project and then employed when thinking about this project in relation to archival methodology in its broadest sense?  What kind of space is created  within the wider context of the mainstream heritage sector to highlight the validity of such cultural and intellectual traditions through her personal collecting and  artistic, archival  practice?  This paper queries whether Keegans persistence and resistance and her role in constituting archives could be perceived as archival methodology. 

Jo Rosenthal  Avril A: Building and researching a queer family archive  

This presentation will focus on a DIY archive research project that I have been working on for the past two years. The archive in question is a rare and unusual collection of correspondence, photography, ephemera, film and audio, which I discovered in my aunt’s living room after her death. A heterosexual housewife in Manchester’s orthodox Jewish community, she reinvented herself as the outrageous ‘Avril A: Housewife Superstar’, an eccentric and beloved cabaret performer who enjoyed unlikely success in the city’s gay scene in the ‘80s and ‘90s.  In presenting the story of this archive of Avril’s career, as well as my work in organising and interpreting the material, I will explore the process of unearthing overlooked histories such as Avril’s, retrospectively conferring value onto material that had previously been disregarded. Additionally, I will reflect on the implications of my own subjective entanglements with the archive, considering how this archival work has led to me forge new meanings in relation to my own identity and family history. 


Speaker Biographies 

Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski is an archivist and mixed media artist/designer, currently pursuing a collaborative PhD at Chelsea College of Arts (UAL /Tate). Her doctoral research places much-needed critical attention on Jamaican-born sculptor Ronald Moody and his niece Cynthia Moody. Her chapter titled Recasting Jamaican sculptor Ronald Moody (1900-1984): An archival homecoming was recently published in Archiving Caribbean Identity, Records, Community, and Memory edited by John Aarons, Jeannette A. Bastian, Stanley Hazley Griffin (Routledge, 2022).  She holds an MA in Archives and Record Management, International (UCL). Ahaiwe Sowinski is a member of the Afrofeminist Transatlantic Collaboration, which maps and archives the cultural resistance of Black feminist artists in the UK and the Twins Cities.  She is a founding member of the Remembering Olive Collective (2009 – ongoing). Ahaiwe Sowinski co-edited Mirror Reflecting Darkly: The Rita Keegan Archive (Goldsmiths Press, 2021) and co-curated 20/20 [a brief survey] alongside seragraphist Aida Wilde (Truman Brewery, London, 2021). She is particularly interested in developing frameworks for interrogating what it means to advocate and/or archive diasporic archives in the 21st century collaboratively, sharing skills and building capacity within the community heritage and memory work sector.  

Joanne Rosenthal is a freelance curator who works with museums and universities to produce exhibitions that deal with difficult pasts and marginalised histories. Her recent exhibitions include the award-winning Jews Money Myth for the Jewish Museum London (2019) and Empty Cradles: Israel’s Disappeared Children for Queen Mary University (at the Brunei Gallery in London until 10 December). Recently a Visiting Research Fellow at the Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London, she was previously Chief Curator of Jewish Museum London and a board member of the Association of European Jewish Museums from 2013 to 2018.

For more information on the series or to suggest speakers, please contact Sue Breakell, Director, University of Brighton Design Archives