Activating (British) Historical Archive Marginalia as a Design Inspiration Resource

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Great Britain has a long and rich heritage in the design, production and manufacture of textiles. During a company’s commercial lifetime, many accumulate substantial design archives which are often used to inspire new collections based on the re-activated artwork of the past. As markets change and companies are liquidated or taken over the archives travel to new homes, where fresh eyes can interrogate the material and reinterpret the content, either as exact reproductions or more likely as fabrics that are inspired by or adapted from their historic motifs. Museums, academic institutions and private collectors acquire such historic material where it often remains stored for research or exhibition, its life seemingly in a state of suspended animation.
A design archive acquired by or gifted to a University, for example, awaits activation. It now functions outside of the context of where it was created and can consequently be read in innovative ways that were not initially intended. This paper examines potential readings of one such archive, The Gleneden Post-War Design Archive. This is a collection of uncatalogued paintings and designs which were originally produced for commercial purposes for companies such as Gleneden, Morton Sundour Fabrics and Courtauld’s. The designs were originally produced to be manufactured as woven textiles. This collection has been selected over and above comparable resources as the artworks have not yet been documented or developed through practice academically.
Although the Gleneden Post-War Design Archive is an archive of manually produced hand painted patterns and occasionally corresponding woven samples, there are other, perhaps more intriguing, elements of visual interest not originally intended as design inspiration. The stickers, stamps, hand written notes, company names, logos and pattern numbers that cling to the papers edge all have visual resonance. While visible they are somewhat elusive as an inspiration for a design as each element was placed on its page to communicate a point, in other words to be functional, to be read by those involved in the manufacturing process. These scrawled instructions may have been received and processed but the record of the communication now survives visible yet undetected in the margins. These marginalia have served their purpose, but now beckons the question - how else could they be used in the formation of a creative response?
It is through this question that The Gleneden Post-War Design Archive has the potential to be fundamentally re-imagined through ‘making’. This research documents the design process as a transition from manual to digital, utilising manual and mechanical means of production to develop creative responses from the overlooked marginalia in order to answer the proposed question. Working independently and in collaboration, this research therefore documents attempts to re-activate this untapped design resource.
Keywords: Archives, Activation, Drawing, Marginalia    
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of IFFTI 2018 Annual Conference
Subtitle of host publicationFashion Futures
EditorsLi Jun
Place of PublicationShanghai, China
PublisherDonghua University Press
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)9787566913852
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Event20th Annual Conference for International Foundation of Fashion Technology Institutes: Fashion Futures - Donghua University, Shanghai, China
Duration: 9 Apr 201813 Apr 2018
Conference number: 20 (Link to Conference Website)


Conference20th Annual Conference for International Foundation of Fashion Technology Institutes
Abbreviated titleIFFTI 2018
Internet address


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