Happy Christmas

Season's Greetings from both of us at BCU Art & Design Archives. Here are just three examples of the Christmas-themed items we have in the School of Art collections.

Walter E. Spradbery, London Transport poster created from lino cut, 1923

Walter E. Spradbery, London Transport poster created from lino cut, 1923

Our collection includes designs for Christmas cards, illustrated books of carols, travel posters, wintry landscapes, advertisements, designs for book covers and menus for staff Christmas parties. These date from the 1890s up until the mid-1950s. 

Opening passage from Washington Irving's Christmas, Birmingham School of Printing, 1936

Opening passage from Washington Irving's Christmas, Birmingham School of Printing, 1936

We hope to see you in the Archives in the New Year! In the meantime, enjoy the holiday. 

Fougasse (aka Cyril Kenneth Bird), poster for London Transport, 1937

Fougasse (aka Cyril Kenneth Bird), poster for London Transport, 1937

Artist 'meandered' through the archives at Heritage Quay

How would you approach the process of researching archive collections with the aim of creating new artworks inspired by them? When multi-media artist Poulomi Desai was awarded an 80-day residency at Heritage Quay, she chose to adopt a meandering approach to the corridors and rooms of the archives, one that she compares to travelling along the unfrequented roads of the Yorkshire Dales in her video piece Unmuted. Rather than tying herself to a particular theme, she immersed herself in the boxes, shelves and objects that she found there. She also engaged with visitors attending events at Heritage Quay, researchers following their own interests, and the staff and volunteers who worked with the collections. Among the pieces she produced were two silk sari artworks, one of which (on the right) was inspired by a series of cassette tape recordings that form part of the British Music Collection. 

Poulomi Desai with her saris at STEAM European Researchers Night at Heritage Quay, University of Huddersfield, 2017. Photo credit: Maddie Farris.

Poulomi Desai with her saris at STEAM European Researchers Night at Heritage Quay, University of Huddersfield, 2017. Photo credit: Maddie Farris.

Poulomi describes her time at Heritage Quay as providing 'unexpected and surprising opportunities artistically'. It gave her the opportunity to reflect on the ownership and control of remembering as she developed an understanding of the social and political context in which these particular collections developed. She was also attentive to the processes and paraphernalia  of archiving, alluding to both in the series of artworks she created in response to her encounters with the people and collections. You can find more details about them on the Usurp Art website.  

Other artists may adopt a more systematic approach, focusing on a particular theme. Which would you choose?

 

Artists' creative response to Bluecoat's past

How would you respond creatively to the history of a building in which you work or study? To conclude the commemorations for Bluecoat's 300th anniversary, the Liverpool-based gallery are putting on an exhibition that displays archival material together with new commissions, historic and contemporary artworks in order to consider how the past impacts on the future. Titled In the Peaceful Dome, it takes the idea of a continually evolving building— from charity school in the early eighteenth century to the UK’s first arts centre in 1907 — to look afresh at some of the art the gallery has presented since then, reinvigorating it by juxtaposing it with contemporary pieces. Among the themes explored are the building, its architecture and the passing of time; global trade and the legacies of Empire; gender and military conflict; and the gallery as a site for critical engagement.  

Installation shot of Jacob Epstein's Genesis with works by Jo Stockham, Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool, 2017. 

Installation shot of Jacob Epstein's Genesis with works by Jo Stockham, Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool, 2017. 

One of the highlights is Jacob Epstein's Genesis, a sculpture of a pregnant female nude that caused considerable controversy when it was first seen at the Bluecoat in May 1931. Loaned by the Whitworth, it's shown alongside documentary material relating to its showing there 86 years ago. Displayed in close proximity to Genesis, Jo Stockham’s work creates a dialogue with the sculpted figure, contrasting the creation of new life with violent death in military conflict. Empire Made (1989) takes the shape of an axe, with its head resembling Britain; Canon, model 3 (1989-2017) consists of a cannon wrapped in soft fabric, in what can be seen as a critique of the sanitisation of war in Remembrance Day parades and the recent commemorations of World War I. 

Also showing are film works by Uriel Orlow and Grace Ndiritu that recall how Bluecoat's foundation as a charity school was funded from maritime trade that included Transatlantic slavery; William C. Penn's portraits of black men painted in Liverpool in the 1920s and 1930s; and contemporary artist Paul Clarkson's portrait of the first black Lord Mayor of London in 1913, the Pan-Africanist John Archer. All in all, it's a show designed to provoke thinking about exhibition-making and its relationship to time, place and history. 

There seem to be interesting parallels here with Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery's current exhibition The Past is Now. What do you think? 

Celebrating Baskerville's achievements

Gethin Thomas, Photograph of David Patten's Industry and Genius: Monument to John Baskerville, in Centenary Square, Birmingham

Gethin Thomas, Photograph of David Patten's Industry and Genius: Monument to John Baskerville, in Centenary Square, Birmingham

We've just installed a display of archival material relating to David Patten's original designs for Industry and Genius, the sculptural tribute to John Baskerville (1706-1775). It's probably the world's only public monument commemorating the development of a typeface, and could originally be seen on the site of his former mansion outside the present-day Baskerville House in Centenary Square. Patten's drawings and photographs of the maquette for the piece highlight the differences between his original plans and the much lower monument that was finally installed there, ostensibly on health and safety grounds. Individual bronze letters on each of the six columns of Portland stone that make up the central section of the piece spell out the single word Virgil, the Roman poet whose works were printed by Baskerville in 1757. It was the first time that he'd used the typeface that now bears his name. 

Planned in collaboration with Caroline Archer-Parré from the Typographic Hub, the display coincides with an exhibition of posters celebrating John Baskerville's achievements as an 18th-century entrepreneur, designer and craftsman who had a significant influence on the development of typography and book design. These have been created by staff from the School of Visual Communication's Graphic Design team to mark the publication of John Baskerville: art and industry of the Enlightenment. Edited by Caroline and Malcolm Dick, it's the first scholarly appraisal of Baskerville’s work for more than forty years.  They'll also be a talk about his life and legacy at Parkside on Wednesday 8 November. 

One question though: does anyone know where Patten's monument is now?

Putting the archives at the heart of activity

What have archives got to do with art and design? Last  week I went along to a conference on Arts and London's Archives to find out more about the kind of activities London-based archives were putting on to raise the profiles of their arts-related collections. 

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One of the most interesting talks was given by two speakers from the Southbank Centre's Archive Studio, Clare Wood and Jess Ihejetoh. Unlike most traditional archives, they're in a very public glass-fronted space in a corner of the foyer next to the ballroom. It's not a search room or an exhibition space, but the working space for the archives team. They'll bring in volunteers from a diverse range of community groups to help with cataloguing and re-packing the collections in open view. Their approach to this is episodic, bringing in material from their off-site storage facility that links to the Southbank's current artistic programme. The volunteers are then invited to help with researching the items and to contribute to displays linked to particular events. Over the last two years, they've put on fourteen different displays, the most recent of which has been A Poet's Guide to the Archive, which continues until 1 December 2017. 

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This display of archival material and new work celebrates 50 years of Poetry International,  a festival established by Ted Hughes and Patrick Garland in 1967 with the aim of bringing poets together as the 'voice of spirit and imagination'. It features rarely seen letters, correspondence, photographs and poems produced over the last fifty years. At the launch, poets Hannah Silva and Victoria Adukwei Bulley led tours of the Poetry Collection and read poems they'd written in response to it. These are now on display alongside the original material. You can hear a podcast featuring lively debate about key moments in the history of poetry as well as poets Victoria and Hannah reading their work on their website.

It'd be good to hear your thoughts on what the Art & Design Archives might do to link in with notable dates and anniversaries for BCU. 

Reanimating the past

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How might you go about recreating a sense of a building's past and the people who once lived there? Can new technology help to bring museum and archival collections to life?

The National Museum have explored this possibility within the castle grounds of St Fagans, collaborating with Cardiff University and creative gaming company yellobrick in the development of an app that visitors can download prior to their visit. Traces/Olion takes them on a physical journey round the site, moving from fact to fiction, from past to present. Based on archive material from the museum’s collection, the story focuses on characters who might have lived in the castle and walked through the grounds in the early twentieth century.  

I'm left wondering if there's any scope for BCU students learning to write apps to work with our School of Art collection to develop something relating to the history of Margaret Street for the 175th anniversary of the establishment of a School of Art in Birmingham next year? Is there scope for recreating the lives of former students in this way? Perhaps with collaboration from those in the School of English studying creative writing? I'd welcome thoughts or comments on this. 

Pioneers of Post-War Pattern

How can we ensure that archival collections are still available as a learning resource for future students? Glasgow School of Art has come up with an idea: they're selling products inspired by the work of mid-20th century textile designers found in the School's archive.

Wall hangings, tea towels and cushions available to buy from GSA shop, 2017. 

Wall hangings, tea towels and cushions available to buy from GSA shop, 2017. 

Classic Textiles at GSA's Centre for Advanced Textiles have adapted the vibrantly-coloured abstract designs of three of their former students - Sylvia Chalmers, Dorothy Smith and Margaret Stewart - for contemporary use. Some of these have never previously been produced as textiles. They've also made the world's only licensed digital reprints of Lucienne Day's iconic 1950s-60s furnishing fabrics in commemoration of the centenary of her birth. Cushions, tea towels, canvases and fabric by the metre are all for sale in their shop.

It's left me wondering if there are any designs in our own archives that might be adapted in this way. The issue of copyright is a complex one, but it's one that might be worth investigating. Does anyone have any thoughts or comments on this?

Valuing different perspectives

Karen Ingham, Variance (2012), photograph inspired by UCL's Galton collection. 

Karen Ingham, Variance (2012), photograph inspired by UCL's Galton collection. 

How can our collections be used as a means of offering students a richer learning experience? This was one of the questions posed at last week's University Museums Group conference held at the University of Birmingham. Tom Kador of UCL spoke enthusiastically about how their collections provided opportunities for an increasingly diverse student body to interrogate objects from a variety of different perspectives. He specifically mentioned the controversial Galton collection, which gave students a chance to engage with Britain's colonial past.

Maria Economou from Glasgow's Hunterian Museum was less sanguine, but she too spoke of the need for university museum curators to answer the question ‘Why should an increasingly culturally diverse student body take an interest in the collections put together by dead white males?’ She wanted to encourage students to develop a critical approach to the collections, drawing links between objects and exploring these.  

Remembering comments by some of the students who visited the Archives last year, I'm left wondering how our own collections might be interrogated in similar ways. For example, we have a number of posters produced by the Empire Marketing Board as well as early twentieth-century advertisements featuring racially stereotyped characters from different nations. Does anyone have experience of using similar material with students?

In search of Expo 67

How will tomorrow's artists respond to today's exhibitions? That's a question I've asked myself while reading about an exhibition that's currently on at the Musée d'Art Contemperain in Montreal. In Search of Expo 67 brings together works by nineteen Quebec and Canadian artists who've been inspired by the innovative, experimental and provocative dimensions of the original event and its social and political contexts. 

The exhibition has provided these artists with the opportunity to delve into the archives and histories of the original event in order to create new works that offer a glimpse into the myriad ways Expo 67 continues to resonate in the contemporary imagination. For example, Althea Thauberger was inspired to create a video installation by what she learnt about 'The People Tree' displayed in the original Canada Pavilion, which was intended to promote a vision of Canadian identity through social documentary photography and an architectural model of a family 'tree'. 

Althea Thauberger, L'arbre est dans les feuilles, 2017, photo by Guy L'Heureux.

Althea Thauberger, L'arbre est dans les feuilles, 2017, photo by Guy L'Heureux.

In the video, Althea appears in a loose portrayal of Lorraine Monk, executive producer of the NFB Still Photography Division in the 1960s. She is shown in the midst of photographic images from their archive that date from 1963 to 1966. The words Althea speaks are taken from interviews with Monk and internal correspondence within the Still Photography Division. The work also features poems commissioned from four emerging Montréal writers and reflections written by cultural historians Andrea Kunard and Carol Payne.

To find out more about how other artists have approached this theme, why not visit the exhibition website? Might you consider producing work inspired by earlier exhibitions like the Festival of Britain?

Harlem exhibition inspired by African-American fashion designer's archive

Have you ever thought of fashion archives as a source of creative inspiration? Derrick Adams did just that when he carried out extensive research into the archive of the influential African-American fashion designer Patrick Kelly (1954-1990), which is housed at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York.

Derrick Adams, The Journey, mixed media collage on paper, 2017 (photo by Adam Reich)

Derrick Adams, The Journey, mixed media collage on paper, 2017 (photo by Adam Reich)

This research has informed his current show at the Studio Museum in Harlem. At the center of Patrick Kelly,:The Journey is Adams’s “Mood Board” series, a new body of work in which he responds to Kelly’s legacy as a formalist who imbued his creations with social context and humour. These abstract collages incorporate Kelly’s vintage clothing patterns and iconic fabrics, colours and shapes: bold and colourful geometric forms, contours of the female body, buttons and other embellishments. However, they are far from being simply derivative: they also demonstrate Adams’s ongoing interest in deconstructing, fragmenting and manipulating structure and surface.

Is there a fashion designer who inspires you? What might your unique take on their work be?

Unboxed: Artists and the Archive

Have you heard that the Hayward Gallery is to hold a two-day event to celebrate its re-opening in January 2018? They'll be bringing together artists, writers and curators who'll use different elements from their own archive to explore 50 years of creating radical exhibitions at the gallery. On the evening of Tuesday 5 September, the Australian artist collective Barbara Cleveland will deliver The History of Performance, a participatory work in which members of the audience will be invited to recall their memories of historic exhibitions at the Hayward. 

Installation shot of live peformance of The History of Performance at the Sydney Biennale, 2015.

Installation shot of live peformance of The History of Performance at the Sydney Biennale, 2015.

The following day artists, researchers and curators will be invited to contribute to panel discussions about why we archive particular items and how to exhibit archival material. There'll also be a series of informal sessions to allow participants to present their research projects in greater depth. Artists Larry Achiampong, Marysia Lewandowska and Florence Peake will show new work in response to the Hayward's exhibition archive, which includes material relating to two of its most significant shows - The New Art (1972) and The Other Story (1989). I'd love to be able to listen in to get some new ideas for the Art & Design Archives here at BCU!

If you're interested in working with archives, why not go along?

 

Criminal Quilts

Have you heard that students from the University of Wolverhampton are to work alongside artist Ruth Singer and archives staff on a project inspired by photographs of women criminals held by Staffordshire Record Office? They were all arrested in the 1880s. Many of them are shown with the splayed fingers of both hands held against their chests, presumably because the authorities wanted to know if they had any missing fingers that could help to identify them. 

Installation shot of exhibition of Ruth Singer's exhibition Court Hands at the Shire Hall Gallery, Stafford, 2015.

Installation shot of exhibition of Ruth Singer's exhibition Court Hands at the Shire Hall Gallery, Stafford, 2015.

Ruth has been working with these images since being commissioned by the Shire Hall Gallery in 2012 to produce a series of six miniature quilts now on display outside the historic courtroom in Stafford. Her work is all about memory and personal stories, both real and imagined. She's really excited to be starting a new project taking this further, having just received funding from the Arts Council to develop new work, exhibitions and community partnership projects based around the original archival material relating to Victorian women criminals. Ruth will be working alongside staff from Staffordshire Record Office and students from Wolverhampton to produce a new exhibition and publication. They'll also run a seminar exploring the lives of these women in more detail. 

If you're interested, you can go along to the project launch at Staffordshire Record Office on Friday 8 September to hear more about it and see the archive documents which inspired it? Alternatively, you can follow its progress @CriminalQuilts

Sharing insights on student engagement with archives

How can we encourage students to use our collections more? That was the question being considered at a symposium organised by the Association of Performing Arts Collections held at the University of Leeds yesterday. 

One of the speakers mentioned that their hands-on sessions for students proved much more popular when they included cakes inspired by items from the collections! I'm not sure we can provide those, but perhaps we might follow some of the tips suggested by Joanna Baines from the University of Kent. She spoke of students' difficulty with reading handwritten documents or those in unfamiliar Gothic fonts as well as of their anxieties about handling fragile items, but had found a way round these particular problems by focusing on visual material which didn't need to be handled so much as it was mainly flat. To introduce a note of fun into using the University's archives, she considered ways in which greater use might be made of the British Cartoon Archive in their teaching sessions.

One of these was to include examples of theatrical cartoons in a module on Victorian and Edwardian Theatre for second-year drama and theatre students that was taught in their Special Collections reading room. This year's students were invited to pick a character featured in one of the cartoons to research in some detail. They were encouraged to use the primary sources in the University's collections to do so. In the following session, they had to argue in class about why their particular character should be allowed to stay in a hot air balloon.

For their final assessment, the students drew on material from the collections to design and curate an exhibition shown in the Templeton Library's gallery space. They divided into two groups looking at very different topics, one of which looked at how Victorian playwrights responded to the public's fascination with scandalous crimes like the Jack the Ripper murders. The other focused on the establishment of the pantomime tradition at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane in the late nineteenth century. 

What would encourage you to use the archives at BCU more? Would it be more online resources and guides? Project placements? Workshops on using archives? Including sessions in the archives as part of taught modules? Why not let us know?

Archive project boosts students' presentation skills

How can you increase your chances of getting a job? Archives staff at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture recently thought up a project that would do just that - as well as increasing the profile of their own collections.

They collaborated with Middlesex University’s employability team to develop a new scheme to give students training in communication and presentation skills. After receiving some coaching in public speaking, three students created short videos in which they talked on screen about MoDA's collections. The students were encouraged to reflect upon how the collections related to their own creative practice, and to think about their emotive, personal responses to individual items within them.

Winifred Mold, Design for a printed textile for the Silver Studio, 1919.

Winifred Mold, Design for a printed textile for the Silver Studio, 1919.

After researching their chosen objects, each of them created a storyboard for their video. They then returned to film their videos, which you can see them on MoDA's blog. Two of the students chose to focus on designs by Winifred Mold, the first female designer to be employed by the Silver Studio in 1912. As a woman, she would have been at a distinct disadvantage, being paid much less than the men. She also worked from home, only visiting the premises once and never seeing the men at work. Boss Rex Silver would correspond with her by letter to discuss her designs, thereby unknowingly providing a rich source of information for textile historians. 

One of the students opted to use her own experience as an Illustration student to reflect on Mold's style and use of colour and the experiences of women artists working in the 1910s. The other chose to consider the stories that could be creatively imagined from two of Mold's images, one of King Cole and the other of medieval hunters. 

 

We've got our own collection of textile designs here at BCU - why not visit the Archives to see if they can inspire your own work?

 

 

 

 

 

Archival collections inspire the creation of drama

I've just learnt that there's to be a one-day conference for all those working with community archives in London next Tuesday. This year's theme is Creativity, so I very much wish I could be there. The key note speaker is award-winning artist Mohammed Ali, who will talk about how archives provide communities with opportunities to explore their sense of place and identity. You can find out more about his work on the Strong Rooms project in one of our earlier blog posts.

One of the other speakers is Jefny Ashcroft, a drama specialist who will talk about about the Arts Friendly Archives project, which has been funded by the Arts Council. Over the past year, he has put on three tailor-made plays inspired by collections held  by archives in Wolverhampton, Dudley and Stratford upon Avon. The most recent of these was Bram and the Guv'nor, which imagines Bram Stoker debating with Ellen Terry how leading Shakespearean actor Sir Henry Irving might be persuaded to accept a proposal  that he play the Count in a future production of Dracula at the Lyceum Theatre. The audience was immediately drawn in to the question of whether Irving would agree, but he kept them in suspense until the very end. The question on the lips of many visitors was whether he ever did go on to play the Count.

Ellen Terry and Bram Stoker discuss Stoker's plans to produce Dracula at the Lyceum during performance of Bram and the Guv'nor, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, 16 May 2017. Photo credit: David Ashworth.

Ellen Terry and Bram Stoker discuss Stoker's plans to produce Dracula at the Lyceum during performance of Bram and the Guv'nor, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, 16 May 2017. Photo credit: David Ashworth.

The play drew on material in the Bram Stoker Collection, which is owned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and held at Stratford upon Avon archives. Exhibitions of material from the collection were shown alongside the play when it was performed at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in May.  

If you're a creative writer, have you ever thought of using archives for inspiration? 

 

 

Getting hands on with collections

How can archives and museum collections directly inspire creative studio-based students? That's a question that's been actively explored at MoDA, where students from Middlesex's MA and BA Crafts courses recently took part in a three-day workshop on creating their own textile designs.

Applying race paste through a stencil onto fabric.

Applying race paste through a stencil onto fabric.

The workshop was part of MoDA's current research project, Katagami in Practice: Japanese Stencils in the Art School. It was run by Sarah Desmarais, whose practice-based research is focused on the themes of slow-making and the relationship of craft to wellbeing.  Part of her method was to ask participants to slow down and take their time to really look at  some of the katagami stencils in the collection.  Although they were first struck by how intricate and delicate they are, taking the time to engage with them through close observation and drawing made it possible for them to use them in a critically engaged way.  Over the course of the workshop, they cut their own stencils, mixed a traditional rice paste to act as a ‘resist’, and dyed their fabrics using indigo.

Reading about the project, I was led to wonder how our own archives could be used to encourage students to learn more about older ways of making. Given the recent revival of crafts and the hand-made, I think there's scope for more of this kind of activity. 

  

Textile artist invited to respond to collections at Gawthorpe Hall

Have you ever thought of creating a piece of work in response to a particular museum collection? As part of a year-long project by Arts & Heritage, ten artists have been invited to do just that. They'll be working in different museums across the north of England. Among them is Serena Partridge, who will be working with the textile collections at Gawthorpe Hall in Lancashire. 

Serena is best known for her exquisitely stitched miniature art works inspired by historical costume and storytelling. Her works are usually presented as museum acquisitions, complete with labels that blur the boundaries between fact and fiction. For this particular commission, she's exploring the idea of making work on a larger scale. She'll create unusual interventions in rooms around the Hall that reflect on the work of their founder Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth as a maker, teacher and collector fifty years after her death in 1967. Each will consist of a large collection of small-scale embroideries, illustrating an element of Rachel's life, her character or a quote attributed to her. In keeping with her ethos of wanting to open up learning opportunities and keep traditional textile skills alive, Serena will also be working with a variety of community groups who will stitch additional elements for each of these ‘landscapes’.

Serena Partridge at work in her studio, from artist's website. 

Serena Partridge at work in her studio, from artist's website. 

The exhibition of Serena's work will be on show at Gawthorpe Hall from August to November. If you have time over the summer, why not go and have a look at it?

Craft residency offers opportunity to work with Dorset archives

As archivists, we're frequently considering how we can encourage more people to engage with our collections. At Dorset History Centre, they're working on an HLF-funded project in partnership with Walford Mill Crafts and staff at the National Trust's Kingston Lacy property in Wimborne. They're aiming to stimulate interest in the Bankes family archive by appointing a craftsperson to produce contemporary works in response to the stories contained within it. 

Photograph of Henrietta Bankes with her three children, Kingston Lacy estate, Dorset, 1908.

Photograph of Henrietta Bankes with her three children, Kingston Lacy estate, Dorset, 1908.

Over 3-6 months in the coming year, they'll spend time with the team at the Dorset History Centre to explore the scope of the Bankes archive and become familiar with the Kingston Lacy estate, exploring the site and property in liaison with National Trust staff, volunteers and tenants. They'll show their work within the house, landscape or grounds and will be expected to engage with the local community during their residency, perhaps by working with staff and volunteers at Kingston Lacy to uncover its hidden stories or by inviting local residents to a craft workshop at Walford Mill Crafts. 

It sounds like a fascinating opportunity for uncovering family secrets. Just imagine ... you've a legitimate excuse to read other people letters!

 

Winterbourne offers creative opportunities this summer

Did you know that Fourth Wall has been awarded a Heritage Lottery grant to train young people in running cultural events through a project to be run at Winterbourne House in Edgbaston over the summer?

Up to twenty people aged 17-25 have been recruited to create, devise and present ‘Within These Four Walls’.  This will consist of three theatre performances and an exhibition on the themes of Leaders of the Past, Women’s Education and Communication. The plays will be performed at Winterbourne in September, and the exhibition will run at the house for ten weeks beginning in October.

During the project Fourth Wall will train the participants to run the project and help them to recruit a group of young performers aged 11-18.  The two groups will then use the archives at Wnterbourne to research the Nettlefold family, who built the Arts and Crafts House in 1903. Working from a base in Northfield, they will explore the contrast between the Winterbourne house on the one hand and the Moor Pool estate in Harborne that John Nettlefold helped to develop and the back-to-back slum housing in Birmingham city centre that he helped to clear on the other.

I'll be interested to see what they come up with ....

Latest Parkside exhibition draws on BCU's Art & Design Archives

If you'd like to get a glimpse of the wealth of archival resources accessible to students, why not go along to Parkside Gallery's latest exhibition, Cabinets of Costume

Installation shot of Cabinets of Costume exhibition showing theatrical costume designs for The Threepenny Opera by students in the early 1970s from BCU's Art & Design Archives, Parkside Gallery, May 2017.

Installation shot of Cabinets of Costume exhibition showing theatrical costume designs for The Threepenny Opera by students in the early 1970s from BCU's Art & Design Archives, Parkside Gallery, May 2017.

Over the last few weeks, two third-year students from the BA (Hons) Design for Performance course have been in and out of the Archives, taking the opportunity to browse our collections. Not only have they learnt all about the challenges of exhibiting archival material, but they've also gained valuable experience in selecting works to meet a particular brief and faced the challenges of mounting and framing them. However, I'll let them speak for themselves. Alessia Mallardo said that

'my involvement in Cabinets of Costume as a collaborative designer has been a gratifying experience, but first and foremost I have mainly enjoyed discovering the meticulously detailed and beautiful archival material to exhibit.'

 These sentiments were echoed by her colleague Rachel Shore, who said

'I have really enjoyed the opportunity to engage with the archives. A lot of the costume designs we have seen from the archive are from the Theatre Design course, which is now my course - Design for Theatre, Performance and Events. It has been an amazing experience to be able to look at and engage with the history of my course and the costume design course. It is also interesting to see how techniques have changed or remained similar over the years and with the advancement of technology.' 

Both of them felt that the project had helped in the development of their careers as designers after graduation.

Installation shot of Cabinets of Costume exhibition showing designs for a book cover and theatrical costume designs by Meredith Hawes, 1930s, from BCU's Art & Design Archives, Parkside Gallery, May 2017.

Installation shot of Cabinets of Costume exhibition showing designs for a book cover and theatrical costume designs by Meredith Hawes, 1930s, from BCU's Art & Design Archives, Parkside Gallery, May 2017.

We hope to be able to collaborate with more students in the curating of exhibitions. If you've an idea you'd like to explore further, why not get in touch?