The Design Archives at the University of Brighton: a resource for business historians
WHITWORTH, LESLEY (2008) The Design Archives at the University of Brighton: a resource for business historians Business Archives: Sources and History (96). pp. 69-82.
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Business Archives: Sources and History is one of two refereed titles published by the Business Archives Council. The aim of this piece is to introduce holdings within the University of Brighton Design Archives against what is generally a gloomy picture for the preservation of business records. Historically the threat to commercial retention has arisen from either the costs of storage and of making records accessible, or the tide of mergers, closures and takeovers. Added to this there is now a perceived threat of future legal challenge, leading to pre-emptive record destruction. Against this background, it is asserted that the material held at Brighton is a content-rich collection of undoubted interest to business historians. Concentrating predominantly on the archive of the Design Council (founded by the UK government in 1944), it is argued that the sheer number of companies with which the Council had contact and maintained relationships over several decades, suggests rich pickings for researchers of key aspects of business practice, manufacturing and other sectors of the economy. The distinct strengths of the Brighton archives are drawn out, and means of navigating through varying kinds of material (for example documents, reports, photographs, and ephemera) are described. Connections to bodies of material in other archival repositories are also indicated. Thus far, business historians are an under-represented group in the spectrum of users, who more typically come from social, cultural or design history, and cognate areas such as media studies and visual culture. Whilst the material most obviously seems to offer the potential for a business history of design consultancy, the article concludes that, ‘Taken together, the Design Archives have the capacity to illuminate a wide range of business and creative practices especially where these are related to product development, marketing and promotion’.
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