Archiving the Arts – the role of the Archivist in Art and Design Education

Grainne Loughran

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


    This paper examines the varied and often conflicting role of the Archivist in a University art and design environment and the challenges of working across disciplines and subject areas within one University School (Fine Art, Applied Art and Design). Using examples of some of the projects and research which I have worked on specifically in my role as Archivist with the School of Art and Design, this paper will illustrate how the Archivist working in Art and Design Education often faces difficulties when attempting to apply traditional practices of acquisition, appraisal and description within this environment. The Archivist also has a role to play as participant in discussions on the changing role of archiving in culture, and its relationship with the arts and arts organisations, and this occurs alongside the day to day work of archival research, projects and collaborations with external organisations, and archival policy development. The examples given in this paper represent some of the diverse areas within which I have worked as Archivist for the School of Art and Design, and will illustrate the need for a range of approaches for effective archiving and outreach: Cross-border collaborative projects with community arts archives in the North and South of Ireland (CityArts and Belfast Exposed), which have included archive exhibitions, conferences and roundtable discussions on archival practice within the arts, and how these archive-based projects can act as a focus for urban regeneration and social change.Time-based and temporal art and performance projects – Looking at how these processes, performances and installations are represented in the archive, questioning whether or not the rules of archival selection can be applied in this area, and asking if the documentation and archival evidence of this type of art is, in fact, an accident of practice, and whether the archivist can expect to have a strategic role in recording these activities effectively for future use in education. Performing the Archive – An AHRC funded collaborative project with Locus+ (a public art commissioning agency in Newcastle upon Tyne which has a large archive of public art projects), the University of Sunderland, and Interface at the University of Ulster, exploring the role of archiving in culture and its relationship with the arts. Throughout this project, the roles of the archivist and the archive were constantly challenged and debated by artists and practitioners discussing issues ranging from surveillance, to data mining, to art documentation, to the voids in archives, and what these represent/signify.Ewart Liddell Design Plate Archive – a collection of 1,600 plates, which were used to project drawn patterns during the process of weaving the complex linen damask patterns. This collection represents a vast educational resource with potential for not only preserving traditional design and design processes and the artefacts, and providing a social history of the linen manufacturing tradition in Northern Ireland, but an opportunity to reinvent traditional design in new or disparate media, and disseminate industrial design artefacts for contemporary art interpretation. For the Archivist however, they also represent practical and ethical dilemmas in terms of copyright, access and use, conservation, storage and digitisation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationUnknown Host Publication
    PublisherInternational Council on Archives
    Number of pages0
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2010
    EventArchival Traditions and Practice: Are Archivists Historians? International Council on Archives - Section on University and Research Institution Archives (SUV) - Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic
    Duration: 1 Jan 2010 → …


    ConferenceArchival Traditions and Practice: Are Archivists Historians? International Council on Archives - Section on University and Research Institution Archives (SUV)
    Period1/01/10 → …


    • archives
    • art and design
    • performance
    • installation
    • documentation


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