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Other Archives and Manuscripts

The majority of archives in this section contain materials relating to the careers of key members of Royal College of Art staff and notable alumni. Although there are often areas of overlap with formal College papers, they do not exclusively reflect the RCA’s operations as an institution, and often represent professional and personal activities beyond the College. As such, they are listed separately here.

L Bruce Archer archive (34 boxes)

Leonard Bruce Archer (1922–2005) was an engineering designer and academic credited with helping to transform the process of design in the 1960s. As Research Fellow and later Professor of Design Research at the Royal College of Art, Archer argued that design was not merely a craft-based skill but should be considered a knowledge-based discipline in its own right, with rigorous methodology and research principles incorporated into the design process. Different stages of Archer’s model for the design process would later be understood in now-familiar terms such as ‘quality assurance’ or ‘user-centred research’.

Archer headed the Department of Design Research (DDR) at the RCA for 13 years (1971–84) but his methods were first tested on an RCA-based project to design improved equipment for the National Health Service (NHS) in the 1960s. Perhaps the most celebrated outcome of these endeavours was the perfection of Kenneth Agnew’s design for a hospital bed that would become standard issue across the NHS. 

The L Bruce Archer archive was donated to the RCA by Archer’s family in 2007. The archive comprises diaries, correspondence, conference proceedings, memoranda, offprints, lecture notes and other teaching materials. Among the key affiliations of Archer's career, some of the best represented include the Royal College of Art (c.1974–2002; his detailed 'daily logs' provide description and analysis of College operations in the 1970s and 1980s, and complement the contemporaneous Peter Byrom papers (p.13), which provide different accounts of the same events), Hochschule für Gestaltung, Ulm 

(c.1960), and Ohio State University (1980–90). Documentation of conference proceedings includes schedules and printed literature and, in some cases, transcripts of papers delivered. Conferences covered include: ICED’81 (Harrogate, 1981), Culture.Space.History (Middle East Technical University, 1990), and DATER (Loughborough, 1991). Teaching materials include a wide range of lectures (1960s–90s), arranged by audience, institution or subject. The archive also includes a series of filmed presentations, prepared for the Indian Institute of Technology (c.1980s). The hospital bed project is represented through various tangential papers in different sections of the archive. Inventory available.

See also: Kenneth Agnew photographic collection and Peter Byrom papers. The archive of the Department of Design Research itself is housed at the V&A’s Archive of Art and Design, as the College had no formal archive at the time of the DDR’s dissolution in the 1980s. 

Maxwell Armfield papers (1 case)

One presentation case with partitions containing unpublished notebooks and charts of colour experiments, together with published material on colour harmony by artist and illustrator Maxwell Armfield (1881–1972).  Most of the material is hand-drawn or hand-painted and attempts to create colour harmonies by mapping colours to the Indian musical scales (ragas) or systems such as the zodiac and Tarot, reflecting Armfield’s interest in Theosophy, Eastern religions and the occult. An accompanying ‘colour compass’ consists of a colour wheel with rotating masks to create harmonious schemes. There is a small collection of Armfield’s esoteric writings on colour, published under the pseudonym Hugh Darval. Acquired for the Colour Reference Library from the Armfield estate.

Art & Architecture archive (13 boxes)

The Art & Architecture archive contains minutes, membership data, publications and posters of the Art & Architecture (A&A) group, an assembly of practitioners that aimed to influence debate around the value of public art in the built environment. It spans the years 1982–2007 and comprises: administrative papers, including correspondence (1982–2004); documentation of A&A-organised events and conferences (1982–2007); minutes of meetings (1982–2000); accounts (1994–2003); membership information (1980s–1990s); and documentation of A&A funding bids (1983–2004). Printed matter includes a complete run (to issue 60) of the Art and Architecture Journal (1984–2006), and a range of other A&A publications and ephemera, many of which were designed by Pentagram. There is also a set of posters used to advertise the lecture series. The collection is augmented by a range of peripheral material published by other sympathetic bodies, including the Public Art Forum and the Landscape and Arts Network. The archive was donated by A&A founder members and RCA alumni Jane Riches and Graham Cooper in 2007. Inventory available.

Edward Bawden sketchbook (1 box)

One sketchbook (1960) by Edward Bawden containing drawings from a visit to Portugal. Also includes related letters from Bawden regarding its creation and donation to the College, 1963–9.

Henry Cole journal (1 box)

One travel journal by Sir Henry Cole (1808–82) describing a six-month tour of France, Switzerland and Italy in 1858, on which Cole was accompanied in part by Richard Redgrave RA (former Headmaster of the Government School of Design and Art Director of the South Kensington Museum). Some entries relate to plans for the South Kensington site and the pair’s inspection of classical architecture as inspiration for the design of the proposed London buildings. The journal relates to the larger series among the Henry Cole papers at the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was donated to Robin Darwin in 1964 by one of Cole’s descendants to honour Cole’s contribution to the College’s history. A full transcript is available. 

Villiers David Foundation papers (1 box)

Papers relating to the establishment of a fine art award in memory of arts connoisseur Villiers David (1906–85), together with a small amount of biographical material concerning David himself. After David’s death in 1985, heir Gérard Schlup established a fine art prize in his memory to provide support to artists early in their career. This award was run by a committee from its inception in 1992, but the use of the Foundation’s income and administration of the prize was transferred to the RCA in 2006. These papers were donated to the RCA archives in order to document the origins of the prize and the work of the Villiers David Foundation. Papers comprise minutes, accounts, correspondence and other administrative records.

Madge Garland archive (6 boxes)

Madge Garland became the RCA’s first professor of Fashion when the course was established under her direction in 1948. She had previously held the post of fashion editor of British Vogue and worked as a consultant to the fashion industry. Garland’s papers were donated to the RCA in 2012 by her literary executor, and include correspondence, photograph albums, address books and diaries, along with a series of unpublished memoirs, files of notes towards projected publications, and a bound set of Garland’s published writings for the Bystander magazine. Many of the photographs relate to Garland’s early career and in particular her life in the 1920s and 1930s with her then partner, Vogue editor Dorothy (Dody) Todd. Other material includes letters from correspondents in her diverse social circle, including John Betjeman, Hardy Amies and Rebecca West. Garland destroyed many of her papers in later life, and this material is believed to be all that remains of her personal archive. Inventory available.

GPO stamp albums (2 volumes)

Two stamp albums, apparently assembled by the General Post Office (GPO), containing postage stamps from 1952 to 1970. Many of the designers, all of whom are identified, have RCA connections, and include David Gentleman (graduated 1953), Rosalind Dease (graduated 1954) and John Norris Wood (graduated 1955). The albums also contain a range of first-day covers addressed to Robin Darwin, including a set signed by David Gentleman.

History of tapestry collection (2 boxes)

A collection of photocopies, photographs and press cuttings, along with correspondence with libraries, archives and individuals, concerning the history of various tapestries and the genealogies of the families who owned them. The materials were collected by F P Thomson, partly in preparation for his book Tapestry: Mirror of History (David & Charles, 1980). There is little original material in the collection but one series involves first-hand recollections of tapestry companies in Cambridge c.1981.

Sybil Pye notebooks (1 box)    

Three ring-bound notebooks give an apparently complete record of bookbinder Sybil Pye’s work from 1905 to 1955. Pages are numbered sequentially, 1 to 164, and provide the date, title of book, details of binding colours and materials, as well as a record of the owner or purchaser and any exhibitions. In most cases there are black-and-white photographs of the finished binding. Pye is regarded as one of the first modern design binders: she was self-taught, designed her own tools, and favoured a technique of using inlaid leather binding that broke with Western traditions for the craft. The notebooks were donated to the College by David Pye, former Professor of Furniture at the RCA and Sybil Pye’s nephew. Conservation and digitisation in progress.

The Palfrey collection of Frank Short papers (1 box)    

A collection of papers relating to Frank Short (Professor of Engraving at the RCA, 1913–24), apparently collected by H E Palfrey and his son Harry Palfrey of Stourbridge. The collection includes Short’s Plate Book, 1882–1908, which documents Short’s various works during this period, catalogues of his exhibitions and some of his letters. A substantial amount records the Palfreys’ activities in relation to the work of Short and others, especially through the dealer Matthew B Walker. As such it also allows the study of twentieth-century patronage of the engraver’s art. 

Textiles pattern books (47 volumes)

A collection of 47 textiles pattern books, many of which were originally acquired from the studio of Deryck Healey, while others were internally generated. Firms represented include C & S Swaisland (c.1850s), Geo P & J Baker, and Warner & Son (c.1890s–1920s). Other notable books include samples of London Underground fabric (c.1940–50), a Chinese swatch book (c. late eighteenth century) and a book of ‘designs sold’ by the RCA’s School of Textile Design. These select books were transferred from the Textiles programme to Special Collections in 2012 at the same time as the remaining volumes were relocated to the Joshua Ellis company in Yorkshire. In 2013 the Swaisland books received conservation treatment as part of the Fabric of Our Town project with Bexley Local Studies and Archive Centre, and support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The books were partially digitised for the project’s online resource. Inventory available.

Carel Weight letters (1 box)

A series of letters from Carel Weight (Professor of Painting, 1957–72) to a friend, Mrs Muriel Hague, donated by the recipient. The letters span 1956–82 and sometimes describe commissions and work in progress. Inventory available.

Henry Wilson archive (7 boxes)

A substantial collection of sketchbooks of designs, writings, photographs and correspondence relating to Henry Wilson (1864–1934), architect, jeweller and one-time president of the Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society. The papers were donated to the College by Wilson’s family in 1969, in recognition of his time spent teaching metalwork at the College in the early twentieth century. Major projects by Wilson, including the Elphinstone tomb in Aberdeen (1912–26), and the bronze doors of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York (1927–31), are represented, while correspondence includes letters from Auguste Rodin, W R Lethaby and C R Ashbee. The archive also reflects Wilson’s long association with Gothic Revival architect J D Sedding, for whom he worked as an assistant. Inventory available.

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