Archiving and Design History
There is a long-standing tradition of textile archiving and design history research at the University of Leeds (including early associations with notable scholars such as Lewis Foreman Day and Flinders Petrie). This outlook has been sustained at ULITA – An Archive of International Textiles.
Research underpins all cataloguing, exhibitions and publications as well as associated workshops. A key research finding is that different cultures have different geometrical (or symmetry) preferences, expressed through their visual arts; such a perspective requires a detailed knowledge of the underlying processing technology as well as (in this case) an understanding of systems of geometric classification and comparison. A few examples of research projects are identified below:
- The 2008 project entitled The Textiles of Bali and East Nusa Tenggara, was concerned with patterning on traditional textiles (ikats, songkets and some batiks) produced in remote parts of eastern Indonesia. This project involved conducting a detailed structural analysis and classification of cloth construction and surface decoration. The resultant exhibition and accompanying research monograph were sponsored by the Indonesian embassy.
- The Director of ULITA was given privileged access to the Pazyryk textiles (c. 400BCE) held at the State Hermitage Museum (St Petersburg) and spent time there as a short-term visiting research fellow. Using skills and knowledge gained from working with the constituent collections of ULITA, a comprehensive structural analysis was conducted on the renowned Pazyryk carpet in 2008. On return to Leeds, several public presentations were delivered.
- The 2009 AHRC-funded [NO: MG10126] project The Life and Times of Tibor Reich involved the structural analysis and documentation of one of ULITA’s constitution collections (185 items in total). Reich, a past student at the University of Leeds, was an eminent textile and ceramics designer, working in Britain mainly in the 1950s and 1960s.
Textile-heritage research at the University of Leeds has informed and improved public awareness and understanding of textile heritages among target audiences, especially school children, community groups, volunteers, interns and teachers.
Through hands-on workshops, conventional publications, talks and lectures, a strong website presence and public exhibitions, the research has engaged and inspired audiences, and has underpinned a ‘best practice’ resource for other museums and archives. Impact is demonstrated through direct feedback from workshop participants, evidence of community engagement, commentary in the visitors’ book, website hits, and also from accreditations, awards and endorsements from key national arts organisations in recognition of initiatives enhancing public appreciation of textile heritages.( http://ulita.leeds.ac.uk/ )