Arts and Crafts at the National Archives

'Poppyland' furniture fabric registered by Liberty, February 1904 (BT 50/536/427344). Image courtesy National Archives

‘Poppyland’ furniture fabric registered by Liberty, February 1904 (BT 50/536/427344). Image courtesy National Archives

The Arts and Crafts style, beginning with William Morris and his contemporaries in the mid 19th Century, has endured for over 150 years. In fact just a few days ago the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow was named as the winner of the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2013, highlighting how much interest there still is in the Arts and Crafts movement and its characteristic style. 

'Almond Blossom and Swallow' wallpaper sample designed by Walter Crane, registered by Jeffrey & Co, July 1878 (BT 43/102/323809). Image courtesy National Archives

‘Almond Blossom and Swallow’ wallpaper sample designed by Walter Crane, registered by Jeffrey & Co, July 1878 (BT 43/102/323809). Image courtesy National Archives

As such the National Archives have written a fascinating blog post about the Arts and Crafts design highlights in their own collection. e hold records of designs registered for copyright with the Board of Trade and successor departments between 1839 and 1991, including samples and original designs by Morris & Co, as well as many registrations of designs by Liberty. Records from 1842 to 1883 are in BT 43(representations – drawings, paintings, photographs or samples of the design) and BT 44 (registers). These series have been catalogued by item, and are searchable online by registered design number, proprietor, date, address and (sometimes) description of object. See our online guide for more information about registered designs. These records form an absolutely outstanding resource for artists and designers. 

See the National Archives blog for more information. The annual Liberty Arts and Crafts Exhibition is also currently underway. 

'Anemone' furniture fabric design registered by Morris & Co, February 1876 (BT 43/372/298226). Image courtesy National Archives

‘Anemone’ furniture fabric design registered by Morris & Co, February 1876 (BT 43/372/298226). Image courtesy National Archives

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Archiving the Arts – why and how?

The National Archives have embarked on a new collection strategy called Archiving the Arts.

The arts is a complex area to archive, because arts organisations’ and artists’ heritage is more than their documents and records: to capture the essence of an art form for posterity, a variety of audio and visual media are often needed, and objects can be a crucial part of the heritage too. Though many arts archives already exist and can be very rich and exciting in content, there is a real danger that other aspects of the arts will not be accessible in the future.

Archiving the Arts is a direct response to the needs of the arts community, who are increasingly interested in exploring a ‘second life’ for their archives and collections. The first stage is well underway: a survey of current practice among funders, collecting archives and arts practitioners, it aims to gather the views and capacity of those involved or potentially involved in archiving the arts. Survey reponses will help us to plan at both a strategic and a practical level, from influencing future infrastructure to what training workshops might be most productive to help us archive the arts.

For more information about the project click here. See also this useful blog about a US conference addressing similar issues that took place last year. All This Stuff: Archiving the Artist edited by Judy Vaknin, Karyn Stuckey and Victoria Lane was published earlier this year and is a useful publication expoloring the documentation of creative processes.

All This Stuff: Archiving the Artist, edited by Judy Vaknin, Karyn Stuckey and Victoria Lane

All This Stuff: Archiving the Artist, edited by Judy Vaknin, Karyn Stuckey and Victoria Lane