Balenciaga in UCA Rochester Archive (display)


The Victoria and Albert Museum are about to open the UK’s first retrospective on the enigmatic man Cecil Beaton referred to as, ‘fashion’s Picasso’, and Christian Dior called, ‘the master of all of us’. He was, of course, Spanish fashion designer Christobal Balenciaga.  It is 100 years since he opened his first fashion house at San Sabastian and 80 years since he opened his Paris salon.  Balenciaga is considered to have been one of the most innovative and influential fashion designers of the last century. His exquisite craftsmanship and pioneering use of heavy fabrics and unnecessary detail revolutionised the female silhouette, and lead to the creation of a succession of shapes rather than a single signature garment.  He wasn’t interested in ready-to-wear, instead he wanted to design for the people who would wear his clothes.  Balenciaga once said, ‘A dress follows the woman’s body, it’s not the woman that follows the dress’.

Christobal Balenciaga died back in 1972, but his influence is still visible on modern fashion and the label he established  lives on.

We have created a display Quiet Study Room using images sourced only from UCA Rochester Archive.  Examples on show include those gathered from British Vogue (we have incomplete runs that date from 1940), and Harper’s Bazaar (our collection includes issues from the early 1950’s); as well as from other journals such as Vogue Paris, Queen, Flair, and Jardin Des Modes.  There are examples from American Vogue (all back issued can be accessed electronically on ‘Vogue Archive’,  via UCA Library Catalogue).  Articles about Christobal Balenciaga can be found in our back journal collection, such as Harpers Bazaar (June 2017, pages 168 – 177), and Selvedge magazine (Issue 69, pages 56-7) .

The Stuart Aitken research files can be used to follow the path of the V&A exhibition, exploring both Balenciaga’s work (in ‘The Modern Period, Book 3, Balenciaga’) and his influence on other designers, such as Andre Courreges and Hubert de Givenchy (‘The Modern Period, Book 4, The Balenciaga School’).  Stuart Aitken, a long-serving former member of UCA Rochester’s teaching staff, donated these files upon retirement.  The studies comprise of collated notes, and are illustrated with Stuart’s own sketches.  Stuart also made meticulous notes on other designers, and explored different aspects of garment construction, and these are examined in his other files.  (please search UCA Library catalogue or contact the Gateway counter to learn more).


Above left: Stuart Aitken research file ‘Balenciaga’.

Above right: The bottom shelf of the cabinet includes images from the Stuart Aitken research file ‘Balenciaga School’.


(Please note that all aforementioned sources are classed as archive reference material and to be used within the library only. Please ask at the Gateway counter if you wish to view them).

Victoria & Albert Museum’s exhibition Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion opens Saturday, 27th May 2017.  For information and ticket prices  please click here.


In Our Minds Exhibition and Workshop at The National Archives.


We are excited to announce The National Archives will be hosting a workshop and talk “Using archives in your creative practice” to be held on Tuesday 4th April 2017.  You can find full details and how to sign up here.

The talk will include contributions from UCA students and staff who will talk about their experiences producing creative work in response to records related to mental health held at The National Archives and UCA Archives and Special Collections for the In Our Minds Exhibition. There will also be an opportunity to see the In Our Minds touring exhibition in partnership with The National Archives.  Full details about the project can be found on The National Archives blog.

The In Our Minds project 2016 was part funded by Friends of The National Archives and University for the Creative Arts.

Carryl Church – Acting Archivist.

In Our Minds Exhibition – Artists Talk


In Our MInds Exhibition Artists Talk will take place in the Elaine Thomas Library, UCA Farnham Campus on Monday 21st November 12.30 to 1.30pm. Please come along and hear students and staff talk about the creative work they produced in response to records related to mental health held at The National Archives and UCA Archives and Special Collections.



The second part of the In Our Minds exhibition has opened in the Elaine Thomas Library, UCA Farnham campus and will run until 10th December so please pop along and take a look. This touring exhibition in partnership with The National Archives shows creative work produced by UCA students and staff in response to records related to mental health held at The National Archives and UCA Archives and Special Collections. Full details about the project can be found on The National Archives blog.




Last week marked the end of the Building a Better World Exhibition in the Elaine Thomas Library at UCA Farnham campus. An event was held on Thursday 3rd November bringing together students who took part in Stefan Szczelkun’s creative residency with bookRoom around the Working Press Archive, books by and about working class artists 1986-1996 which is housed in the UCA Archive. Stefan hosted Agit Disco in which he played records which have inspired and influenced him politically. Students were invited to bring records to the event which had inspired them politically and to explain the reasons for their choice of track.


In addition bookRoom took part in London’s annual Small Publishers Fair on Friday 4th and Saturday 5th November to launch the bookRoom publication RISE WITH YOUR CLASS NOT FROM IT. Details about the publication can be found here.


Building A Better World Exhibition

We are excited to announce the start of the Building A Better World Exhibition today 22nd September – 6th November 2016 in the Elaine Thomas Library, UCA Farnham.


Back in May 2016 the Archive collaborated with bookRoom on the creative residency of Stefan Szczelkun, creator of the Working Press, books by and about Working Class Artists, 1986-1996 whose archive is housed within UCA Archive and Special Collections.  This exhibition brings together the work of students in response to that creative residency.


Democracy In The Kitchen, Annie Haggarty and Elodie Duncan-Duplain


Story, Oriyomi Oladunjoye

The exhibition includes photographs, collages, videos and performance produced by students who explored identity, politics (class, gender, diversity, disability) from personal, historical and current perspective under the guidance of Stefan Szczelkun, archivist Rebekah Taylor and curator of the project Emmanuelle Waeckerlé.


5 Blog Posts, Susan Merrick


The exhibition includes books and pamphlets from the Working Press Archive which inspired the students work and a new bookRoom press publication “Rise With Your Class, Not From It.”

Microsoft Word - RISE PR.docx

We hope to see you at the exhibition soon.

Carryl Church, Assistant Archivist

Archive Update

You may have noticed things have been a little quiet around here lately. At the beginning of summer we bid a fond farewell to our Archivist extraordinaire Rebekah Taylor who left for pastures new. Now we find ourselves at the start of term with lots of new and exciting things under way including two exhibitions and a new collection which has recently arrived at our doors. More details to follow very shortly…

Carryl Church, Assistant Archivist


Today, sees the start of a Library display of fanzines created by first year students on the Fashion, Promotion and Imaging Degree course.


As part of their introductory unit to Visual Communication, students were asked to produce a fanzine responding to fashion-related themes and sub-cultures. This year publications addressed subjects as diverse as brutalism, skinheads, afrobeat and feminism. The work was produced using techniques such as: screen-printing, mono-printing, letterpress, collage and book-binding. Each ‘zine was restricted to 3 colours with a length of twenty pages.

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New Zine Display.


March was ‘Women’s History Month’ and a workshop was held for students in Farnham to create a zine inspired by our UCA Archives. The students used information on women’s history from the 1980s/90s and created zines that are on display in the Library at Epsom along with items of interest from the Archive.


There is a scrap book of newspaper clippings from 1962 until 1995 that includes fascinating stories and photographs relating to the Art School.


There are committee minutes that hold a wealth of information about the Art School. Research will uncover the types of courses, staff and student achievements, funding, ethnic monitoring, mergers and government changes.

To view these and other archive items, visit the Epsom Archive on Tuesdays and Thursday between 2pm and 3pm during term times and Saturdays.

Get inspired.

Re-thinking the body- new work inspired by UCA archive: the process

In September 2015, along with Senior Lecturer for Photography co-curated an exhibition,Senior Lecturer for Photography, on Sexual Identity and Photography in the Herbert Read Gallery, UCA Canterbury. This was a exhibition that took a year within the planning. During this time my experience on liaising with artists, marketing, budget managing, organising artists events, gave me the confidence to plan my first solo curated exhibition, albeit on a smaller scale.

This led to Re-thinking the Body: New works inspired by UCA Archive, Farnham, Elaine Thomas Library – for both Disability History Month in November and for Explore Archives

ExhibitionI was inspired to undertake this exhibition by attending Tower Hamlets ‘Out of the Box’ event. Out of the Box ‘invited disabled people and artists from East London to take the lead in bringing archives ‘out of the box’, exploring them and asserting their own personal local histories. Through a series of workshops, participants followed a personal research journey into the council’s heritage collections, engaging with sound and oral history, handwritten archives on parchment, newspapers, painting and photographs.’ The event they organised brought me into contacting with research that had been done of disability in museums and galleries. It may me think on how disability was reflected in our archives – and how we could bring this to life, which we have the potential to do in our creative community. I am also aware from alumni magazines we collect on many examples of artists working on the theme of disability. Dyslexia and creativity also often go together, and as someone with a specific learning disability (dyslexia and dyspraxia) this is a subject close to my heart.

From this I developed a proposal, alongside deadlines- put a call out for new artworks to be produced by students, inspired by our collections. I aimed for 8 students. This could be on any theme on the body, including mental health. This call out was open to both disabled and non-disabled students. I was also interested in looking at participants experiences with working with disabled communities – for example one of our participants worked with the deaf community as an interpreter – both inside and outside at the same time. As this would be voluntary for students – extra-curricular – I also spoke to lecturers to ensure that they were able to send the details out – to gage interest. The galleries refined the statement for me and sent the call out around to all students.

I had selected material in advance – including material from the Tessa Boffin archive, looking at photography and sexuality, particularly the LGBT community, and the Working Press, books by and about working class artists 1986-1996, looking at getting marginalised groups published. I also selected haunting photographs from our institutional archives. As participants from other campuses were invited to join in (we are on a 4 campus university) I also put digital images online.

I was happy with the immediate interest I had – as soon as the call out was out, I had 5 responses within a week. Students came from a different levels – BA and MA, and courses were Fine Art, Illustration, and Ceramics. We spoke to the students about their interest and was able to gage types of material to showcase. I did have interest from other campuses, but did not have worked produced from other campuses – I feel that although they had access to digital images, the human touch was particularly important.

Some students chose to use actual images from the archive looking at ways to interpret – including Joslyn Hobbis’, Fine Art, work ‘Different-not less’, looking at invisible disabilities, which used an image from our institutional collections. Setting up exhibition 31Or Allison Inwards, Illustration, ‘Origins’, which explored the female body image, linking to areas such as suffragettes. Allison used the Tessa Boffin archive, and the Working Press archive

Setting up exhibition 32Other students looked at motifs in the archive, such as the themes of ‘labels’ or labelling’, Ceramics

Kim Cruickshank-Inns work 'Welcome'

Kim Cruickshank-Inns work ‘Welcome’

Students such as Daire Lawlor, Illustration, used material from the Tessa Boffin archive as a ‘launchpad’ for inspiration, to explore medical history, depression. Tessa Boffin directly related due to her work around AIDS as early as the 1980s


Susan Merrick, Fine Art, used themes such as fear, and ideas of power to inspire her work, which can be found in the Working Press archive. This inspired her to look at themes of people within power through history

Setting up exhibition 30

Madeline Sparrow, Fine Art, looked at the ideas of communication with her braille piece

Setting up exhibition 24

We had 6 student submissions and the exhibition was set up with brilliant Gallery assistants – we were able to discuss in which order the pieces should be hung (for example which images matched in themes, how did they complement colour wise) how the pieces should be hung (magnets – non obtrusive!) the placing of the vinyl. The labels saying words such as ‘kindness’, were attached to the tables with museum resin. I also got technical help with the television screens.

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Take a look at our flickr album of the exhibition here

I have arranged an artist’s event to happen on the 24th where the artists will have the opportunity to talk about their work.

The display has also been highlighted to the Equality and Diversity Group at UCA.

I’m very pleased with how everything looks, and the comments that i’ve captured about the exhibition. The enthusisatic response I have got from students is incredibly encouraging especially as it is extra-curricular! I’m particularly interested in opening up responses for both disabled and non disabled people who work in various communities. Something definitely I will be developing further…

Rebekah Taylor

Archivist & Special Collections Officer