L. Bruce Archer archive

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This material is held atRoyal College of Art Special Collections
Reference Number(s)GB 1134 LBA
Dates of Creation1960-2002
Name of CreatorArcher, Leonard Bruce (1922-2005)
Language of Material English
Physical Description 34 boxes

Scope and Content

Papers of L. Bruce Archer (1922-2005) comprising 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 (c1974-2002; his detailed 'daily logs' provide description and analysis of College operations in the 1970s and 1980s), Hochschule fur Gestaltung (c1960), and Ohio State University (1980-90). Documentation of conference proceedings include schedules and printed literature and, in some cases, transcripts of papers delivered. Conferences covered include ICED'81 (1981), Culture.Space.History (Middle East Technical University, 1990) and DATER (1991). Teaching materials include a wide range of lectures from the 1960s to the 1990s, arranged by audience/institution, or subject. The archive also includes a series of VHS videos, prepared for the Indian Institute of Technology (n.d.). The 'hospital bed' project is represented through various tangential papers in different sections of the archive.

Administrative / Biographical History

L[eonard] 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. His initially controversial ideas would become pervasive and influential.

After early training at what is now City University, and a role as guest professor at Hochschule fur Gestaltung, Ulm (1960-1), Archer went on to spend a majority of his career at the Royal College of Art (RCA), London, until his retirement in 1988. From his initial appointment as research fellow within Misha Black's Industrial Design (Engineering) research unit, Archer ascended to head his own Department of Design Research (DDR) for 13 years (1971-84). Archer's innovative methods were first tested on a project in the 1960s to design improved equipment for the National Health Service. One strand of these studies, Kenneth Agnew's proposal for a hospital bed, culminated in the perfection of Agnew's design through a rigorous testing process and the inclusion of systems-level analysis and evidence-based design. The bed went on to become standard issue across the NHS.

Archer's influence extended further through his series of articles in Design magazine in the 1960s, in which he advocated six basic stages of process: programming, data collection, analysis, synthesis, development and communication. In this, he anticipated and described concepts which would later be universally understood by designers in now-familiar terms such as 'quality assurance' or 'user-centred research'. Later successes included the DDR's influential study on the importance of design across the school curriculum (1976); from this the RCA established the Design Education Unit for teachers. The DDR itself was closed - peremptorily in Archer's view - by incoming rector Jocelyn Stevens in 1984. Stevens instead hoped to give Archer College-wide responsibility for embedding research in all departments; to this end Archer was made Director of Research, a post he held until retirement in 1988. In retirement he remained active as president of the Design Research Society, and as a provider of short courses to various institutions, including a return to the RCA to deliver his Research Methods Course over several years.

Arrangement

The archive is organised into five sections:

  • (1) Affiliations and posts;
  • (2) Lectures and articles;
  • (3) Conferences and events;
  • (4) Other projects;
  • (5) Miscellaneous correspondence and printed matter

Conditions Governing Access

Items in the collection may be consulted for the purpose of private study and personal research, within the controlled environment and restrictions of the RCA's Archives Room. A small amount of material containing personal data is closed to researchers until further notice.

Conditions Governing Use

Items are made available for the purpose of private study and personal research only. A reader wishing to publish material in the collection should contact the Special Collections Manager, Royal College of Art, in writing. The reader is responsible for obtaining permission to publish from the copyright owner.

Acquisition Information

Donated to the Royal College of Art in 2007 by L. Bruce Archer's daughter Miranda Archer.

Custodial History

This collection of papers, which covers a majority of Archer's career, including his professional posts, affiliations, writings, conferences and teaching materials, was donated to the Royal College of Art in 2007 by Archer's daughter Miranda Archer. It represents the entirety of Archer's professional archive in the family's possession. The archive was subsequently catalogued and made available to researchers from September 2010. Some materials are congruent with papers already held as part of the RCA's College archive, including many reports prepared by DDR students, and other writings by Archer published by the RCA. The Archive of Art & Design separately holds the institutional archive of the DDR, listed as: Royal College of Art, Department of Design Research, records, c.1960-1986.

Accruals

No accruals expected.

Archivist's Note

Prepared by Neil Parkinson, 2013

Other Finding Aid

A handlist/inventory is available from Special Collections, RCA Library. A digital copy of this may be emailed on request. Contact special-collections@rca.ac.uk

Related Material

Many papers among the RCA archive and related collections complement the L. Bruce Archer archive. In particular, the Peter Byrom papers reflect the management issues at the RCA c.1981-4 from another perspective, while the RCA archive contains many reports written by DDR students and other writings by Archer and published by the RCA. The archive of the Department of Design Research is held at the V&A's Archive of Art & Design, where it was transferred following the department's closure in 1984. Many papers among the L. Bruce Archer archive itself refer directly or indirectly to DDR activities and operations.

Bibliography

Pavitt, Jane "Input/Output: Design Research and Systems Thinking" in Reeve, Octavia (ed.) The Perfect Place to Grow: 175 Years of the Royal College of Art (Royal College of Art, 2012)

Preferred Citation

L. Bruce Archer archive (RCA/LBA/2007), Special Collections, Royal College of Art

Subjects

Design education
Art colleges
Art education
Design (research)

Personal Names

Archer,  Leonard Bruce. ( 1922-2005) 

Corporate Names

Royal College of Art

Cataloguing Info

TitleL. Bruce Archer archive
CreationCreated by Neil Parkinson using the cheshire for archives ead creation tool 2012-10-11
Revisions