Marion Richardson Archive

Reference and contact details: GB 2794 MR
Title: Marion Richardson Archive
Dates of Creation: c1920-1980s
Held at: UCE Birmingham Institute of Art and Design Archives
Extent: Approx. 20,000 items
Name of Creator: Marion Richardson (1892-1946)
Language of Material: English
Level of Description: fonds

Administrative/Biographical History

Marion Richardson (1892-1946) spent four years training in Art Teaching at Birmingham College of Art and Design after gaining a scholarship in 1908. At this time Robert Catterson-Smith was principal of the school and advocated the use of mind, memory and visualisation, which came to greatly influence her future work.

After gaining her Art Class Teachers Certificate, her first job was at Dudley Girls High School. Here she started to develop her child-centred approach to art education that came to influence many others all around the world. She developed a progressive way of teaching art to children, believing that all had aesthetic capabilities if only they were encouraged in appropriate ways. These ways advocated the use of the memory and visual imagination in producing art works, through exercises like Mind Picturing, Word Picturing, Beauty Tours, Observation Studies, Experimental Studies and Pattern and Handwriting.

In 1915-16 she published a Drawing Syllabus which although heavily advocating the use of the memory in creating art works, was very similar to the Standard Board of Education drawing programme. However, within a year the standard drawing methods e.g. drawing from geometrical shapes, natural forms etc that she had advocated in her book had been disregarded and her pupils were being encouraged to produce work with hardly any instruction at all.

At this time Richardson came into contact with Roger Fry who was showing children's drawings at an exhibition at the Omega workshops in London. Sharing similar ideas about art education, Fry and Richardson remained in contact for many years.

Around 1920 Richardson came to identify the role she saw for art teachers, which was very much about acting as a catalyst, giving encouragement and guidance rather than imposing taste and aesthetic judgements.

She continued to work at Dudley Girls High School full time until 1923 and part time till 1930. She then went on to become a teacher trainer at the London Day Training College and an art inspector for London County Council. She also continued to teach within various public schools and to specific private pupils.

Through lecture tours, exhibitions of children's works and various articles, her ideas about child centred art education came to felt across the world, most notably in Canada and Australia.

Scope and Content

The archive is made up of letters, diaries, unpublished papers and lectures, glass slides, photographs, reproductions, part of her art library, recent research on Marion Richardson and several thousand examples of children's art works.

The archive covers the whole span of her career and work, from her first teaching job at Dudley Girls High School, through the various public schools and private students she taught and her teacher training and inspection work in London.

There is also a collection of supplementary material produced by teachers under Richardson's tutelage, experiments with Richardson methods by teachers in the 1980s and 1990s and research and correspondence based on the archive.

System of Arrangement

The archive is arranged in six categories these are:

  1. Correspondence and other written and printed material
  2. Library Collection
  3. Handwriting and Patterns
  4. Drawings, Painting and Prints
  5. Photographs and Glass Slides
  6. Supplementary Material.

Custodial History

The Richardson family held this collection until they donated it to the Archives in 1973.

Processing Information

Initial cataloguing of this collection was made around the 1980s with the support of a Social Science Research Council Grant. The order of items within the collection reflect in the main the organisation of the material when it was donated alongside a conceptually imposed system based on material and chronology.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated.

Accruals

None expected.

Access Conditions

By appointment.

Finding Aids

An index card catalogue covers the majority of the collection. A 12-page booklet entitled Marion Richardson Archive gives a summary of the nature and structure of the archive.

Archivist's Note

This description was compiled by Sian Everitt, Keeper of Archives.