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MA Design Writing Criticism Discovering BT Archives


One archive; seven voices. Filmed at BT Archives, students talk the viewer through their experiences, the thinking and working processes behind their projects. Prachi Khandekar Scripting the Future of Telephony: prachi.khandekar@gmail.com A Look at the Formalized Language of Telephone Operators

In the early 1900s, telephone operators were trained to use standardized pronunciation codes. Wherever necessary, their language was carefully considered to ensure better communication. This helped streamline the telephone communication process.

Seeing Voices Inside BT Archives


One archive, seven voices, seven points of view. This edition of Fieldstudy provides us with a case study for how archives might be used and the role an archive plays in exploring contemporary authorial positions. If we look at archives in the broadest sense they are defined as repositories for knowledge, information and history. Archives are spaces where a user’s learning experience is the result of an active engagement with the books on the archive shelves, the posters in the plan chest drawers, and the ephemera in the boxes of original materials. That engagement necessarily includes a relationship with the archive’s custodians. The use of archives and special collections in the teaching of visual and popular culture, communication design and social history are key to the development of learning within courses at the London College of Communication, University of the Arts London. Over six months ago, we began a collaborative project between BT Heritage and LCC. We agreed that such a partnership would facilitate students’ engagement with the collection and, at the same time, hopefully bring fresh insights into the materials held therein. Specifically, this became an opportunity (and a challenge) for students enrolled on MA Design Writing Criticism, who were tasked with the job of analysing and interpreting this material in terms of its social context and design history. What better way to learn more about the history of a discipline than engage with an archive, which houses images and artefacts documenting a history of telecommunications? Students were asked to select an artefact to study whilst at the same time exploring the social, political, economic and cultural context in which that artefact existed. They met with the UAL photography and the Archive Research Centre and Fieldstudy designer Dean Pavitt, and gave presentations about their ongoing research, after which PARC invited them to edit an issue of Fieldstudy, its twice-yearly publication. The methods they employed to do this included close readings of a series of films, posters and advertising images, corporate correspondence, books and magazines, as well as photographs, maps and architectural plans, and to apply analytical approaches drawn from design history, criticism and cultural studies to their findings. The students remarked that: ‘By going back to original source material, we find “authenticity” and raw stories to tell. We learn that narratives lie in every archive and every object. They can speak to us, and we can listen.’ The results of this project include seven essays and exhibition. Each student took an artefact or an idea from the archive and interpreted it within the hi story of telecommunications. The time span ranged broadly from the 1920s to the 1980s and topics included a communications exhibition that did not take place, Her Majesty’s long distance phone call to Canada, an advertising campaign involving wires and switchboards, graphic design under the visionary Stephen Tallents at the General Post Office (GPO), the language of telephone operators, the promotional materials of phone catalogues and books on the magic of telecommunications. The essays are contained within this publication and the exhibition was on show in the Well Gallery, LCC. This was collaboration about learning and making visible an often-invisible research process. You really can ‘see voices’ in these archives. Professor Teal Triggs Course Director, MA DWC Brigitte Lardinois Associate Director, PARC Anna Gerber Lead Tutor, MA DWC


Alex Cameron A Very [British] Design Coup


The professional graphic designer was instrumental in transforming the GPO in the 1930s. Through the direction of Stephen Tallents (public relations pioneer), the GPO recognised the need for and began to promote effective design to reach broadening audiences. Kate Nelischer knelischer@gmail.com Still Closer Together Long Distance Calling and a Changed Perception of Proximity

New transatlantic cable lines will “bring the people of Canada and the United Kingdom still closer together,” noted Queen Elizabeth II during the inaugural call to Ottawa. The way people speak about telephone use reflects the change in our perception of proximity as a result of long-distance calling.

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Xanthia Hallissey In Phone; In Fashion


Glamorous, glossy, sexy women in the 1970s and ‘80s were used to advertise household goods. This of course included the phone. Working to sell the phone as part of an “in-crowd” lifestyle desire, these advertising campaigns were a true reflection of the time. Krisztina Somogyi Modern Call Technology as a Visual Language


Plugs, switches and wires. In the 1930s, GPO advertising used technology as a visual language to communicate progress. An optimistic era was introduced by Stuart Legg’s documentary film The Coming of the Dial, opening with a 40-second rotating sequence of Moholy-Nagy’s Light Display Machine.


Emily Higgins With Kindest Regards Letters from an Exhibition that Never Quite Happened


1947 was the year of Alexander Graham Bell’s centenary, and across the world nations prepared to celebrate his epic achievement. It proved troublesome here in London, and despite rigorous planning the proposed exhibition was never displayed. The photographs however, show otherwise.


Sarah Handelman Shorthand Science and Magic Lessons The Promotional Portrayal of Telephone Technology


How do you enter an archive? What do you choose to see? What do you choose to remember? At BT Archives awaits a book of magic. Open it up and discover the molecules aren’t what they seem.

Special thanks to the support of our partners Professor Sandra Kemp

BAF Graphics Ltd

Doctor Kevin Walker

Genesis Imaging (Chelsea) Limited

Peter Marriot

Shorthand Science animation by Tom Loughlin

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