The Textile Archive: curating personal histories and family narratives




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De Montfort University


Thesis or dissertation

Peer reviewed


Textiles are a ubiquitous facet of global culture, with the potential to become records of significant relationships, events, and stories over their lifetime. This research project investigates textiles which have been informally gathered together, and kept within the home, for their emotional or symbolic resonance. No longer used for their designed function, these textiles are saved from disposal for their ability to prompt personal and family histories and stories, in a phenomenon identified within the study as the personal textile archive. Textile design research is increasingly concerned with incorporating interdisciplinary social and cultural frameworks within its traditional research fields of technology, innovation and creativity, to frame a textile's socio-cultural relevance. This shift in the field requires the development of specific textile design research tools which are capable of producing purposeful research which analyses the material and designed properties of textiles in relation to their symbolic or affective experience, in order to understand the user-experience of a textile. Phenomenological research methods are established as tools for investigating phenomena and lived experience from a first-person perspective, which the investigation of the personally significant textiles within this study requires. A particular method, interpretative phenomenological analysis, has been specifically adapted for textile design research, and it is demonstrated within this research project that is is able to investigate and analyse the personal textile archive, producing original insights into this phenomenon. Through this application of this adaptation of interpretative phenomenological analysis, the design, affordances and craftsmanship of a textile are revealed as interweaving with its emotional, sentimental, biographical orfamily historical meaning. This is a useful and important original contribution to textile design research, and the recommendation is made that other researchers in the field will be able to utilise and further test this tool within future textile design research studies.



textile design research, interpretative phenomenological analysis, phenomenology



Research Institute

Institute of Art and Design