I had decided that the best way to approach a research project into the historical conferences of the DRS was to take two approaches.
First, to track down any physical records, artefacts and ephemera that might help to bring give those past events a concrete sense of being into a presence that I could hold onto. Those objects might become useful contributions to the 2016 conference exhibition, and so also give delegates something to hold onto, visually at least, that locates the talks of the day with some of our yesterdays. Taking up that challenge would mean digging around for contact details for the people involved and then, in turn, asking them to dig around in their memories, bookcases and attics for anything that might be of interest. I wasn't sure what this would lead to. Is it plausible to expect anybody to have carried things around, things that might have seemed important 50 or more years ago but which might have, in the interim, become an encumbrance or an unwelcome reminder of encroaching years. Or, better, a cherished personal record of wisdom accrued and contributions made.
The previous post on this site referred to the 1962 conference on design methods. I made contact with the organising secretary, Peter Slann who kindly offered to take a look in his attic for anything that might be of interest. When we next spoke he told me about the Roderic Hill building and the supersonic wind tunnels that he had installed there, the new building programme for ICL, the aspirations for the conference to address the need for a more multi-disciplinary approach to design and engineering, the Government interest at the time in design education (and the Fielden Committee), the connections between Imperial and the Royal College of Art, and the conference on teaching design that took place the next year at Scarborough. Oh, and he'd found the tapes of the 1962 conference that they had made at the time, recording the speakers and the discussions that took place during the event.
Peter kindly sent the tapes on and they are currently in the process of being digitised. This will hopefully result in something even more tangible for the 2016 delegate to hold onto or at least something tantalisingly atmospheric if not completely audible: Chris Jones on Method; Ken Norris on Bluebird; Howard Hodgkin on Creativity. Let's hope that this years conference will be similarly eclectic and iconic. Should we be recording the sessions?
My second approach to the project is less physical. There are these DRS History articles, somewhat hidden away in the attic of the DRS conference website, but there is also a twitter feed based on readings of the conference proceedings but sent from an imagined seat in the auditorium. People are joining in already. These are collected at #50yearsofDRS and published through my @DRS50th twitter account. Find them all here:
We've been to ICL already and are currently taking an overnight break at the Royal Hotel in Scarborough (did somebody say fish and chips?) which will be the subject of the next post here.
None of this would be here without the foresight and generosity of Peter Slann - Founding and Honorary General Secretary of the Design Research Society and editor of DRS Newsletter Vols. 1 & 2.
Thank you Peter!