The Lace Market: archives and the process of re-invention

As a long-term user of Broadway, and the many wonderful cafes along Broad Street, it has been interesting to observe the streetscape work that is ongoing there. The road is being narrowed and the pavement widened and re-layed. A more attractive and usable space is being created, and hopefully this should draw people into one of the more quirky and interesting areas of Nottingham, especially if we get some warm sunny evenings that are encouraging to being outside.

Interestingly, this street work is being badged as just one part of the “Creative Quarter project”, an initiative which is just starting to become more visible in the area itself. Essentially, this seems to be a large, government- and council-supported effort to stimulate the re-invention of a whole area of the city. The area involved is really quite large, encompassing at least Hockley, the Lace Market and BioCity. Because of the unique nature of this area, there is a very specific focus on creative industries, alongside others. If there is truly £50 million available in some form, then we can expect activity in this area for a long time to come.

All of this has then got me thinking – is there a role for archives in this kind of reinvention, and if so, what is it? More specifically – can a greater availability of archival material that documents the past support the process of reinvention in the future, and if so, what mechanisms can be used to collect and distribute it, in a manner that is beneficial to all involved, and which respects both the cultural context and intellectual property rights? These questions are especially relevant to some aspects of the creative industries, including those that are trying to sell their products in this area. If archives and history can draw people in, then can this support sales, and allow the creative sector to grow? Equally, given several centuries of creativity in relation to the lace design, could an archive of creative material from the past support the work of makers and artists in the future?

Stefan Rennick-Egglestone, CEKE Knowledge Exchange Fellow

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