The new M&S Company Archive at the University of Leeds is the flagship project at the heart of a distinctive collaboration, and one which represents a new model of engagement between industry and education. The new home for the archive on the University's western campus, combines a dynamic business asset with a research tool of considerable academic value, and forms an integral part of the wider remit of this burgeoning partnership.
Spring 2012 sees the culmination of several years of hard work to relocate the M&S Company Archive from its current home above a store in North London, to a permanent new facility, The Michael Marks Building, on the Western Campus at the University of Leeds.
The decision to relocate the M&S Company Archive was made in November 2009 and was prompted by the inadequacies of the current storage facilities at Wood Green, and by the desire at M&S to both protect their heritage and fully utilise the value of this unique business asset. For many in Leeds, Marks and Spencer is a massive part of the city's proud history, and this, coupled with the unique research and innovation synergies between M&S and the University of Leeds, made the University the standout location to be the archive's new home.
The archive comprises an impressive collection of over 60,000 items across a vast range of business interests, and has been academically assessed as having the potential to become one of the finest business archives in the UK. The collection will find excellent facilities in the purpose-built Michael Marks building, which offers state-of-the-art conditions for the collection, including environmental controls and a BS5454 compliant strong room, making it an ideal setting from which to open the collection up to the public.
Professor Michael Arthur, Vice Chancellor of the University of Leeds, says: "The University Library at Leeds is recognised as being one of the finest in the country, and the arrival of what is undoubtedly the UK's most important business archive offers rich opportunities for both research, education and business collaboration."
He adds: "We have already seen the potential for some extremely interesting collaborative programmes and are looking forward to many years of shared expertise between university staff and the highly skilled curators of the M&S collections."
The decision to relocate the archive to Leeds embodies the distinctive shared platform for joint working now developing between business and higher education. The concept of an operational division of M&S working alongside academics on a leading University campus has opened up possibilities for partnership activity across multiple channels, including mutual priority areas such as; research, student engagement and community outreach work. The M&S and University of Leeds partnership has already seen the joint funding of two PhDs focusing on priority areas of strength in both organisations (the history of food; sustainability and Plan A) and M&S sponsorship of the M&S Graduate Prize in Food, which offers outstanding students in Food Science the opportunity to prove their skills in a 'Dragons Den' environment. The prize combines the academic rigour of a research-intensive university like Leeds with the commercial acumen of a FTSE 100 company such as M&S to deliver huge benefit to the student.
Marc Bolland, Chief Executive of Marks & Spencer, explains how the archive project will benefit both public and academic research and the M&S business:
"The Marks and Spencer story is a great tale of how a business can grow from very humble beginnings to international success," he says. "It's an inspiring story, and M&S is fortunate to be able to tell it through artefacts that are already deeply familiar within British households.
"We are very proud of that story and excited by the many opportunities our partnership with the university will offer for exploring it further and relating it to wider and more current issues. At the same time, improved accessibility to the material enables us to make far better use of it within the business, making sure we can use our heritage to enhance our current business performance."
For further information please contact Richard Keegan.