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Work begins on new archive building at University of Leeds

Marks & Spencer Chairman, Sir Stuart Rose, and the University of Leeds Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Arthur, joined forces last week to bury a commemorative time capsule.

The ceremony formally marked the start of construction work on the shared building which will permanently house M&S' full Company Archive and include expansion space for collections from the University library. The time capsule was specially commissioned for the occasion and contained items chosen by the M&S Leeds store team and the University.

Children from Little London Primary School in Leeds attended having created images depicting what shopping at M&S and attending University may be like years from now. A montage of these images was placed in the time capsule.

The M&S Company Archive - which contains more than 60,000 items and is an important part of British history and heritage - will be permanently re-located and housed in the new University building, making it available to staff and students for research, teaching and learning. It will also be fully accessible to the public for the first time.

As a dynamic, living archive it will continue to function as an important internal research facility for the M&S team with an exhibitions space, conference facilities and reading room. The new building will include space for archived items from  the University's extensive library collections, which is one of the best academic libraries in the UK.

The building is scheduled to open in autumn 2011 and the 'Marks in Time' exhibition, currently housed at the University's Centenary Gallery within the Parkinson Building, will remain open until then.

Sir Stuart Rose, M&S Chairman said: "This is one more exciting milestone in the partnership between M&S and the University.  We're proud to mark the beginning of construction work on the new building, which will ultimately see the permanent relocation of the company archive back to its rightful place here in Leeds where the business began more than 125 years ago."

The exceptional breadth, variety and depth of the archive means it is of great academic value and the collection will be used in research, learning, teaching and knowledge transfer activity at the University. The archive is expected to be of particular interest to staff and students working in subjects including business, economics, textiles, arts, history, communications, marketing, colour chemistry, food sciences and the social sciences.

University of Leeds Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Arthur, said: "It's immensely satisfying to see work beginning on the archive, literally cementing the partnership between one of Britain's leading universities and one of Britain's leading businesses.

"The academic potential of the M&S archive is considerable for staff and students and it will be a valuable resource for education and research."

M&S is also sponsoring a prestigious scholarship looking at the social history of food, as part of its collaboration with the University. The successful candidate, Josie Freear, of Morecambe, Lancashire, will investigate the social history of food from the late nineteenth century to the present day, in particular its supply, distribution and consumption using the M&S company archive and the Cookery Collection housed in the University's famous Brotherton Library for research.

Sir Stuart Rose recently received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws at the University of Leeds.

For more information, please contact:

Amy Garbutt - Beattie Communications - 0113 213 0302
Guy Dixon - University of Leeds - 0113 343 4031

To download pictures of the M&S archive collection, please visit: www.marksandspencer.com/imagelibrary

For more information on the history of M&S, please visit: www.marksandspencer.com/thecompany

Notes to Editors

The University of Leeds is the UK's eighth biggest research powerhouse according to the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise. It is also one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK and a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. The University's vision is to secure a place among the world's top 50 by 2015. /

The archive enhances the University of Leeds' rich collection of cultural and artistic assets which includes the Stanley and Audrey Burton Art Gallery, the Library and Special Collections, Clothworkers' Centenary Concert Hall and a theatre complex, stage@leeds. The Refectory remains a perennial favourite with bands; and the University's ground-breaking partnership with Opera North is attracting plaudits.

The M&S Archive - Background

Developed in partnership with the University of Leeds, 'Marks in Time', is a free exhibition at the University's Centenary Gallery within the Parkinson Building. It showcases the M&S journey from market stall to international retailer and highlights the role M&S has played in British cultural history since Michael Marks, the company's founder, opened his first stall at Leeds' Kirkgate Market in 1884. http://marksintime.marksandspencer.com/

The M&S Company Archive has been deemed by independent experts as having the potential to be one of the UK's finest corporate archives. It offers an unrivalled insight into the company's corporate history with an extensive collection of internal and external company documents.  It also includes clothing, toys, books, homeware and food packaging.

Pieces of the extensive M&S Company Archive can presently be viewed at the University of Leeds. 'Marks in Time', is a free exhibition housed in the Centenary Gallery within the Parkinson Building.  It showcases the M&S journey from market stall to international retailer and highlights the role M&S has played in British cultural history since Michael Marks, the company's founder, opened his first stall at Leeds' Kirkgate Market in 1884. For more information visit http://marksintime.marksandspencer.com/

The archive is deemed to be of considerable value to scholars due to the economic and social importance of M&S - lending itself to a number of research projects from the evolution of the company, development of staff welfare programmes and financial performance through to the growth of the store network and the range and nature of products provided to a growing mass market. 

Guy Dixon
University of Leeds
Media Relations
Tel: 0113 343 8299