M&S - Heritage Trail

The Michael Marks Building, home of the M&S Company Archive

In March 2012 the new M&S Company Archive was opened on the University's Western Campus. A flagship project at the heart of a distinctive collaboration, the Company Archive is located in the state-of-the-art, purpose-built Michael Marks Building and represents an ideal setting for students, academics and the public to explore the collection. The archive contains over 70,000 items across a vast range of commercial interests, and constitutes one of the finest business archives in the UK.

The collaboration has already led to the joint funding of two PhDs within the Faculty of Arts, focusing on the history of food and sustainability respectively, while two graduates worked with Leeds City Council and M&S to develop a Heritage Trail for the city. KiMarks & Spencer Company Archiveara White obtained a degree in Philosophy in 2011 and an MA in the History and Philosophy of Science in 2012. Along with Abigail Fox, a student in Graphic and Communication Design, Kiara worked as a paid intern on a five month project to research, design and produce a leaflet with a heritage trail leading from the Company Archive to a new M&S stall on Kirkgate Market, highlighting places of particular significance to the city's industrial past on the way.

Megan Parsons from the Company Archive spoke to us about the project.

How did this project come about?matthew boswell

Our partnership recognises that in today’s competitive climate, it is crucial to support students in developing their skills and career prospects, whilst businesses also benefit from the expertise of our top-quality students. We wanted to offer this opportunity to Leeds graduates as we knew they would deliver excellent quality work that would add tangible value to our visitors.

We had already conducted some guided tours through the city as part of our Saturday events programme and the Leeds City Council has produced a series of maps of the city under the Walk It brand. It therefore seemed like a good idea to team up and develop an accessible heritage trail where tourists and residents of Leeds could guide themselves through the city and find out more about the history that is documented in the Company Archive.

How has the collaboration helped your organisation?

The heritage trail really showcases the impact M&S has had on Leeds from its earliest beginnings and we hope it will help to attract more visitors to our Marks in Time Exhibition. The map is a fantastic way of connecting up our new building with the rest of the city. It also helps Leeds City Council to raise the city's profile as a tourist destination, as the commercial heritage of the city is one of its most important distinguishing features.

How is your organisation looking to develop its relationship with universities in the future?

matthew boswellThe Company Archive represents a significant investment in our cultural heritage and locating it on the campus at the University of Leeds opens the way for some very exciting opportunities. The archive contains a rich wealth of material that might form the basis of a whole range of exciting research projects. We've already run a successful series of induction sessions which brought over 700 students and academics into contact with the archive; and we'd encourage any interested academics or students to get in touch!

We're supporting the employability agenda by providing internships and other opportunities for students across the business, helping them to develop the skills for future employment as well as playing a significant role in the cultural life of the city and the University.

In our first year in partnership we provided opportunities for over 200 students to engage with industry, 13 of whom were then offered work placement opportunities. In 2012/13 we've nearly doubled that figure, offering paid work placements to 22 students across undergraduate and postgraduate study (so far)! We're really looking forward to seeing what the next academic year brings!

For more details, please contact Arts Engaged fellow Dr Matt Boswell at m.boswell@leeds.ac.uk.

M&S Company Archive: http://marksintime.marksandspencer.com/.