Researchers watch this space

Researchers watch this space

Curating a socio cultural and historical record of the Tavistock Institute’s contribution to social change.


20 May 2013

Curating a socio cultural and historical record of the Tavistock Institute’s contribution to social change.

This short film illustrates the enthusiasm we are encountering from the academic and business management community and also our own excitement in response to our plan to make the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations (TIHR) archive publicly accessible to a wider audience to reference, to reinterpret and to reapply to contemporary challenges facing society. The archive contains significant socio historical material providing a comprehensive record of the formation, establishment and development of the Institute over a period of 70 years and of its projects from the War Office Selection Board in the 1940s to the emergence of the knowledge society.

The Tavistock Institute has made a significant intellectual and practitioner contribution to the history of the work organisation. This has been documented by Fiddy Abraham in her chapter in the recently published Oxford Handbook of Management Theory, which describes the early influence of Kurt Lewin and systems thinking, the role of psychoanalytical theory and how a group of pioneering social scientists established a new field of enquiry from these reference points to create a legacy that is taken up and continued today in contemporary management sciences such as complexity theory and lean methodologies.

At the Institute we continue to work with a respectful and questioning awareness of these pioneers careful not to be drawn back into the past but to develop new and innovative practice while fulfilling the Institute’s founding purpose of bettering conditions for people within their organisations, communities and wider society.

The archive project itself will work with an action research framework to question the role and potential of such an ‘artefact’ in organisational development. This will include collaborating with different stakeholders to curate an exhibition of new and renewed responses to some of the pioneering work. The project is unfolding and planned as follows:

  • Phase I (completed) – A full review/appraisal of the material to help identify suitable repositories for the archive and to investigate funding prospects for cataloguing the material once it is fully identified.
  • Phase II – (subject to funding) Final decisions on the core archival material and significant projects made by the Archive Project steering group. Cataloguing, rehousing and launch of the TIHR Archive.
  • Phase III – Exhibits, new research projects, new interpretations, this phase will look to generate new research, public engagement projects, artistic exhibits as an outcome of a more accessible archive.

We’d be really interested to hear from you if:

  • you would like to be involved in this project as an advisor, or if you have skills in the cataloguing or conservation of archival material;
  • you have archival material that you would like to include in the project; or
  • you are a researcher who would be interested in accessing the archive in its new home.

Please note that as we progress with the project access to the archive material might become restricted. However please don’t hesitate to be in touch with your access requests.

For queries, requests, interest in the project please contact Juliet Scott.

Other relevant links:

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