Students at the TCC at Hampton Court Palace, working in front of shelves holding the Reference Collection

Karen Finch left an archive of books, teaching samples, published and unpublished papers, photographs, correspondence, creative works, and a classified collection of ephemeral literature on textile subjects. Some of this material has already entered teaching institutions, museums and libraries, and locations of material can be found here.

This site aims to provide a finding aid not only for these items, but also to the remainder of her holdings. One aim of the website is to make such material accessible as far as possible while respecting the limits of copyright. Hence, you will find here significant unpublished outputs and images available for research use. Digitisation is an ongoing process, so the site will grow over time.

To draw attention to the richness of Karen’s archive we have published examples of its content on the website and will continue to do so.

Karen was passionate about archives. She told the family that if she hadn’t pursued the life she did, she would have been a librarian (that was the word she used).

When the TCC moved from Ealing to Hampton Court Palace a lorry load of her archive was transported there, forming the basis of the Reference Collection – which is still used in Glasgow (at the Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History).

An account of Karen’s approach to archiving, and the content of the Reference Collection in 1987, is reproduced here. Naturally, the Reference Collection has been added to since that time.

In 2006, another lorry load went from her home in Ealing to the TCC in Winchester. This collection wasn’t logged and was moved to Glasgow where some of it is being stored in the University Archive. Some of the books have been placed in the University Library but many more are stored in an annexe.

In addition, there is more archive material in Walthamstow – books, photos and transparencies, postcards, correspondence, her writings, and her textile collection. Some of the slides have been digitised.

Karen started writing a diary from the mid-1960s. To begin with they were quite short and functional and work-related, but as time progressed her diaries became far more developed in their scope and length. Karen wrote in pencil and her writing skills meant they read like stories rather than a dry account of daily life. To some extent they are now historic, social documents and above all would constitute essential source material if anyone wanted to write about that particular era of textile history. Karen carried on writing her diary after retirement including while living in Walthamstow.

As mentioned in the introduction, Karen made donations of her archive to various museums including Kensington Palace and the Whitworth Gallery.

Family and friends have been informally logging the content of Karen’s archive in Glasgow and Walthamstow and our intention is to publish these lists on the website in the future.

We welcome your comments and feedback.