Albert Díaz Mota is responsible for the Documentation Centre of the Museu del Disseny in Barcelona, a project he has been working on for over 10 years now. He explains how the day-to-day life of this space is linked to research.
The Centre has already accumulated more than 200,000 documents. What is the key to preserving and communicating all this documentary heritage?
The key is precisely in not thinking about accumulating. If previously the relevance of a library or archive was measured by the size of its holdings and collections of documents, today what is really valued is what we do with the collections in order to draw people in and turn it into a really useful resource. What we are aiming for is that both the museum staff and the general public can access it, physically or through the Internet, have the tools necessary to get to know the objects housed in the museum better, to study and understand them, as well as being able to relate them to other objects. And this does not depend so much on the number of documents as on their quality and suitability for these goals, and on what we do with them.
Last year, the space was used by around 7,000 visitors. What is the user profile of the Documentation Centre and what links have you established?
We are a specialist centre, but open to everyone, so the profile is very diverse. In the first place, there is the whole team of workers at the museum and the other organisations based at the Disseny Hub Barcelona: conservators, programmers, communicators, etc. Secondly there are the students and professors from the various design schools, as well as researchers from different universities. Thirdly, all the professions that revolve around design, from the designers themselves to the journalists or restaurateurs. Finally, we must also note the general public who visit the exhibitions or take part in the museum’s activities.
Do they all use the Centre card?
Right now we have a constantly growing community of more than 4,000 people who possess a centre card. This card allows them to take books and magazines out on loan, access some content with more controlled access, etc. As of this year, after having digitized more than 140,000 pages of old books and archival documents, we hope to reach more and more people through the museum's web channels.
You’ve been travelling throughout the region explaining your experience and discovering new ways of preserving and presenting a design archive. Which documentation centres worldwide have remained with you?
I have many visits still to make, but our activity has been frenetic! Regarding design, an unquestionable reference point is the design archives of the University of Brighton. But I am especially interested in those institutions where the functions of the museum, archive and library come together, and that is why the libraries and archives of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, MoMA in New York and the National Art Library in London stand out. I also like the FIT's Library in New York for the huge number of resources aimed at the education of designers. In Catalonia, we admire the work done by the Col·legi d’Arquitectes (Architects’ Association) and the MACBA, both the Library and the Archive. And I can’t not mention the daily efforts made in the libraries and archives of the museums of Barcelona, such as the MUHBA, the Museu de la Música (Museum of Music) or the Museu Etnològic (Ethnological Museum), among many other centres.
Among the thousands of documents and publications, surely there is one in particular that has caught your eye. What is it?
Settling on just one is impossible. Of the design documents, the archive of the designer André Ricard stands out, as with the case of the Olympic torch for Barcelona'92 and, especially, the flame of the torch (the intensity, colour, shape). Of the documents about the design process, I am very struck by the ISDIN logo by Yves Zimmermann. I would also like to highlight Paul Poiret's books illustrated by Paul Iribe and Georges Lepape in 1908 and 1911 respectively, or any of the more than 7,000 fashion engravings of which we are still carrying out an inventory.
Finally, we are talking about the future of design research. What innovations are planned for 2018?
We are working on three related projects of which I expect the first results to be seen by the end of 2018. The first one we have called Objectes Enllaçats (Linked Objects). This is a web portal that will allow you to discover some of the pieces that are part of the collections of the museum, and which will, for the first time, relate the objects of the museum with archive and library documents from the Documentation Centre.
The second is an oral memory project with which we will very soon begin to gather testimonials of some of the guiding lights of our design tradition, always using the collections of the museum as a link and a starting point.
And thirdly, after two years of working and putting it to the test in some schools, we will soon begin to put sets of documents and archive material at the disposal of schools which provide design training, so that they can run classes in our centre, with documents that will include original projects and working material from some of the most relevant designers in our country.