Seeing Voices: Inside the BT Archive

Tonight I attended the private view of a collaborative project between students currently enrolled on the MA Design Writing Criticism course at London College of Communication and British Telecom. In ‘Seeing Voices: Inside the BT Archive’ students were given access to BT’s Holborn-based archive that has resulted in seven individual responses to BT’s collection.

According to the sumptuous full-colour catalogue accompanying the show ‘material was analysed and interpreted in terms of its social context and design history’. As part of the course module Designing histories and practices, engaging with archival research introduces students to the marvels of uncovering forgotten or hidden objects and ephemera that in some cases can influence or help generate ideas, or provide the necessary evidence required to place your own writing or practical work in an historical context or frame. This was my experience of visiting the Hall Carpenter Archives at the LSE last year when researching LGBT material for my major project.

The image below shows one of my favourite pieces in the exhibition. Student Prachi Khandekar’s project ‘Scripting the future of telephony: a look at the formalised language of telephone operators’ included a document that instructed telephonists on the correct pronunciation of the numbers 0 to 9. My favourite is the shift from Foer to Fife, tragically, received pronunciation to this level has been ‘archived’ in its own right.

The exhibition is well worth a visit, given that telecommunications are embedded in our everyday lives, it was fascinating to view material that cast light on the naive, analogue origins and development of our basic human need to talk to each other when we are physically separated.

Seeing Voices: Inside the BT Archive is on at the Well Gallery, LCC, Elephant and Castle until 11 March 2011.

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2 comments
  1. sarah said:

    Hallo! It was lovely to you on Wednesday. Thank you for the lovely post … it’s great to read feedback and thoughts on the exhibition! Hope you’re well. Let’s see each other soon! x

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