Area of change within the main
structure of the archive
Area of change within the relationship
between archives and institutions
Area of change for the visibility
of archives for public in exhibitions


This area reflects to the operative structure within the archive, in particular concerning its materials.

Ad-hoc is positioned as the basic sub-dynamic in which even if the archive is visible for public use or consultation, the materials and knowledge within the archive remains static.

The major impact that we could image when an archive is put in contact with certain public and with certain use of technologies is the possible transformation of the holdings.

A first possible transformation is related to the growth of its materials and creates Productive sub-dynamic. Productivity (creating further knowledge or bringing reinterpretation to an archival material) can be enabled from the archive side by researching, curating or mapping through materials where additional knowledge can be produced such as Australian Prints and Printmaking case study which makes use of visualisation strategy to enable the production of new knowledge regarding the possible readings of materials.

Australian Prints and Printmaking collection (click image for detail)

Another sub-dynamic that transforms the holdings of an archive by approaching a more living level is positioned as Permeable. The permeability (ability to bring additional knowledge from outside into the holdings) can be enabled by audience participation, institutional collaborations or through technological developments such as Toitemoi case study which absorbs information from flickr galleries to amplify the its content.

Toit&Moi (click image for detail)




This area reflects upon the relationship of the archive entity to its or other cultural heritage institutions.

Stand Alone is positioned as the basic sub-dynamic in which the archive is either the only entity framing an institution or has no other connections neither with its own institution (as in a museum having an archive department) or others concerning the visiblity and the use of the archival material.

It is possible to identify an area in which to make a change if we focus on the assisting role of the archive for the institutional’s activities.

A first area is related to the relationship between the archive and the museum, defining the sub-dynamic Contributive in which the archive assists and/or provides information for the activities or the exhibitions of the museum. The final results resembles a museal experience rather than representing the archive entity as in the case study Collections Wall.

Collections Wall (click image for detail)

Another area of possibility is when the archive of one institution make a partnership with other institutions to be able to produce new knowledge that is visible to public. This possibility creates the Collaborative sub-dynamic and happens when there is a common interest in between institutions in valorising some of their materials together regarding a specific them such as the narrative build Broadway with Spotlight on Broadway case study.

Spotlight on Broadway (click image for detail)




This area reflects upon the relationship between archive materials and audiences through exhibitionary forms as it represents the first area of direct connection between these actors.

Supportive is positioned as the basic sub-dynamic in which the archival material has a limited communication; thus archival materials do not own an experience offer but support the one of the exhibition.

By investigating the boosting power of the archive having an impactful relationship with the public, we can define an area of change towards a living state.

A first area related to a possible change towards a more living state is when the archival material broadens up its territory for a more balanced relationship with the experience of the exhibition, thus enabling the Shared sub-dynamic. This means that without that particular archival material, the experience offer of the exhibition would not be either comprehensible or complete as in the Timekeeper case study.

Timekeeper (click image for detail)

Another area of possibility, continuing the gradual increase of the visibility of the archive, is when the archival material becomes the protagonist of the exhibition creating the Exposed sub-dynamic, thus gains an authoritative and dominant presence. This can be seen in the case study Digital Stories keeping in mind ‘digital exhibit’ concept. It is of high importance to notice that, in this particular sub-dynamic the archive is highly impacted by the type of engagement strategy applied. For instance, digital storytelling is used for this case study.

Digital Stories (click image for detail)


ALL CATEGORIES is a website dedicated to communicate the main outcome of the PhD research activity done by Ece Özdil within the Design Department of Politecnico di Milano.

It can be concieved as an exploratory meta-design tool aimed at supporting the design critique and design strategy/envisioning activities of heritage institutions’ projects in relation to archives. Together with practical information of case studies aimed at facilitating the creative thinking and ideation process of institutions, it aims to create a common reference point in which professionals with different backgrounds can fruitfully debate and discuss.

The reference PhD thesis – entitled "Reimagining Archives: An Investigation on Novel Experiences of Archive towards Heritage Knowledge Production and Dissemination" – investigates the relationship between institutions and public from a user-centric point of view and questions what does archive mean today, what kind of experiences archives offer to audiences, how to work upon public visibility, what kind of technologies can enable such connection between archives and audiences, thus what kind of new forms can archive take in order to create engaging experiences for public.

The research provides first of all an interdisciplinary perspective to make a shift from the materialistic approach of archives (focusing on the traditional categorisation of archives such as photographic archives, contemporary art archive, digital archive) towards a function-based approach focusing on the main aim of why the archive is constructed.

The research also defines challenges (space, experience offer and continuity) in order to shift from an open level (open to public use) to a living level (in continuous growth and circulation) and translates these challenges as three dynamics in which archives can enable change. These dynamics are Structural Mechanisms, Institutional relationships and Exhibitory forms.

The following diagram summarises these dynamics with their sub-categories in relation to archive models in a systematical way also showing the gradual shift from an open to living level. The website is based on this meta-design tool and its related case studies exemplifying possible application through their ‘take away’ notes.

Constructive archives refer to those that are constructed with the main aim of bringing together materials that are of archivistic value. The act of such archive model is generally to accumulate and store.

Explanatory archives refer to those that are constructed with the main aim of representing and explaining a certain event. The act of creating this archive model is bring together different materials from possibly different sources and explain in a possibly transparent manner a certain event.

Critical and Creative archives refer to those that are constructed with the main aim of reflecting and/or criticising a certain past event and/or subject. The act of creating this archive model is to assemble and curate material in order to reflect and bring attention to a certain subject.

Exploratory archives refer to those that are constructed to reflect on future events using a broad range of materials which can vary from past to present. The act of creating this archive model is to assemble, create more connections from different sources and construct systems and/or networks of knowledge. welcomes projects as additional case study proposals that you would like to suggest as well as any comments and critiques you would like to make to improve the results. Please DO share your ideas and thoughts using the form below.

site by Alex Piacentini