Alison Spence



Research title: Archivally-embedded textiles, digitisation and digital materiality

Research Summary

Providing digital access to collections is a key priority for archive services.  Standard digitisation methods are adept at capturing and sharing content but less effective in presenting documents as three-dimensional, tangible, historical objects. With increasing numbers of researchers focusing on the physical structure and material qualities of records, there is a pressing need to improve digital access.

My research project explores digitisation and description. It focuses on materially complex textile company pattern books, volumes which are filled with swatches of fabric.  My project aims to:

  • identify cost-efficient ways of digitally capturing and presenting pattern books to convey their physical heft and the tactile nature of the volumes and their contents
  • understand how catalogue description can support discovery and access
  • develop a framework to map materiality.



Spence, A., McCutcheon, V. and Mahon, M. (2019) Case study: the University of Glasgow’s digital preservation journey 2017-2019. Insights, 32(10), pp. 1-9. (doi: 10.1629/uksg.461)

Spence, A. (2021) ‘Why archival materiality matters’, ARC Magazine, December, pp. 24–27.


Digital Preservation Coalition, Connecting the Bits, June 2020 (‘Preserving Born-digital Theses’ presentation)

Additional Information

Professional membership:

  • Archives and Records Association



  • Mobius fellow (Finnish Institute, 2014)



  • Winner of The Tunnock Prize 2022, Scottish Records Association