134 years of history, 70,000 historic objects, 1 nationally accredited retail archive
M&S has been at the forefront of retail for over 130 years and our job at the Archive is to preserve the history of the brand and tell the M&S story to inspire both loyal customers and future generations to come. And, we’ve just been recognised by The National Archives for our efforts, becoming the first ever retail archive to receive National Accreditation.
The achievement sets the standard for UK archives and positions the M&S Archive as a centre for excellence. The M&S Archive is now amongst the top five percent of all archives in the UK – across any sector or industry.
The Archive tracks the history of our brand from founder Michael Marks’s penny bazaar in Leeds to becoming a high street bellwether and household name today. But, the Archive’s collection of over 70,000 historical objects don’t just tell the story of M&S, they give us an exclusive insight into the social trends, tastes, fashions and concerns being felt throughout M&S’s 134 year history. From the outbreak of WW2, through rationing, female liberation, the swinging 60s, globalisation and the millennium – how Britain shopped tells a tale of the state of the nation that informs us today.
It was this outward looking attitude that impressed the judges from The National Archives, they praised our community engagement programme which includes pop up fashion shows, theatre productions, partnering with school groups and even reminiscence cafes for dementia sufferers to help them to remember popular M&S products and adverts from a bygone era. The sheer scale of the collections, and the innovative ways we use our products to engage the public was applauded by the judges. That’s a huge part of job satisfaction for the archive team – seeing just how passionate the public are about the heritage of our brand and its place in British history!
As the Company Archivist, what gives me the most satisfaction is seeing how the business uses its heritage on a daily basis - whether it’s to inspire a brand new product, share our brand identity with customers or colleagues, or fact-check something from our past. We’re actively using our archive collection – taking the best from the past to inform our future - it’s a living, growing archive!