"When asked what Morris means to me today, I can only give the same answer I’ve always given. I find this multi-talented yet complex individual with an extraordinary zest for life and love of humanity, as enigmatic today as when I was first introduced to his work fifty years ago… Few have written so humanely and convincingly about the joys of labour and the thrill of finally achieving long held goals… It is not the patterns, the colours and the textures of his furnishings that appeal to me most but the struggling artisan that designed and made them. This is one of Morris’s greatest legacies for today… Ambitions, however small are seldom achieved easily but they are definitely worth the struggle."
In 2017 Linda Parry – curator, textile historian and William Morris scholar – gifted her research archive to the William Morris Gallery. Compiled over nearly five decades, the collection includes photographs, handwritten notes, correspondence, extracts from publications and journals and copies of manuscript material, covering all aspects of Morris’s life and work, as well as many of his collaborators.
Its value lies not only in the wealth of information it contains, but also in the way it has been organised and classified. This is particularly true of the visual material. Nowhere else is it possible, for example, to view side by side images of nearly every known carpet manufactured by Morris & Co., or browse through photographs of many of the interiors the firm were commissioned to decorate in the late nineteenth century. Taken as a whole, it also offers insight into how serious study of Morris’s decorative arts evolved in the second half of the twentieth century and the network of scholars, museum professionals, collectors and dealers, who contributed to it. The organisation of the William Morris centenary exhibition at the V&A in 1996, conceived and curated by Parry, is particularly well documented.
Naturally, a lot of the information it contains has been published and a list of Linda Parry’s books and articles is available to download here. Researchers are recommended to consult relevant titles in the first instance.
The archive includes a collection of over 4000 slides that have been digitised and are available to view in the Reading Room. Divided into 105 categories, they provide a rich body of visual references for the work of Morris, his circle and Arts and Crafts design in Britain and abroad. Particularly strong on textiles, highlights include images from specialist periodicals, pattern books, photographs of interiors, as well as British textiles in European collections (e.g. Textile Museum, Krefeld, Germany and Mulhouse Museum of Printed Textiles, France). The slides were collected over several decades as reference material and for delivering lectures. The images are being made available for research purposes only (anyone wishing to reproduce must seek permission from the copyright holder).
The slides are currently being catalogued and a full list will be available on the website shortly.
Accessing the archive
The archive is open to everyone to consult but visits must be pre-booked. Appointments are available Wednesday - Friday, 10am-5pm.
Please contact us at least two weeks before you’d like to visit by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 020 8496 4390.
Linda Parry Biography
Linda Parry studied at Liverpool College of Art (1964-67) and the Central School of Art and Design in London (1967-68). She began her career at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in the late 1960s. In 1971 she joined the Textiles and Dress department of the V&A, where she worked until her retirement in 2005, then Deputy Keeper of Textiles, Furniture and Fashion.
The publication of the first edition of William Morris Textiles in 1983 was a watershed moment in Morris studies, and the revised and expanded edition of 2013 is the definitive work on the subject. For a full list of publications please see the Reading List. Parry has curated many exhibitions including Textiles of the Arts and Crafts Movement (V&A: 1988) and the William Morris centenary exhibition (V&A, Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagoya: 1996). She acted in an advisory capacity for International Arts and Crafts (V&A, Minneapolis, San Francisco: 2005-6) and Morris to Mingei (Tokyo, Kyoto, Aichi: 2007-8), and was a senior consultant on the V&A’s British Galleries (2003).
Over her long career, Parry has supported many institutions connected with William Morris. She has served as Honorary Curator of Kelmscott Manor (1992-2005), President of the William Morris Society (2000-2005), Patron of the Friends of Red House (2003), Trustee of Red House and Trustee of 7 Hammersmith Terrace (Emery Walker Trust). She has also served on the boards of the Museum of Domestic Decoration and Architecture, Middlesex University and the Textile Museum, Toronto. In 2006 she was awarded an MBE.