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Archive It

We caught up with Sebastian and Sophie from our Archive team to find out more about the most compelling stories they have come across. 

On a daily basis, what does the Archive team get up to?
Sophie: I know that everyone says this about their job, but no two days are the same and there is so much to get stuck into. I manage our digital records and plan for their ongoing preservation. I also respond to enquiries from external researchers and from within the business, and I research, write and provide archive content for articles to be shared internally and externally. I also manage a large group of internal volunteers who have been helping us to catalogue some of the collections
 
Sebastian: We regularly scan eBay and other websites for historic items to add to our vast collection and some wonderful old catalogues have turned up this way. We are also on hand to speak to the media about all aspects of Harrods’ history. The ongoing task of cataloguing our collection is also really important. If items aren’t catalogued, then it’s very difficult to find and share them!
 
Which are your favourite stories from the Archive?
Sebastian: Harrods has never stood still. I particularly love the transformation of the store in the 1960s, for instance. With the opening of the ground-breaking Way In boutique on the Fourth Floor in 1967, Harrods showed that it could be at the forefront of the fashion revolution in Swinging London while retaining its reputation as London’s most traditional department store – quite a feat. The management weren’t afraid to take risks and follow their vision.
 
Sophie: It has to be Harrods’ progression into luxury at the turn of the 20th century. In 1894, an advert in Illustrated Modern Art and Literature promoted Harrods as “the cheapest stores in London for everything2, but by 1902, an advert in the Lady’s Pictorial promoted Harrods as “the most fashionable resort for shopping in London”. Quite a change!
 
Is there a particular story that has fascinated you the most?

 Sophie: Yes. During the First World War, a group of men from Harrods’ Building Department went out to the Belgian front to erect and equip hospitals, and sheds for giant airships, at the invitation of the Queen of the Belgians. As they were within firing distance of the German army, these courageous men risked their lives to put up these much-needed buildings. 

Sebastian: If I had to pick one it would be the vital role that Harrods played in the creation of the Victoria & Albert Museum’s dress collection. In 1913, the store purchased the valuable Talbot Hughes’ collection of historic costumes and presented it to the museum, and the Archive now has copies of the beautifully illustrated album published at the time. This was the first such donation to the V&A and laid the foundations for the world-famous dress collection that you can see there today.
 
Tell us a little bit about what you like to do outside of work?
Sophie: Outside of work, I’m a keen runner with my local running club in Fulham. I’m away racing every distance from 5k to marathons most weekends, and I’ve just signed up for my first ultra-marathon! You could say that I’m quite sporty; I used to be a competitive trampolinist and a skydiver – I’ve jumped out of a plane 56 times!
 
Sebastian: I’m glad to say I’ve never jumped out of a plane, but I’ve used my language skills as a translator. I’ve translated books on art, travel and archaeology from German and Polish, and I’ve been a guide on art tours in central Europe. My favourite pastime is painting and print-making.
 

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