Five fascinating archives for learning about design history

In the design world, there’s no shortage of archives that began as hobbies or side gigs, only to become full-blown practices. Take Grafis Nusantara, an archive of Indonesian stickers spanning the 70s-90s, or the Syrian Stamp Archive spotlighting exactly what it says on the tin. From digital archives of cassette tapes to books delineating the history of rave membership cards, we’ve come across some incredible design collections over the years. Below, find out how each can serve as an educational resource – and perhaps offer some unexpected creative inspiration to boot.
Why are design archives so important? From the educational to the more left-field, they teach us (often overlooked) lessons about what’s come before, and to help us to imagine what could come next. Beyond that, the ‘gotta catch em all’ joy of seeing a never-quite-finished scrapbook, or satisfaction of seeing rows of shiny ephemera laid out neatly by category, is just plain fun. Looking through any one of these collections, you might catch a glimpse into the storied history behind a peculiar object – or a curator’s growing obsession.

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