Digital archives and primary sources: new historical and historiographical perspectives in design research? Three case histories: Gio Ponti, Vinicio Vianello and Vico Magistretti

The possibility offered by open-access digital archives to consult and use often unpublished primary sources, opens significant prospects for the field of historical research in design, by making it possible to use archival bonds for the comparative study of documents. But it will also require design historians to develop a more efficient methodology, based on a philological and historiographical approach.

Following a critical discussion of the use of primary sources in design history, this paper will analyse the recently-digitized archives of three Italian designers: Gio Ponti, Vinicio Vianello and Vico Magistretti. In examining the user interface and accessibility to scholars of the websites hosting these archives, as well as the problems (or opportunities) afforded the design historian by a multiplicity of documents, the aim is to reflect on the significance and on the prospects of digitization for the advancement of design history, and in light of this new “vision”, to specifically consider how it might lead to the formulation of new critical and historical hypotheses.

This article is only available in Italian.