Business Case Study

Warner Textile Archive

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Business Context

Owned by Braintree District Museum Trust, the Warner Textile Archive is a collection of internationally significant textiles and designs, with some items over 150 years old.

It’s the largest publicly owned collection from a luxury textile manufacturer in the UK and contains over 100,000 items, including fabric designs on paper, hand woven textiles, printed textiles, business records, photographs and manufacturing equipment.

Designs from the collection have been used on fabric, wallpaper, clothing, jewellery and stationery by companies including Claremont Furnishing Fabrics Ltd, George Spencer Designs, House of Hackney, the National Trust, Stockwell Ceramics and Surface View.

Warner Textile Archive's team were looking to use their collection more effectively to attract new commercial partners, streamline their design and research services, and explore a range of potential new business models to drive sustainable growth.

With funding support from Innovate UK, they collaborated with academics from the University of Essex through a new Accelerated Knowledge Transfer (AKT) scheme to help them identify and assess these business growth opportunities.

Research solution


The company partnered with Dr Alix Green from Essex’s School of Philosophical, Historical and Interdisciplinary Studies - an expert in historical archives and demonstrating their value to companies.


Research Assistant, Samantha Woodward, was also hired for the 3-month partnership having previously identified ways in which the archive could use digital innovation to improve their structure.


The project set out to review how items from the collection had previously been used commercially to create case studies to use as business models for future clients.


Warner Textile Archive’s historical and commercial contracts were also analysed to summarise commercial relationships with clients and identify contracts for negotiation.


Informed by discussions with the team, a flowchart for their licensing process was updated and expanded and, as part of efforts to simplify the history check process, a new record system containing information on the designs licensed was built. Additionally, a new matrix to visualise copyright risk was developed to aid in the licensing process.

Business value

Through the collaboration with the University, the team received a licensing review of the last ten years, a summary of licensed designs, and updated processes for efficiently managing commercial enquiries.

A pipeline of commercial priorities was delivered to directors that included detailed case studies where immediate negotiation of commercial contracts were advised. Recommendations were also made on pricing strategy, brand development and recognition, and ways to streamline record management.

Following the project, estimated profits for Warner Textile Archive have shown a 50% increase, with the business motivated to explore a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Essex to further understand how the collections can help inform their growth strategy.

"The Accelerated Knowledge Transfer Partnership with the University of Essex’s Department of History has delivered capacity, expertise, and challenge at a critical opportunity to review commercial processes. It’s enabled us to focus on approaches for sustainable growth, safeguard a nationally important heritage asset, and prove the case for future business and academic collaborations."
Robert Rose Museums Manager of the Braintree District Museum Trust
University of Essex Business Engagement team
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