CityLIS Research Student Profile: Rachel Cummings

We are delighted that Rachel Cummings has returned to CityLIS as a research student. In this post, Rachel shares some initial thoughts on her research interests, as she begins her journey as a full-time PhD student.

Rachel will be working within the area of fashion documentation and preservation. The work will consider fashion as a document, what fashion tells us about our individuality, culture and society, the challenges to documenting fashion, and the benefits to humankind from this endeavour.

Rachel will be working with Dr Lyn Robinson and Dr Joseph Dunne-Howrie. You can follow Rachel on Twitter: @rachelannec1

This post originally appeared on Rachel’s blog:

Introduction to PhD Research


My name is Rachel Cummings and I am extremely excited to say that I am continuing my studies with CityLIS as a research student. I recently completed my Master’s Degree in Library Science from CityLIS, in October of 2019.

I completed my Master’s Degree on a full time basis, with my research and dissertation focusing on the documentation and preservation of fashion pieces using the theories and practices of information and documentation specialists (Michael Buckland, Suzanne Briet, and Paul Otlet to name but a few). My Master’s research focused on the many definitions of the term “document,” with high emphasis on Michael Buckland’s concept of “Information as Thing.” Documents do not necessarily have to be text based, and with the wide definition of the term, within a certain context almost anything that is informational could in turn be considered documents. Fashion is, and has always been a big interest and topic of research for me. For this particular dissertation, I focused mainly on the physical fashion garments themselves, and how to preserve them for future generations.  I knew from the start of my journey at CityLIS that I wanted to focus my Master’s research somehow on fashion and preservation. After completing my Master’s, I knew that I was not done with my studies and this particular topic of research. There was so much that I was unable to touch on during my dissertation and I knew that I could take this area of research further.

For my PhD, I will be researching the documentation, conservation and preservation of fashion based multimedia collections in the age of the digital, expanding upon my previous work and research. Fashion is represented in many different ways in libraries, archives, and museums. These fashion collections that are being represented in the above institutions greatly varies. Fashion collections not always focus solely on the garments themselves, but also the sketches, photographs, fabric swatches, patterns, press clippings, videos and more that in turn make up the entirety of the collection. These components are also represented differently in this newfound digital age. My research will focus on the ever changing terminology and definition of a document, and how we document and preserve fashion. I am also interested in Library and Information Science as an interdisciplinary study, working in conjunction with archival and museums studies in order the conduct this research. There has been a recent public interest in the exhibition and preservation of fashion. With this new interest came new and innovated ways to exhibit and give access to all of those who wished to see and learn. Virtual archives and museums are becoming increasingly popular, and with these new online institutions popping up more and more, I wish to incorporate these into my PhD research as well.

I am incredibly excited to begin this research journey, and even more excited that I will be continuing my studies with CityLIS. Follow along for blog post and twitter (@rachelannec1) updates to see what’s new and exciting in the documentation and fashion worlds!

Further and recommended readings:

Barnard, M. (2014). Fashion Theory: An Introduction. 1st ed. [ebook] London: Routledge. Available at:

Briet, S., Day, R., Martinet, L. and Anghelescu, H. (2006). What is documentation?. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press.

Buckland, M. (2014). Documentality Beyond Documents. Monist, 97(2), pp.179-186.

Buckland, M. (1997). What is a Document?. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 48(9), pp.804-809.

Kim, J. (2012). Building Rapport Between LIS and Museum Studies. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, [online] 53(2), pp.149-161. Available at:

If you would like to study for your MA/MSc, or PhD in Library & Information Science, please get in touch with CityLIS!

About lyn

Dr Lyn Robinson is Reader in Library & Information Science, and Head of Department at City, University of London. She established and directs the Library School, and co-directs the Centre for Information Science alongside Prof David Bawden. Contact:
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