Barter Archive: Reimagining archival alternatives through participatory illustration – A case study of Billingsgate Fish Market (2019–22)

Pat Wing Shan Wong*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


There is an increasingly significant trove of observational sketches being used by illustrators as a visual research method to document and depict community and city interactions. Illustration, for me, serves as a potent, participatory tool of visual research that catalyses such transformative conversations and bolsters relationships within the community fabric. The act of drawing goes beyond rendering an image; it fosters a way to capture, record and create multifaceted interactions between people and their environments. The focus of this article is my community research project, Barter Archive (2019–22), an initiative that employs illustration as a transitional medium, moving from mere record-keeping to constructing a visual repository of collective memory. By inviting community members to participate in the process, ‘Barter Archive’ aims to advance understanding of the intrinsic potential that illustration holds. The project underscores its function as a metaphorical method, one that can substantively shape the collective memory. Moreover, the central argument presented here is that traditional models of archiving our collective memory require innovation, demanding greater inclusivity and accessibility. To this end, the illustration-based ‘Barter Archive’ presents an alternative approach to conventional archival methods. It engages the collective community in a participatory process that ultimately enhances memory-making and preservation practices, making them more accessible across the social spectrum. In conclusion, the importance of evolving and enhancing traditional archiving methods cannot be overstressed, as they play a crucial role in the preservation and inclusivity of collective memory. The ‘Barter Archive’ project, through its unique use of illustration, reinvents the conventional processes attached to archival practices. It provides a platform where community members can actively participate and contribute to collective memory-making, subsequently fostering a better understanding of the power and potential of illustration. Implementing this innovative and transformative approach could revolutionize the archiving landscape, making it more participatory, representative and inclusive, ultimately enriching the collective memory tapestry of communities and cityscapes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-65
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Illustration
Issue number1 (Apr 2023)
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2024

User-Defined Keywords

  • archive
  • city development
  • community
  • fishmarket
  • participatory visual research
  • reportage sketch
  • socially engaged practice


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