Animals at GSA: Archival proof

GSA tour guides delight in telling visitors that elephants and zebras were marched from a Zoo on Sauchiehall Street up the hill of Dalhousie Street and into the Mackintosh Building via the small wooden door to the right of the side entrance. Plans show there was an Animal Room in the Mack (where the shop is now), but rumours abound about the sorts of fantastical animals brought into the School for life drawing classes at the turn of the century, and even about how they got into the building (some believe there was a secret underground tunnel linking the Zoo with the Mack Building). But until recently, this has all been speculation. Only in the archive is there proof that animals were used in drawing classes…

Camel in the basement of the Mackintosh Building

Camel in the basement of the Mackintosh Building. Credit: Rosie O’Grady

News that student Rosie O’Grady was going to be filming a camel (in a project called camellemac) in the basement of the building prompted us to relook at the documents at the heart of the rumours.

GSA Archives and Collections hold records of the Director from 1846-present, including correspondence written by Frances Newbery, Director of GSA from 1885-1918. In amongst his letters we have documentary evidence (see letters below) that animals were indeed brought into the Mack Building for life drawing classes, and not just goats and chickens, but camels, zebras, yaks and maybe even an elephant!

GSAA DIR 5-2   GSAA DIR 5-17 No8

So, if you’d like to prove or disprove any wild and wonderful theories about the Art School, maybe it might be worth visiting the Archives and Collections Centre to get to the bottom of it.

camel in the basement

Camel in the basement. Credit: Abdi Adam

Conrad McKenna Christmas card collection


Tis the season to be jolly, and, as luck would have it, we have recently catalogued a collection of personal Christmas cards belonging to Conrad McKenna, a former student and staff member at Glasgow School of Art.


The collection includes designs by Conrad as well as Gordon Huntly, Rosalind Bliss, Mark Severin, Peter Sumsion and others, and also includes some GSA Christmas ball tickets and flyer designs.


More images from the collection are now available to view on Flickr.

Merry Christmas from all at GSA Archives and Collections!

Artists using archives: The Illustrated Archive

Illustrator Lucy Roscoe has been exploring the collections at the John Gray Centre in East Lothian. Taking inspiration from a range of items such as 19th century letters and a Baillie Court Book from 1647, Lucy has recently completed a series of watercolours entitled ‘The Illustrated Archive’. Lucy has been investigating and taking inspiration from the Haddington Criminal Register and has uncovered lots about East Lothian’s criminal underworld of the late 1800s.

One of the watercolours in the series is “Theft of Umbrellas” which depicts Michael Bolan, of no fixed residence, who was arrested on 4 January 1898 accused of stealing umbrellas from a shop in Market Street, Haddington. The 29 year old from Dublin received a punishment of 30 days in jail.
The collection thus far is available to view on the John Gray website. You can also find out more about Lucy’s work by visiting her website.

Battle of films using archive material at this year’s Turner Prize

Elizabeth Price’s video installation The Woolworths Choir of 1979 has won the Turner Prize 2012. Price’s film uses archive footage and photographs, combining images of three seemingly disparate elements (photographs of church architecture; clips of the 1960s girl band The Shangri-Las; and archive news footage of a fire that killed 10 people in the central Manchester branch of Woolworths in 1979), digitally montaged to poetic and dissonant effect.  The work is currently on display at Tate Britain. You can watch a short clip of the film here.
Price’s work was up against Glasgow-based Luke Fowler’s film All Divided Selves 2011, an exploration of seminal Scottish psychiatrist RD Laing (1927–1989). This film also uses archive footage and presents the viewer with a collage of edited archival material, through which the viewer becomes an unintended witness to some of Laing’s psychiatric sessions.
 elizabeth price