Our new website and online catalogue launches today!

Today we’re thrilled to announce the launch of a new website and online catalogue for our holdings.

This is an exciting step for the Archives and Collections. By making our collections more accessible online, we hope to promote our magnificent holdings and facilitate the use of our archives and museum objects by both GSA staff and students as well as external users for the purposes of learning, teaching and research. This project has been kindly supported by Museums Galleries Scotland.

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Our main aim has been to make the catalogue as user-friendly as possible. We understand that academic users generally require detailed descriptions and information on, for example, how access to originals, copies and copyright,and in that sense the catalogue is still very traditional. However we are also aware that creative practitioners, who make up a significant proportion of our users, really appreciate the ability to browse and quite often rely on serendipity to find inspiration for their work, therefore, wherever possible, we have tried to include images alongside records, opening up a treasure trove of beautiful items to the public.

To browse images of our holdings, simply click on one of the 8 categories on our homepage.

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Alternatively you can also search by keyword on our catalogue.

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Our new website also includes user case studies and new subject-based archive resource guides, as well as a brand new format for our blog, so please remember to hop on over to our new blog and subscribe for updates. This current blog will disappear shortly.

Textiles    Vis Comm

As a result of the fire which occurred in the Mackintosh Building earlier this year, physical access to our collections is limited and we are sadly currently unable to welcome researchers to our searchroom, so providing virtual access to our collections has become even more vital at this time.

We’ll keep you updated on our progress and will be posting all week about the features of the website and online catalogue, so stay tuned. Happy browsing!

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An Update on the Archives and Collections

The Mackintosh BuildingSix months on from the Mackintosh Building fire, The Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections team are now able to provide more detailed information about how this event has affected the School’s extensive archives and collections.

Our holdings, which comprise a wide range of material from the GSA’s institutional archive, artworks and architectural drawings, textiles, plasters casts, photographs and furniture, did suffer some loss and damage as previously reported. However since the 23rd May we have worked to assess and stabilise the collections, put in place conservation plans, and started our thinking for the collections’ future, securing its role as a key learning and research resource for the GSA, academics worldwide and the wider public.

We can confirm that the majority of our paper archives and artworks on paper, including 100 works by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, were unharmed by the fire. A small percentage of the paper archives suffered water damage, but these items have either been air dried or frozen and are now stabilised.

Our textile collections suffered some water damage. However, items have now been air dried, stabilised and conservation work, where appropriate, will commence in due course.

The GSA’s large collection of plaster casts has also survived, although many pieces have suffered smoke and water damage. Plans are now being developed to conserve and restore these pieces.

Items from our Mackintosh furniture collection which were in use in the Mackintosh Library or held in the store above this space were either destroyed or very badly damaged by the fire. Fragments of furniture and fittings are already being recovered from the Mackintosh Library as part of the forensic archaeology work currently underway (click here to watch a clip of GSA’s Academic Liaison Librarian Duncan Chappell talk about this). Many of our most important pieces were on display in the Furniture Gallery and Mackintosh Room in the east wing of the building and were therefore unaffected by the fire. In the early part of 2015 some of these pieces will be brought out of storage and returned to public view. We’ll have more details about this in the new year.

Almost all the oil paintings on canvas in the School’s collection were stored above the Library and were therefore also sadly destroyed.

All of the surviving material is now stable and secure. It will be reviewed by expert conservators as part of a recovery programme which will take place over the next three years.

Tonight! In Conversation: Lucy Reynolds & Sarah Neely on ‘A Feminist Chorus’

MAPLUCY REYNOLDS: A FEMINIST CHORUS, APRIL—NOVEMBER 2014
A FEMINIST CHORUS FILM INSTALLATION, 7 NOV—7 DEC, PLATFORM, GLASGOW
TALK: SARAH NEELY + LUCY REYNOLDS, TUE 25 NOV, 6—7.30PM, GLASGOW WOMEN’S LIBRARY

Find out more about Lucy’s use of Glasgow School of Art’s archives on our previous post

Calling all Russian speakers!

The catalogue for the Mackintosh exhibition, The Kremlin Museum

The catalogue for the Mackintosh exhibition, The Kremlin Museum

Glasgow School of Art’s curator Peter Trowles, or Питер Троулес, as he is known in Russian, has recently returned from a trip to Moscow where he gave a lecture on the architecture of Mackintosh’s masterpiece The Glasgow School of Art, as part of an international Mackintosh exhibition at The Kremlin Museum. Crucially, this was first time Mackintosh’s work has been seen in Moscow since 1903. The exhibition included works loaned from around the world, including many from Glasgow Museums. Sadly as a result of the fire that occurred in the Mackintosh Building earlier this year we were no longer able to loan works to this exhibition as planned, however Peter was still able to visit the exhibition, which has also seen the publication of a beautiful catalogue (see above) – unfortunately only available in Russian – and to give his lecture as part of a series of talks by British Mackintosh experts.

Glasgow School of Art's Curator Peter Trowles prepares for his Russian screen debut

Glasgow School of Art’s Curator Peter Trowles prepares for his Russian screen debut

During his time in Moscow, in a surreal twist to proceedings Peter appeared on the Russian equivalent of Newsnight to speak about the School’s Mackintosh collection and the relationship between Mackintosh and the city of Glasgow. You can watch a video of Peter’s debut on Russian television here – though sadly it’s been dubbed so will only make sense to those of you who can speak Russian! We’re sure however that what Peter had to say was very interesting…

You can find out more about the exhibition, which ran from 5th Sep 2014-9th Nov 2014, here.

The Mackintosh Library

The Mackintosh Library

The Mackintosh Library

Since the recent fire in the Mackintosh Building and the sad destruction of the Library there has been much discussion on how this space is going to be recreated. There has recently been a debate at Glasgow Queen’s Cross Church around whether this space should be ‘reinvented or restored’ and the symposium in Venice this Saturday will kick off the discussion on a international scale. However, locally what should or should not been done with the Mackintosh Library space is also being contemplated, with our own Interior Design course students undertaking the task of preparing a proposal for what they would do with the Library space if they had the option.

As part of the background to this project the Mackintosh Curator and Archive Assistant from the GSA Archives and Collections Centre gave a talk to the students explaining the role of the archives in the recovery process of the Mackintosh Building, and some of the issues that will face the Mackintosh Library restoration. These issues include questions around adaptations that were made to the Library during its lifetime to make it more functional, including the addition of a staircase and the use of Mackintosh Tearoom chairs for the last 50 years, rather than those originally designed for the Library. If the Library is to be restored should it be taken back to the way it was when it originally opened? Or to how it was just before the fire? Into this mix there has to be some consider of the role of people’s memory in the space’s reconstruction. Many past and current students have personal recollections of the Library and what it meant to them, should these memories be disregarded if the space is going to be re-invented? Or should they be the top priority, even above the concerns of current students, some of who will never have seen the library in its original form? The talk regarding these issues, and some of the questions raised by students can be listened to here.

First Proposals by Interior Design Students

First Proposals by Interior Design Students

First Proposals by Interior Design Students

First Proposals by Interior Design Students

First Proposals by Interior Design Students

First Proposals by Interior Design Students

First Proposals by Interior Design Students

First Proposals by Interior Design Students

The manner in which the library has adapted to the needs of students and staff in order to remain functional makes the idea of an ‘authentic’ recreation malleable. This idea of what is ‘authentic’ or not, and why it matters, was discussed in a talk by the school’s Mr Nicholas Oddy. An interesting lecture that can be heard here.

After presenting an initial proposal, the interior design students showed their final designs alongside their notes last Friday with some very interesting results.

Interior Design Students Final Proposal

Interior Design Students Final Proposal

Interior Design Students Final Proposal

Interior Design Students Final Proposal

Interior Design Students Final Proposal

Interior Design Students Final Proposal

Interior Design Students Final Proposal

Interior Design Students Final Proposal

Interior Design Students Final Proposal

Interior Design Students Final Proposal

While it is unlikely that we will know exactly what is happening with the Mackintosh Library for some time, it will hopefully continue to inspire conversations between students and staff around what could be done with this opportunity.

Time for some Razzle Dazzle!

Used extensively in World War I, Dazzle camouflage was a unique creation that saw the marrying of art with military strategy. At the outbreak of World War I the British Navy was having trouble hiding its ships from German U-boats because there was no sure way to conceal ships on the open seas. Due to constantly changing weather it was impossible to produce a camouflage that would consistently hide navies from the enemy sights. While painting ships grey did reduce visibility, ships would still leave a wake as they travelled and a revealing trail of smoke that resulted in British ships being sunk by the German Navy in devastating numbers.

To counter the extreme exposure and destruction that the British Navy was being subjected to, Dazzle Camouflage was created. Popular belief has Norman Wilkinson – an artist in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve – creating Dazzle Camouflage in 1917, however there is a potential point of contest, with others recognising John Graham Kerr as pushing this idea forward three years earlier. On the 24th September 1914 after the destruction of several British ships in only one day, Kerr wrote to Winston Churchill outlining some ideas on how to camouflage large ships, including a form of paint application that was similar to the dazzle camouflage realised by Wilkinson. In this letter Kerr describes the following method of camouflage:

“It is essential to break up the regularity of the outline and this can easily be affected by strongly contesting shades. The same applies to the surface generally, a continuous uniform shade renders conspicuous, this can be countered by     breaking up the surface by violently contrasting pigments. A giraffe, or zebra, or jaguar looks extraordinarily conspicuous in a museum, but in nature when not moving, is wonderfully difficult to pick up. The same principle should be made use of in painting ships”.

This idea was well received by Churchill and passed to naval officers, however it was up to individual officer whether or not this principle was acted upon. In 1917 Wilkinson once again revisited the notion of disruptive colouring, and a much more organised and coherent effort was implemented across the navy to make use of, what is now known as, Dazzle Camouflage.

The purpose of this camouflage was not to hide the ship, but rather to utilise a form of obliterative colouring that confused and distorted its shape. This would mean that when German attackers sighted British ships in Dazzle Camouflage they would find it difficult to identify its type, size, speed and direction of travel, making it extremely difficult to target.

To commemorate this artist creation, as part of the ongoing events around the centenary of World War I the arts organisation, 1418 Now has commissioned the artists Tobias Rehberger and Carlos Cruz-Diez to recreate Dazzle camouflage in both London and Liverpool on the HMS President and the Edmund Gardner.

Image courtesy of 1418 Now: Dazzle Ships. Liverpool, Carlos Cruz-Diez, 2014. Image credit - Helen Hunt

Image courtesy of 1418 Now: Dazzle Ships. Tobias Rehberger, 2014. Image credit – Stephen White

 

Image courtesy of 1418 Now: Dazzle Ships. Dazzle Ship Liverpool, Carlos Cruz-Diez, 2014. Image credit - Helen Hunt

Image courtesy of 1418 Now: Dazzle Ships. Liverpool, Carlos Cruz-Diez, 2014. Image credit – Helen Hunt

 

You can see a time-lapse video of these ships being painted here.

As to the Glasgow School of Art’s role in camouflage, during World War I many students were appointed roles where their artistic talents were utilised in the creation and execution of different forms of camouflage to protect their fellow soldiers from enemy fire.

Resources used in this post, and interesting articles regarding Dazzle camouflage not already mentioned are:

Dazzle Camouflage in Space! Image courtesy of Jedi Council Forums

 

How Archives Inform the Future

Unbroken Thread Exhibition Material  DC/076/20)

Unbroken Thread Exhibition Poster (DC/076/20)

 

Archivists are often seen as the guardians of historical collections. Over time we collect, protect and disseminate materials ranging from an organisation’s paper records, to ceramic tea sets; almost anything can fall under the gaze of an archivist. In the case of the work we do here at the Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections Centre, we are attempting to preserve for posterity works and records that reflect the school, its major events, and its inhabitants (both student and staff) from 1845 to the present. This is why we seek to acquire new works, such as the recent acquisitions from this year’s degree show (see here for these unique items) that will add to the constantly evolving picture of the School’s history.

China Tea Service 1915 - Ann MacBeth NMC/233)

China Tea Service 1915 – Ann Macbeth (NMC/233i)

 

China Tea Service 1915 - Ann MacBeth (NMC/233/ii)

China Tea Service 1915 – Ann Macbeth (NMC/233ii)

Of course, while it is great fun to be one of the caped-crusaders of the heritage world (an attic full of sketchbooks you say? I am on my way!), archives can also be perceived as housing, well, a lot of ‘old stuff’. What is the relevance of such stuff you ask? Well I can tell you. Archives provide the opportunity to gaze back at the innovations, creations and events of particular organisations or people, and in doing so can inspire those in the present to innovate and create on their own.

For an archive based around artistic works and collections this is particularly easy to demonstrate as students use what exists in the archive to inspire and inform their own works. For instance, one of our recent graduates, Rosie O’Grady based her degree show on articles she found in the archive (a rather interesting piece involving a camel… please see here), and classes looking to examine a specific discipline – such as textiles, or poster work – can look through a mass of material that reflects how disciplines have progressed at the School.

An interesting decorative animal  by Shirley Tweedale , 1959NDS/GB/070)

An interesting decorative animal by Shirley Tweedale , 1959 (NDS/GB/070)

 

You have to love such an extravagant tea cosy! - Miss Robertson 1880s NMC/1542)

You have to love such an extravagant tea cosy! – Miss Robertson 1880s (NMC/1542)

Of course, the fact that archives can hold amazing collections that can be used to inspire new works is not really a secret. Recently the Marks & Spencer Archive has teamed up with the University of Leeds to help inform a new online course in business innovation that looks to stimulate creative ideas in the business sector. It will feature videos, forums and quizzes and will draw on case studies developed from the Marks & Spencer Archive. Or you may also have noticed the recent appearance of a number of items in John Lewis that draw on its archive to celebrate its 150th anniversary. These items include special edition versions of archival prints or direct reproductions in order to celebrate its history.

John Lewis Display

John Lewis Display

 

Archives can be used as a tool to aid the creative process in a number of industries. Take a look at these archives to see some of the different approaches.

 

The John Johnson Collection

National Media Museum

The Clarks Archive

The Cartoon Archive

The Adidas Archive

 

The Grant Loaf

 

Image of Doris Grant courtesy of 'Exorphin Junkie: Confessions of an amateur breadmaker'.

Image of Doris Grant courtesy of ‘Exorphin Junkie: Confessions of an amateur breadmaker’.

Doris Grant (nee Cruikshank) was a student at The Glasgow School of Art in the 1920s. She won a scholarship to study in Rome before being forced to leave the school upon her engagement. She also had a very unique claim to fame. After art school, Doris Grant went on to become a nutritionist and during World War II accidentally invented what is now known as the Grant Loaf after discovering that she had forgotten to knead the bread before baking. Campaigning against refined carbohydrates and the production of over-processed foods such as white bread, this simple loaf became an important point in Doris Grant’s nutrition theory.

Having suffered from severely painful rheumatoid trouble in her joints, Doris Grant found little relief and was nearly crippled by the condition. However this all changed when presented with an unorthodox treatment: a diet consisting of three columns of food – proteins, starches and acid fruits – with the following instruction, ‘Don’t mix foods that fight!’. These instructions had a profound effect on Grant’s life, apparently relieving the pain she had previously felt and by her own account making her feel happier, fitter and healthier. This diet was based on a theory put forth by Dr William Howard Hay, and it  inspired Grant to publish two books based on the Hay system of eating.

In honour of our multi-talented alumnus, it seemed only fitting to try and bake a Grant Loaf. Following the recipe by Lorraine Pascale on BBC Food, Jocelyn Grant our archive assistant mixed the following ingredients:

  • 225g/8oz strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 225g/8oz strong wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 x 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
  • 1 tbsp clear honey
  • 300ml/11fl oz warm water
  • vegetable oil or oil spray, for oiling
  • a little milk, for brushing

She left the dough to rise (crucially without kneading first), shaped it and baked at 200c for 35 minutes. See an exciting time-lapse video of this process here.

A slice of Grant Loaf.

A slice of Grant Loaf.

After thorough testing by the archival department, we can certainly recommend this recipe.

Our Plaster Casts and Objects

The Mackintosh Building has always hosted a number of plaster casts comprising human figures, architectural fragments, plaster reliefs, plaster friezes, marble reliefs, tondos and busts. These figures have occupied the halls of the Mack from the late 19th century onwards.

Plaster Cast

Medici Venus (PC/196)

Used as teaching aids the casts are generally based on classical statuary and were sourced from Roman, Greek and later Italian and Medieval periods. While it is not unusual for art schools to hold plaster casts such as these, because ours have always occupied the school they regularly appear in the archive’s photograph collections.

The East Basement Corridor of the Mackintosh Building (GSAA/P/7/109)

The East Basement Corridor of the Mackintosh Building (GSAA/P/7/109)

Their presence dominating both the corridors and the classroom.

Students at work in the Antique Studio, now known as Studio 40 (GSAA/P/7/224)

Students at work in the Antique Studio, now known as Studio 40 (GSAA/P/7/224)

During the evacuation of the Mackintosh building as many of the plaster casts and other objects from the collection were removed. Others still remain inside because they were in too fragile a condition to move and it was safer for them to remain in situ where the environment is stable.

For those taken out of the building, like all our objects and collections they have been examined by specialist conservators who have advised on how they should be treated. For this work we would like to thank:

-Graciella Ainsworth Sculpture Conservation

-Glasgow Museums

-As well as all the volunteers who assisted the archives with removing the collections from the building.

Lion and Serpent (PC/058)

Lion and Serpent (PC/058)

All the casts that could be removed have now been transferred to an offsite location where their condition will be assessed.

Giuliano de' Medici (PC/039)

Giuliano de’ Medici (PC/039)

Alongside our plaster casts all of the majority of our object collections were successfully removed from the building, and during the process of wrapping we came across some unusual objects! Can you guess what this is?

Mystery Object

Our object collections include ceramics, small chest of drawers, coin and medal casts, brooches and more. All of these have survived the fire unscathed.

 

Opening Up Scotland’s Archives – Trainee Positions

Today the Scottish Council on Archives is launching an exciting new training scheme Opening up Scotland’s Archives in Edinburgh, Dundee, East Lothian and our very own Glasgow.

Scottish Council on Archives

Scottish Council on Archives

The institutions involved are:

  • Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow City Archives/Glasgow Life
  • Glasgow City Archives/Glasgow Life
  • University of Dundee’s Archive Services
  • University of Glasgow Archives
  • Edinburgh University’s Centre for Research
  • National Records of Scotland

Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund this three year scheme offers six paid trainees the opportunity to contribute to the care and development of Scotland’s archival heritage.

As the keepers of public and personal memories, The Scottish Council on Archives are hoping to develop a diverse workforce that will bring new skills and perspectives to the table. Looking to attract those who may have never thought about undertaking a job in the archival profession this post will give each trainee the opportunity to work with some of the most unique collections across Scotland. Including ours!

A page from the Roll of Honour that detail the fallen soldiers in World War I. A part of our collection that will examined as part of this scheme

A page from the Roll of Honour that details GSA staff and students who were killed in World War I. The School’s Annual Reports from this period will be just one of the sets of records our trainee will get to work with.

Here at the Glasgow School of Art the trainee will be working with our collections on a project to commemorate the First World War while learning new skills. This project will look to highlight and explain the past to new audiences while ensuring that our documented national memory remains accessible for future generations.

If you would like more information on these traineeships and details on how to apply, please see The Scottish Council on Archives website and the attached advert: Scottish Council on Archives Traineeship Advert