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

 

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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

Presenting our New Acquisitions

Although the fire has meant that the Archives and Collections office is currently closed to visitors, we are still happily pursuing a broad collection that shows the work of students and the school across its life span. This year, to this end, the school approved new funding to enable the purchase of work from graduating GSA students in Fine Art, Architecture and Design. This year has seen some very interesting additions to the collection. We acquired:

  • Two screen prints from Alex Kuusik who won this year’s Newbery Medal.
Lorica

Lorica

Niederbierber

Niederbierber

  • An architectural model by Joshua Doyle won the Chairman’s medal for architecture.
  • ‘Vinewood’ by Tim Dalzell. A topographical sculpture of one of the hills from the Grand theft Auto series, this model depicts the sediment layers beneath the virtual world. Many of Tim Dalzell’s pieces seem to draw on inspiration from virtual worlds and environments resulting in quirky referential work. Much of this can be seen on his website found here.  For this work he received the Chairman’s Medal for fine art.
Vinewood

Vinewood

  • Three brooches by Ciara Stapleton who took the Chairman’s Medal for design.
Ciara Stapleton

Ciara Stapleton

Image courtesy of The Justified Sinner

Image courtesy of The Justified Sinner

  • A coloured longitudinal drawing and CAD file copy by the WO Hutchison Prize winner Catriona Liggat.
  • The PW Davidson prize went to Liu Tong who produced a variety of playful pieces of jewellery that incorporate a number of plastic animals. This particular piece is going to join part of our collections hosted in Window on the Mack to continue the progression of the school’s timeline through its historical collections.
Image Courtesy of The Justified Sinner

Image Courtesy of The Justified Sinner

  • Finally the other WO Hutchison prize was won by Sonia Hufton. Sonia is going to provide a choice of drawings for the archive to choose from for our collections in the near future.

All of these pieces will be added to our collections to continue recording the progression and results of the school’s work.

Recovering our Textile Archives

We have covered paper and are now onto our wonderful textile collection. The textile collection spans from the 16th century till present day and contains a diverse selection of works including woven samples from Donald Brothers Ltd., work by Robert Stewart, Kath Whyte, Fraser Taylor and many more. These collections suffered no direct damage from the fire, but some were exposed to water as the blaze was extinguished.

Fraser Taylor

Fraser Taylor Textile

Like any of the collections that were touched by water (or had the potential to be) the textiles were quickly removed from their original store. As would be expected all archive materials are packaged and wrapped in archival proof materials (in other words acid free packaging). In this case the textiles were wrapped in tyvec or boxed in acid free boxes that took the brunt of any water exposure.

Textiles Removed from the Mackintosh Building

Textiles Removed from the Mackintosh Building

Once removed from their original store these were then transferred to the Reid building so that the textiles could be dried, aired and re-packaged after being examined by conservators. While of course this incident was extremely unfortunate, it has afforded a unique opportunity to see all the textiles laid out at once.

Eskimo Dolls

 

Textiles being air dried

Textiles being air dried

 

Over the last couple of months these textiles have been dried using a combination of fans and dehumidifiers and were periodically examined by textile conservators. To these conservators, for the generous offer of their time and assistance we would like to thank volunteers from the:

-University of Glasgow, staff and students

-National Museum of Scotland

-and independent conservators

All of who advised on the state and repackaging of our textiles collections.

Textile conservator hard at work

Textile conservator hard at work

Through the work of such volunteers these textiles have now been repackaged and moved off site for storage.

All the textiles repackaged and labelled for off-site storage

All the textiles repackaged and labelled for off-site storage

Next week we will be moving on to the plaster casts.

Upcoming Lunchtime Talk – The Graham Fagen Exhibition

When: Wed 30 July 2014, 12.30-1pm
Where: Reid Gallery, Reid Building, The Glasgow School of Art, 164 Renfrew Street, Glasgow G3 6RF
Free Admission, no booking necessary

Next week Glasgow School of Art’s Exhibitions Director, Jenny Brownrigg and Archivist, Susannah Waters will be giving a lunchtime talk about Graham Fagen’s GENERATION project at The Glasgow School of Art.

GSA alumnus, Graham Fagen, has been invited by The Glasgow School of Art Exhibitions Dept to research Charles Rennie Mackintosh through the GSA Archives & Collections Centre, and to create a solo exhibition of new work to be featured as part of GENERATION. Through the research project, Fagen has examined the work of Mackintosh and his peer group, focusing particularly on concepts of form and place, and has used his findings as a catalyst for the creation of a body of new artwork.

 

Graham Fagen's Work

Image courtesy of ‘Cabbages in an Orchard; The Formers and Forms of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Graham Fagen Flickr.

 

Early Mackintosh plant drawings were collated with the work of his peers to form a DIY publication called ‘The Magazine’.  Featured works such as ‘Tree of Influence’ or ‘Cabbages in an Orchard’, had text as part of the artwork which taken together with the image offer an insight into the creative thought process.  For this exhibition Fagen aims to present original works by Mackintosh and his peer group alongside the new pieces inspired by his own research. The Mackintosh works will be borrowed from a number of sources including GSA Archives & Special Collections. A book work, influenced by the DIY concept of ‘The Magazine’, will also be produced.

Mackintosh Watercolours

Image courtesy of ‘Cabbages in an Orchard; The Formers and Forms of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Graham Fagen Flickr.

GENERATION is a programme across Scotland led by National Galleries and Glasgow Life, aiming to tell the story of 25 years of contemporary art in Scotland, to a local and visiting audience for the Commonwealth Games. GSA is part of this programme with this project.

Photographic Documentation

View a slideshow of exhibition documentation images on Flickr.

Short film about the exhibition

Watch a short film about the exhibition featuring interviews with artist Graham Fagen, Exhibitions Director Jenny Brownrigg and Mackintosh Curator Peter Trowles: Vimeo.

More information about the exhibition

Visit the GSA website for more information: www.gsa.ac.uk

Our Paper Based Archives

As promised we have an update on what has been happening with our collections, starting with our paper based archives.

Here at the GSA we have a variety of paper archives and art work on paper. These include over 2000 boxes of records created by the school and its students and staff, such as the archive of the architectural firm Gillespie Kidd & Coia, the school governor’s notes, ephemera, photographs relating to Glasgow and the school’s exhibitions and events, and the bulk of our deposited collections. Alongside this, our stores house architectural plans, pieces of artwork, the student registers and several original works by Mackintosh (including the Magazine, the architectural drawings for the school and his watercolours, some of which are currently being exhibited in the Reid Gallery as part of GENERATION). This material provides the foundation of the school’s history and these items are often the first to be relied on here in the archive for visitor enquiries.

Fortunately the bulk of this material was unharmed by the fire, however a small section was exposed to water after the fire was extinguished and were the first items to be removed from the building.

Air drying the paper based archives.

Air drying the paper based archives

The majority of records touched by water could be air dried but any records that required more extensive conservation were removed offsite to document specialists ‘Harwell’ where they will be frozen so that conservation work can be undertaken. The rest were assessed by paper conservators from the National Records of Scotland (NRS) who helped to repackage and identify any documents at risk. With the risk of repeating myself, once again I really must say thank you to those from the NRS who helped during this time. Your help was very much appreciated.

Due to the potential risk of exposure to water while the materials remained inside the Mack the decision was made to evacuate the building of all materials as quickly as possible. This resulted in the formation, on Tuesday 3rd June, of a human chain travelling from our stores and winding its way down to McLellan Galleries where these materials were stored temporarily.

The Human Chain

The Human Chain

We would once again like to thank all those who helped form this chain and contributed to the truly immense task of emptying both stores in a single day. These include:

·         Historic Scotland crew, who manned the staircases to pass up the boxes and took apart and lifted all of our plan chest drawers down to McLellan Galleries

·         Volunteers from the GSA staff and associated institutions who generously gave their time

The Human Chain

The Human Chain

Due to this immense endeavour the entirety of our collections were removed from the building and set aside for repackaging and labelling.

Repacking and Labelling

Re-labelled paper archives

Re-labelled paper archives

Once these materials were removed they were assessed by external conservators who offered their services before the process of repackaging and labelling went underway. For this, there are many more volunteers we have to thank:

·         The National Galleries

·         The University of Strathclyde

·         The University of Glasgow both staff and students

·         Museum Galleries Scotland

·         Dewar’s Archive

·         The National Records of Scotland

·         Harwell Document Restoration Service

As the bulk of these collections were in a stable condition they have been moved offsite for safe storage.

 

Archives in Storage

Archives in Storage

That is the current stage of our paper archives and next week we will be providing an update on our textile collections.

Recovery from the Mackintosh Building

The Mackintosh Building

 

It has been a while since we have blogged after the sad incident on the 23rd May, we have been busy here at the Archives and Collections Centre in the process of removing, assessing and consolidating our collections to see exactly what the impact has been. We now have a firmer picture of exactly what has happened and the opportunity to update you all on the situation.

Firstly, everyone from the Archive would like to thank all those who kindly offered their assistance, well wishes and help during the process of evacuating the Mackintosh Building of our collections during this difficult time. These include staff and volunteers from:

  • Historic Scotland
  • Belfor
  • Glasgow Area Disaster Planning
  • Constantine
  • University of Glasgow
  • National Records Scotland
  • Glasgow Museums
  • Graciella Ainsworth Sculpture Conservation
  • Museum Galleries Scotland
  • Glasgow School of Art Staff

All of the people from these institutions have generously offered their time and expertise, and it is a gesture that has been truly overwhelming for us here at the archive. As we are a small team of only five people, I can sincerely say that without all your help the task of retrieving and moving the entirety of our collections over the last couple of weeks would have been impossible. So once again we would like to thank you all.

Another textile saved

Another textile saved

At the moment the bulk of our collections have been removed from the Mackintosh Building. This includes material housed in our plan chest store (many prints, architectural drawings, the Mackintosh watercolours and more); our paper store (containing the school director’s papers, business archives and the bulk of the school’s historical and ephemera materials) and our textile store (that includes works by  Robert Stewart, Grace Melvin and Kath Whyte).

Another piece of the archive saved

Another piece of the archive saved

 

The collections that have been removed are currently in the process of being assessed to ascertain their condition. Where possible, affected material has been stabilised. There will be further posts to update you as work continues.

The Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections

You all will have seen in the news the sad events of Friday 23rd May where a fire broke out in the Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh Building. Sadly the iconic Mackintosh Library was lost during this fire.

The archives and collections have also suffered some damage, however the bulk of our holdings are fine and have been removed from the site for an assessment of their condition. We would once again like to thank everyone who has helped and continues to offer their help during this process. The offers of support we have received has been truly overwhelming and has made this process much easier to bear. Thank you.

Unfortunately, the Archives and Collections will be closed for the foreseeable future. As soon as we have more news we will provide an update here.

Once again, thank you to all those who have helped and offered their assistance.