Something Old, Something New

As you may have noticed from our recent posts, we have been looking at how archives can inform future decisions and inspire new creations. To join the recent opening of the Anchor Line Restaurant that took inspiration from the University of Glasgow’s Anchor Line Ltd company archive, the BBC project Artist and Archive: Artists Moving Image at the BBC has recently concluded and the artist’s pieces are now online!

Left to right: Stephen Sutcliffe, Kathryn Elkin, Torsten Lauschmann, Luke Fowler, Kate Davis,and Alia Syed  Image courtesy of the BBC

Left to right: Stephen Sutcliffe, Kathryn Elkin, Torsten Lauschmann, Luke Fowler, Kate Davis,and Alia Syed
Image courtesy of the BBC

As part of this project (see our past post for the project’s original details) the six artists chosen have worked over the course of 6 months to create new moving-image artworks that take footage and inspiration from the BBC’s large film archive. All of these films can now be watched on the BBC’s website here.

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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

 

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.

 

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.

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.

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.