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.

Advertisements

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.

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

 

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.

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.

Getting in Touch: Fred Pollock

We were recently contacted by a relative of Glasgow School of Art alumnus Fred Pollock, who was a student at the School in the 1950s. Ronan Pollock (Fred’s son) very kindly sent us a link to a short documentary film he has made about his father called Portrait of an Abstract Artist. The documentary gives an insight into the work of Fred Pollock, and perspective on what it was like to be an art student in Glasgow in the 1950s.

Fred Pollock, No.1 Sunspots, 150×232 cm, Acrylic on Canvas, 1987-1998.

Fred Pollock, No.1 Sunspots, 150×232 cm, Acrylic on Canvas, 1987-1998. Image sourced from ‘Abstract Critical’.

While we were aware of artists like John Byrne and Alasdair Gray who were students at the School around this time, and have annual reports, prospectuses and other documentation for these years which provide a flavour of what the School was like then, we don’t have very much in the way of artwork in our collection from this period so it’s exciting to see examples of Fred Pollock’s work in the film. We also know little about what the School was like in terms of its relationship with Glasgow more widely during this period, so it’s interesting to get a sense of the juxtaposition between art and the industrial landscape that must have been so apparent in the city at this time.

You can find Portrait of an Abstract Artist here.

For more information please go to Abstract Critical.

A Festival of Museums – ‘Words and Deeds: An Evening with Artists Hugh Buchanan’

Coming soon to the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow an evening with Hugh Buchanan ‘Words and Deeds’. Hugh Buchanan is an artist that has worked on commissions for the House of Commons, National Trust and Prince of Wales and is coming to Glasgow as part of the Festival of Museums to discuss his interest in these institutions, their contents and how they can influence his work. Bring along your sketchbooks or simply go and enjoy the art collections avaiable at the College.

Words and Deeds

Words and Deeds

The Festival of Museums is a three day annual occassion that allows people to explore the different museums and galleries of Scotland through unique events. Starting on the 16th May and finishing on the 18th, this festival features over 90 events including exhibitions, performances and workshops for the entire family that give a unique look at the collections of Glasgow. For more information please click here.