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.

Reflections on a week in the Archives and Collections

My name is Nicole Cooper, and I’ve just completed a week’s work experience at the Archives and Collections Centre.

I wasn’t 100% sure on what to expect when doing work experience here, but I was just happy enough to get into the building. I’ve always liked art so being able to come here was a privilege.

I had researched the Archives and Collections before I arrived, just to get a general idea of the things they do. After grasping a general impression, I was really looking forward to starting my placement.

As I arrived at the school, I was very nervous as I want to be a student here in the future, so first impressions were important for me. But as I arrived I was very glad to see how helpful and friendly the staff at reception and in the archive were.

I got to go on a tour of the Mackintosh building, and I thought it was great to hear all the stories about Mackintosh and the students who previously went there.

I also got shown around the stores where they keep a variety of different files, paintings, furniture, prints etc. This was one of my favourite things because I got to see artwork by previous students.

During my week here I got given a variety of different tasks to do, such as digitisation, answering enquiries, and listing a new acquisition of material by a former student. I set myself some targets to try and reach every day while doing these tasks.

Stained glass detail from door of Studio 45 in the Mackintosh Buildin

Stained glass detail from door of Studio 45 in the Mackintosh Building

One of my favourite things about doing work experience here was the fact that the whole building was practically a piece of art. The stained-glass in the doors was my favourite part about the building.

However, out of all the artwork I got shown, one of my favourite things was this picture of GSA students modelling fashion designs at Kelvingrove Park in the 60s.

GSAA P/1/2413 Photograph of students modelling garments for a fashion shoot in Kelvingrove Park, 1960s

GSAA P/1/2413 Photograph of students modelling fashion designs in Kelvingrove Park, 1960s

While being on work experience here, I also worked in the school’s library. The school currently have an exhibition on called Interwoven Connections about the Stoddard Templeton design library and studio. The exhibition includes some materials from the archive and library special collections. Here is a link to some pictures of the exhibition.  All of the carpets on display belong to the archive.

Image from one of the folios in GSA Library's Stoddard-Templeton Design Library, currently on display in an exhibition in the Mackintosh Museum, Interwoven Connections

Image from one of the folios in GSA Library’s Stoddard-Templeton Design Library, currently on display in an exhibition in the Mackintosh Museum, Interwoven Connections

There is always something going on in the school which is one of the things I love about it. I hope to return here in the near future, to either become a student or come to the archive to use their great resources.

Guest blog post by Nicole Cooper, school work experience placement

Tonight: GSA students perform Tableaux Vivant in the Mackintosh Building

Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, wife of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Image credit: T R Annan & Son

Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, wife of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Image credit: T R Annan & Son

In order to creatively explore notions of fashion, style, and artistic identity, students in the ‘Artistic Dress’ elective course in Year 3 of the Forum for Critical Enquiry have arranged tableaux vivants throughout the Mackintosh Building. These ‘living pictures’ show the students’ own research into dress history, displaying styles that either inspired or expressed trends that went against fashion norms. The students’ research has been informed by visits to the Archives and Collections Centre to view photographs from our collection as well as textiles and costumes.

GSAA/P/1/2414 GSA students modelling fashion designs in Kelvingrove Park, 1960s

GSAA/P/1/2414 GSA students modelling fashion designs in Kelvingrove Park, 1960s

These ‘living pictures’ show the students’ own research into dress history, displaying styles that either inspired or expressed trends that went against fashion norms. Tableaux vivants were performed to express the creative bohemian spirit of students and staff in the early days of the GSA, during the time of “The Immortals”: Newbery, Mackintosh, the Macdonald sisters and friends. The students are excited to revive this tradition 100 years later, and welcome you to chat with them about their creations.

Artistic dress from four eras will be recreated:

‘The Artistic Dress: Different Times – Different Places’ (Mackintosh Library)

‘WEIMAR: totentanz’ (West Hall, 1st floor)

‘The Factory’ (Mackintosh Lecture Theatre)

‘More than just a Punk’ (West Hall, stairs landing)


Students and staff welcome, external guests please register on the limited guest list at eventbrite:

Uneasy Balance, new publication edited by Professor Christopher Platt

Chris Platt, Head and Professor at the Mackintosh School of Architecture is the editor of a new book entitled Uneasy Balance, a memento to the design and construction of Glasgow School of Art’s new, recently named, Seona Reid Building, by Steven Holl Architects.

Published at the time of topping out, this slim, pocket-sized volume is a fitting tribute to the germination, growth and realisation of Holl’s intelligent architectural design. The book is illustrated with specially commissioned photographs as well as drawings and sketches. Some of these drawings are the loose, inky architectural sketches from the office of Steven Holl Architects. There are also some of the Mackintosh Building from Glasgow School of Art’s Archives and Collections, such as the one featured below.
Section of Glasgow School of Art, by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, 1910

Section of Glasgow School of Art, by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, 1910

The book contains four essays and an illuminating interview with Steven Holl in which he imparts the concept behind his “thin skin/thick bones” design, reveals some of his working practices and discusses architecture as art form.

Books are priced at £15 and can be purchased from the Glasgow School of Art shop. GSA Library will also be cataloging a couple of copies to place on the shelves in September, once the current refurbishment project is complete. You can find out more about GSA’s campus redevelopment here.

Mostly reblogged from GSA Library’s excellent Architectural Resources blog

Plaster casts turn their backs to us

The plaster casts in the ground floor of the Mackintosh Building seem to be in a bad mood these days. Shying away from the crowds, they have become quite introspective… they have even turned their backs on us! It’s nothing personal however, for this is the work of Brandon Cramm, a Glasgow School of Art MFA student, who has rotated the statues in the ground floor corridors of the Mackintosh Building 180º to reveal the construction of their backs in his work titled Posterior.  His interest in doing this comes from the idea of altering conventional perspectives of art historical objects, and also seeking to consider the position of and attitudes towards Mackintosh as a designer of architecture.

The accompanying text, which is available for visitors on the stationary benches in both corridors, has been written by Simon Buckley, a fellow MFA candidate. As a former tour guide for The Mackintosh Building, he has an insight into the history and context of the space and of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Having a shared interest in the collective appreciation of the Mackintosh legacy, Brandon and Simon were both attracted to the speculative and interpretive nature of how to approach his design decisions today.

The School currently holds in the region of two hundred plaster casts, from fairly small scale architectural pieces to full size statues, representing examples of sculpture from ancient Greece and Rome and from medieval and renaissance Europe. Most of these casts are housed in the corridors of the Mackintosh Building.

Antique class in Studio 40, 1900. Image courtesy of T. & R. ANNAN & SONS Ltd.

Antique class in Studio 40, 1900. Image courtesy of T. & R. ANNAN & SONS Ltd.

In the nineteenth century, drawing was the foundation stone for all of Glasgow School of Art’s courses. Students were encouraged to spend weeks perfecting a life drawing or indeed drawing from ‘the cast’. The archives contain a number of photographs showing students drawing from the plaster casts in the corridors, studios and museum area of the Mackintosh building.  We also have a number of student drawings of plaster casts which date from the early 20th century. If you’re interested in coming to have a look, do get in touch.


Glasgow Garnethill Women’s Heritage Walk

Glasgow Women’s Library have recently launched another of their sucessful Glasgow Women’s Heritage walks, this time focussing on the fascinating Garnethill area. As 19th century Glasgow prospered, it expanded west. The wealthy middle-classes built detached residences on the drumlin of Garnethill. A century on, Garnethill had grown into a bohemian enclave, home to theatre people, incomers, artists and activists, and some remarkable women who shaped this corner of the city. The GWL bills the walk as follows:

Garnethill is at the heart of Glasgow’s city centre but remains an unknown quarter for many. This walk takes in its grand tenements, painted gables, a miniature park, a synagogue and world acclaimed architectural triumphs. These and other fascinating landmarks help us to tell the stories of some of the most remarkable achievements of women in Glasgow’s history. Within Garnethill’s confined boundaries we spotlight the women who pioneered European art movements, designed the banners for suffragette processions, created the first women’s Library in Scotland and made Garnethill into the most exciting cultural and multicultural hotspot in Glasgow.

Garnethill is also home of course to our wonderful Glasgow School of Art. Perched atop the hills of Scott Street and Dalhousie Street, the Mackintosh Building is a beacon of architecture and design. We were happy to provide an photography of former headmaster Fra Newbery with a class of female students from 1894-5 for the booklet.


GSAA P/1/5 Headmaster Fra Newbery with female students, c1894-5

The inaugural guided walk has now sadly passed, but intrepid rovers can undertake a self-guided walk around Garnethill with the aid of a specially designed map.

For more information about the Garnethill Heritage Walk visit the walk launch event page. For details of forthcoming guided walking tours and information on how to download maps and audio tours so you can try out the walks for yourself, see the Glasgow Women’s Library website.

Image credit: The Glasgow Women's Library

Image credit: The Glasgow Women’s Library

RIBA Bedford Lemere & Co online exhibition

The latest online exhibition from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) provides a comprehensive platform for exploring the architectural photography of Bedford Lemere & Co.
‘Recording the New’ is a plotted history of the establishment, rise and reputation of the photography firm between 1870 and 1930, revealing images from the photography firm’s vast portfolio and snapshots of the public archive, held by English Heritage. Based on the exhibition of the same name held at the V&A in 2011, it is a glimpse into the ongoing project by English Heritage to conserve, catalogue and scan their archive of photographs and negatives- one of the largest relating to the photography firm. The aim is to make digital copies of all the images accessible online. 8,000 can already be searched through the English Heritage Archives, providing those impressed by the exhibition with a further avenue for research.
Formed towards the end of the nineteenth century by founders Bedford Lemere and son Harry, the London-based photography company documented changes to Britain as it teetered uncertainly on the brink of the twentieth century and then advanced into the new technological age. Architect clients and designers commissioned the firm to take photographs of new works from large-scale architectural works to domestic interiors and new urban developments. Today these photographs of now historic settings and features provide a visual record of our heritage. They are also key examples of the period’s growing interest in the medium of photography as a means of capturing pioneering change.
GSA Library hold two collections of photographs by Bedford Lemere; one taken of Glasgow City Chambers and another of interiors designed by influential designers including Morris & Co. and Grinling Gibbons. These can be consulted in the Mackintosh Library. The Archives & Collection Centre also keep photographs taken of the Art School in 1910. For an appointment to view either item, visit the Librarians’ Office on Level 1 of the Library, or see contact details for the School’s archive at this link.

Artists using Archives: Jade Richardson

NMC 204, War scene with wounded soldiers, by Charles Davidson, 1914

NMC 204, War scene with wounded soldiers, by Charles Davidson, 1914

Jade Richardson is a Product Design student at Glasgow School of Art. She recently undertook a new project about WW1 and was interested in looking at the School during this period, the Roll of Honour in the Mackintosh building, and the students and staff who participated in the war.

We asked Jade about how she’s been using the Archives and Collections Centre in her work.

Why did you use GSA Archives & Collections?

For my last Product Design Year one project, we were told to look at how the upcoming World War 1 centenary could be commemorated in a more personal and less generic way. Being new to the School, I knew that it had a rich history but was unaware of its participation, if any, in the World War. I decided to look into this history in order to create a personal experience for GSA students to commemorate the war. Along with the Library’s rare books collection, I also used the Archives and Collections to find documents that linked the School to the war and explained its participation.

Had you used archives or museum collections previously?

I had been to the archives once before during a GSA tour guide meeting where we saw some of the School’s architecture plans as well as learnt more about Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It was because of this original discovery that I knew the Archives would be my largest source of information for my Product Design project.


What was your experience of visiting the Archives & Collections Centre?

I was constantly blown away by the amount of information the Archives hold, especially about World War 1. The working space was perfect: quiet, well lit, big table, comfy chairs. I almost did not want to leave! The staff was always on hand to answer any questions I had as well as take me up to the Library Store where the Eugene Bourdon memorial is. Overall my experience was extremely positive and fruitful! The appointments were easy to set up and I could tell that the staff were thinking about my project almost as much as me, wondering what other documents they had that might be of interest to me.

What did you find out from our holdings?

Initially I was only using the Archives to discover information about the School and World War 1. I learnt more about the unnoticed Roll of Honour on the Ground Floor as well as facts about some of the students and staff on the Roll. My favourite finding was of floor plans showing how the School was used to house the Students’ Tryst Fund in 1914. They were exactly what I needed for my project and gave it a clear structure. In the end my project’s aim was no longer to solely commemorate the war but also the School and everything that has happened since then.

Floor plans show how the Mackintosh Building was transformed for the Belgian Tryst in 1914

Floor plans show how the Mackintosh Building was transformed for the Belgian Tryst in 1914

Has your visit led you to using other Archive / Museum sources?

My visit encouraged me to look online, especially at the Hunterian’s collection of Mackintosh drawings. But since my project was so specific to GSA, no other source gave me all the information as a whole. The few sources online were always confusing and incomplete, inviting me to speak directly to the Archives’ staff.

For her project, Jade proposed MackInTime, a phone application that allows you to learn, explore and discover more about the Mackintosh Building. It allows you to customize your tour, giving you the freedom of time and what to read and look into. This app also gives you access to online resources like the Hunterian Museum as well as Glasgow School of Art’s Archives and Collections blog and Flickr.

You can watch a video about the app on Jade’s Tumblr. You can also read Jade’s project process journal: Lest We Forget – Beyond Memorial

Archives and Collections user case studies

CAD drawing of Gillespie, Kidd & Coia's St Bride's Church, East Kilbride, by Ambrose Gillick

CAD drawing of Gillespie, Kidd & Coia’s St Bride’s Church, East Kilbride, by Ambrose Gillick

We’ve recently added some case studies to our website about how various types of researchers have used Glasgow School of Art’s Archives and Collections Centre.

East-west elevation of the Mackintosh Building, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, 1897

East-west elevation of the Mackintosh Building, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, 1897

So far these include information about how, for example, Ambrose Gillick, an architectural researcher, has used the Gillespie, Kidd & Coia archive in his work on the project Roman Catholic Church Architecture in Britain 1955-1975, and about how designer Gabriella DiTano of Risotto Studio (who we’ve blogged about previously) used our photograph collection as the basis for a commissioned piece of work using her celebrated risograph print technique.

Gabriella Marcella DiTano

Gabriella Marcella DiTano

There’s also some information about how architectural historian Joseph Sharples has been using the institutional archives in his work on the Mackintosh Architecture: Context, Making and Meaning project, and some feedback from Phil Palmer, a researcher with a personal interest in the artist Maurice Greiffenhagen, who was a tutor at the Glasgow School of Art at the beginning of the 20th century.

GSA_NMC014 Washerwomen, by Maurice Greiffenhagen

GSA_NMC014 Washerwomen, by Maurice Greiffenhagen

Visit the Case Studies section of our website for more information, we plan to add more examples very soon.

Contact us if you would like to use our archives and collections for your own research, be it family history, academic, educational, commercial or for creative practice.