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.

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.