by Frances Lennard, Karen Thompson and Sarah Foskett.
We were as shocked as everyone else in Glasgow and beyond to hear the news of the fire at Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh building on Friday 23rd May, and have been delighted to be able to assist with the rescue of the textile collections held in the School’s Archives and Collections Centre . The School’s Centre holds a large and varied collection of documents, drawings, paintings, photographs and objects relating to its history, activities buildings, staff and students past and present. The textiles collections are relatively small (just over 200 pieces) but a very interesting part of the archive, initially formed for student instruction and including pieces made by former staff and students, items from the Needlework Development Scheme and reference pieces from around the world dating from the 17th to the 20th century.
Although not damaged by the fire, the textiles have been affected, to a greater or lesser extent, by damage from water and smoke. Having been recently rehoused by the Scottish Conservation Studio, as part of the Mackintosh Access and Conservation Project, the mounts and packaging luckily bore the brunt of this damage and afforded the textiles much needed protection. After responding to the initial call to advise on textiles, staff and 2nd year MPhil Textile Conservation students from the Centre have worked as the core part of the textile salvage team, alongside conservators from Glasgow Museums and National Museums Scotland, Sophie Younger and staff and volunteers at GSA. Initially the task was to unpack the textiles to dry – a major spatial challenge due to the number and size of the objects. We are now slowly re-packing and re-rolling objects for long term off-site storage. Ours is small contribution to the huge efforts being undertaken but one which we are pleased to have been able to make in order to preserve this unique collection in such tragic circumstances.