How to re-home 400 textiles…

Casual staff Brendan Armstrong and Maria Moreno have recently finished measuring and recording our extensive collection of 400 textiles in preparation for their repackaging. Repackaging these items was high on our list of priorities following the Mackintosh Fire in 2014 so we’re delighted to be getting this work underway. Brendan and Maria were kind enough to be interviewed at the end of their project…

Can you explain what the textiles project is and what you’ve been doing

Maria: We have been sorting textiles that were all mixed together in large boxes. That was the first thing we did. Then we measured them all and put each collection into its own box. We also checked if any of the items had conservation issues and decided which type of new packaging each item should go into. That’s what we’ve been doing for the past 7 weeks!

Brendan and Maria hard at work!

So what do you mean by new packaging?

Brendan: Before the fire, we had bespoke textile boxes for each individual item. This packaging did its job when the fire happened, but the boxes themselves didn’t survive. So now we decided that we wanted to store them in a way that they are still safe but in the most sufficient and economic way possible and in a way that the textiles will fit inside plan chest drawers rather than in the large boxes.

How will storing the textiles in this way help GSA Archives and Collections long term?

Maria: The way that the textiles are arranged now, if a visitor wants to see something, the Archives and Collections staff have to dig through big boxes to find the item that the visitor wants to see. The new way that the textiles are being arranged will make them more easily accessible.

Brendan: It’s also a lot easier to package the items themselves because we’ve now got set sizes of packaging instead of bespoke packaging for each individual item. So when a new acquisition comes in, we’ll now measure it and find the size of packaging that fits it best.  It’s more efficient.

Maria: There may be some items that will still need their own bespoke packaging, but in the majority of cases, we’ll use the new standard sized trays and boxes.

Have you come across anything surprising?

Maria: A lot of the established collections, such as the Needlework Development Scheme, have been in the collections for a long time, but there are also some items that haven’t yet been catalogued properly so you open a box and you don’t know what you’re going to find!

How have you been working as a team?

Brendan: Oh we’re a fantastic team! The information about the textiles was put into spread sheets after the fire and we’ve had to go through and work out how this information has been ordered and identify any duplicate references. It’s usually me on the spread sheet and Maria handling the textiles. I’m glad about this because Maria’s background is in textiles and mine is in computing and business technology!

What’s been the biggest challenge?

Maria: I think it’s not knowing things about the items because we’re encountering them for the first time! Sometimes the information in the spread sheet doesn’t match up with the actual textiles and it can be hard to find the information.

Brendan: And coming up with descriptions for the items that don’t have descriptions!

You’ve both volunteered with us before but have you enjoyed working as a casual member of staff?

Maria: Of course! It’s a new experience from being a volunteer because as a volunteer you mainly want to gain experience but as a member of staff you’re actually becoming involved in the organisation which I’ve really enjoyed.

What’s your favourite item?

Brendan: Well we know what Maria’s is…the little Decorative Animal from the Needlework Development Scheme! Mine is either that or the Marimekko pieces…or the Stump-work Picture for the Needlework Development Scheme.

Anything to add?

When you think of GSA, you think of Glasgow Style textiles. I knew GSA had a big collection of different textiles but I had no idea there was this many. And they vary between traditional Glasgow Style and more contemporary textiles like the Fraser Taylor and The Cloth collection. So this project has opened my eyes to just how diverse GSA’s Archives textiles are!

Keep reading our blog to stay up to date with the next stage of the textile re-packaging project!