A series of posts capturing memories of the Mackintosh Library from academics, researchers and readers.
MLitt Student at Glasgow School of Art
What is your most abiding memory of the Mackintosh Library?
I should lie but actually…
The first time I saw the Mackintosh Library for real (as an architecture student I knew Mackintosh’s work previous to my visit to Glasgow) was during my exchange studies at Edinburgh College of Art. I visited Glasgow with an architect friend and we attempted to visit the School, Mackintosh’s masterpiece, for free. So instead of joining the official tour we just crossed the main door, quite quickly, pretending to be GSA students. And we succeeded! So we went up and down, left and right, got super-lost, and without knowing how we ended up in front of those glass doors to the magnificent Library. Unfortunately we couldn’t get inside, but the unique circumstances of the encounter, full of an intruder’s excitement, was enough to keep the dark wooden environment of the Library in my mind for the rest of my architectural studies. I couldn’t imagine then that the next time I would see it would be as an actual GSA masters student!
What was your favourite item in the collection?
When I was researching John Calcutt and David Harding’s work, I visited the Mackintosh Library during those hours reserved for GSA students. I thought it would be full of students, but actually there were just two of us and the librarian in charge, Delphine. Whilst I was busy with my own books, already prepared for me, I suddenly saw Delphine coming down from the balcony with a huge old book, a folio. It was not for me, but for the other Library visitor, a printmaking student. Having aimed to use those few hours fruitfully on my own work, I was quickly distracted, and joined them in their fascination. It was a Dürer book, and the prints were just fantastic. I couldn’t believe I was actually in front of such an original piece. I told myself, you should just come every week and see what other treasures are in the Mackintosh Library collection. I didn’t, due to tragic circumstances, but that moment was one of the most special in all my time at GSA.
How did you make use of the Mackintosh Library in your learning and teaching?
When the devastating fire of 23 May 2014 happened, I couldn’t stop thinking of all that paper and wood burning together. As a person devoted to books, this was too much for me to imagine. All these books, lost? Yes, but… “There are always good things coming out of bad things… Many publications will become more well-known or known anyway, revealed. The fire will have revealed new things, new perceptions” (David Harding, interview for www.mybookcase.org, 2014). The frustration of such a lost moved me to use the Graduate Degree show as an opportunity to help in the Mackintosh Library reconstruction. I attempted to locate the books I had been using in the Library around Glasgow. Each time a book was located (and usually donated) an informal chat about the book was held with the donor. These interviews and memories form my piece ‘561 Provenance Field’.