A series of posts capturing memories of the Mackintosh Library from academics, researchers and readers.
Theresa Moerman Ib
Fine Art Photography Graduate and Library Assistant
Can you remember your first time coming into the Mackintosh Library and what impressions it left on you?
I was too timid to visit the Mack Library until my second year at GSA. It seemed so full of secret knowledge that I felt you needed a special initiation to go inside, not just a plastic student card. It was the draw of artists’ books that finally got me through the doors during the hour the Mack Library was open every day. Duncan, our Academic Liaison Librarian, now a lovely colleague, welcomed me and found the items I was looking for. I pulled out a Mackintosh chair and gingerly perched on the edge of the seat to leaf through Christian Boltanski’s Lost and Martin d’Orgeval’s Touche par le feu. My first encounter with the Mackintosh Library has even greater significance in the aftermath of the fire on 23 May 2014, since Boltanski’s Lost originally featured a photograph of the library and was also one of the items that were destroyed. Touche par le feu had been moved to the artists’ book collection in the Main Library and thus avoided the same fate. It features hauntingly beautiful photographs of the legendary 19th century Parisian taxidermy shop Deyrolle after it was devastated by a major blaze on 1 February 2008.
What is your most abiding memory of the Mackintosh Library?
When I went to fetch books requested by students, I used to dawdle deliberately, because I loved being in the space. On one occasion, in February of this year, I pulled out my camera phone to take some photographs of the wonderful way the sunlight filtered through the tall windows, sprawled over worn shelves and illuminated forgotten corners, emphasising the scent of old wood and dusty paper. I feel blessed that going to the Mackintosh Library was a small but official part of my job. I always felt guilty that I didn’t rush back to the Main Library with the requested books. Now I wish I had dared to stay even longer.
What was your favourite item in the collection?
My favourite item in the collection was probably the first artist’s book I saw, Christian Boltanski’s Lost. I find Boltanski’s work very inspiring and have used him a fair bit in my own research on the theme of loss and memory. This particular work is now also poignant because it contains a photograph of the Mackintosh Library, almost an uncanny premonition of what was to come. We have now received it as a donation, so thankfully it will once again be part of our artists’ book collection.
How did you make use of the Mackintosh Library in your learning and teaching?
I didn’t use it enough! I wish I had taken more time to go in and just browse – or just sit in the space. Now there are only a few memories left. However, those memories are now evolving into some work I am making for an exhibition in the Grace and Clark Fyfe Gallery in October. So even in its current battered state, the Mackintosh Library continues to inspire.
Did the use of the Mackintosh Library change much during the time that you worked in the library?
During the past year, the library was open to students once a week for a few hours, a great opportunity, especially given the tragic events in May. Whatever happens in future in regard to the Mackintosh Library and the rest of the building, I hope it will be open to students again and not preserved as a stale museum. When it is rebuilt, it needs new generations of knocks, scratches, fingerprints and artistic passion to penetrate the varnished surfaces and re-establish its life and soul.