Blogathon: Silk Exhibition in Archive Services

Here is a Blogathon entry from Toni Georgieva:

The exhibition case in Thurso Street reception area

The exhibition case in Thurso Street reception area

On Monday, 17th June 2013, Glasgow University Archive Services launched a new exhibition in the reception area of its Thurso Street Building.

The exhibition is focused on Glasgow’s silk manufacturer Anderson & Robertson (1877-1964). More broadly, it attempts to reflect Scotland’s place within the World’s business history, and indeed the records held by Glasgow University Archive have a lot to teach us. Those do not tell just the story of individual corporations, firms, organisations, or even people; rather they represent their importance to national and worldwide history, and their influence on where we stand now.

About me and the exhibition…
My name is Toni Georgieva, 23, Bulgarian. I am about to complete the final year of my Joint Honours of History of Art & Business and Management in Glasgow University. Fortunately for me, this summer I received a positive response to my application for Exhibition Assistant within a Club 21 placement with GU Archive Services, and it’s been an adventure ever since…

About the idea…
There were many areas of interest provoked by the vast amount and variety of items preserved by the GU Archive. However, when I first spoke to Claire Daniel (my placement supervisor) about the ideas I had, my attention was directed to the smallest scale project in my list.
The records of this indeed small, on a first glimpse, company proved to have a great story that needs to be told…

About the company…

William Anderson

William Anderson

Anderson & Robertson was formed back in 1877 by George Robertson and William Anderson. Several years later they would rent Morris Pollock’s old mill (Govan, Glasgow), the first mill in Scotland for throwing pure silk.
In the following years, the firm expanded by opening two new mills. The first one was built in Motherwell in 1890, followed by the one in Glemsford, Suffolk, purchased in 1936. A fire caused serious damage to the Govan mill in 1873, and in 1901 the building was demolished,
making space for the extension of the Fairfield Shipyard.

Anderson and Robertson communicated with business internationally. The export of goods and the wide range of products ensured the firm’s success on the textile industry market.
Furthermore, trips to the USA provided the firm with an insight to innovative man-made fibres, such as rayon and nylon, as well as techniques of handling those fibres. Anderson and Roberstson became one of the first businesses to use the Norcross Viscometer, a progressive system for measuring textile viscosity, thus managed to establish itself as a one of the leaders in the production of such fibres.

Harland & Wolff Shipyards, c 1937, Glasgow University Archive Services, Photographic Collection

Harland & Wolff Shipyards, c 1937, Glasgow University Archive Services, Photographic Collection

However, the 19th century and industrialization (The Second Industrial Revolution) saw the downfall of the European silk industry. Reports of the problems faced by the company reveal the difficulties faced by the industry at the time and predict the
inevitable closure of Anderson and Robertson.

About silk…
• Silk culture (sericulture) has been practiced for over 5,000 years in China.
• Silk is the strongest natural fibre known to man.
• Silk worms eat only mulberry leaves, and are entirely dependent on humans to survive and reproduce.
• A cocoon is made by a single continuous thread of silk, about 1 kilometre long.
• The shimmering appearance of silk comes from its prism-like structure which reflects light at different angles.
• Silk is not produced solely for designing clothes and accessories; it is used in parachutes and rugs, as well as in medicine for sutures and prosthetic arteries.

About the experience…setting up
From the first record I flipped through to putting the last box of items back on its shelf, Anderson & Robertson has managed to continuously engage my interest in this exhibition. Through their records, I have examined textiles; audited cash; traveled the USA; manufactured silk and man-made fibres; communicated with workers and businesses.

Thus, it became important to me to provide other people also with the opportunity to feel what I have experienced.

A scenario of the exhibition was developed and the items have been put together to tell the story of Anderson & Robertson. In that final stage of my placement, it became clear to me that the purpose of my exhibition has expanded beyond my initial ideas. Not only the story of this company reflected World’s business history, it also somehow manages to engender pride in the heart of every Glaswegian or indeed anyone who has chosen Glasgow as a place to live, work, study, visit, etc.

About my supervisor…

A special “Thank you!” to my supervisor, Claire Daniel, and to the GU Preservation Manager, Ela Gorska-Wiklo for their help and support throughout my placement.

Visiting the Exhibition

Opening times: Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm
Address: 13 Thurso St, 2nd Floor

Categories: Archive Services

Tags: , , , , , ,

3 replies


  1. Congratulations to our blogathon winners « University of Glasgow Library
  2. Exhibition Assistant Club 21 placement « University of Glasgow Library
  3. Dress and Textiles in the Archives | University of Glasgow Library

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