On Monday 25th April Archives and Special Collections staff were lucky enough to visit the Scottish Borders for an away-day!
We visited Heriot Watt University’s Scottish Borders Campus and we were kindly welcomed by Helen Taylor, the Archivist for Heriot Watt University. Helen introduced us to the fantastic textile collections that are extensively used as a learning, teaching and research resource for the University’s Textiles & Design courses.
The School of Textiles & Design was established in 1883 to lead the textile industry in training and education and current programmes include studies in fashion, interior design and textile design. The archive is a great resource for studying the history of design and fashion from the 18th century to the present and also charts the evolution of textile education at Galashiels from 1887 to the present.
Helen said of the collections:
“The Textile Collection at Heriot-Watt University’s Scottish Borders Campus is a research resource focusing on Scottish textile heritage. The focus on collecting was originally business records and pattern books from Scottish Borders mills as the local industry began to contract in the 1950s. The collection includes 200 year old shepherd’s plaids, the inspiration for the black and white checked tweed designs, and tweed fabric swatches from the 1830s to 1990s. In addition the Collection holds a large amount of tartan include some old and rare designs, Paisley shawls, furnishing fabric from Dundee firm Donald Brothers 1897-1973, costume, international textiles, knitting and dress patterns, Bernat Klein and the archives of the Scottish Woollen Technical College dating back to 1883. The Collection is available for research by appointment. Some Paisley shawls will be on display at the Hawick Museum 9 October to 23 December 2016.”
Helen displayed a sample of the textile collections including a fantastic 19th century sample book for Tweed designed and produced in the Scottish Borders by J & A Ogilvie 1834. Fabric samples in the volume included samples of Tweed with the original black and white checks, inspired by traditional shepherd’s plaids, and also a range of brightly coloured and patterned fabrics for use in waistcoats and jacket linings.
We also saw a pattern book for Tartan produced in the Borders dating to the 1830s from Edinburgh merchant J & A Ogilvy within the George Harrison collection.
There were also printed fabrics on display from the Silver Studio and Marion Dorn, and this created a nice link with our own collections as we hold sketched designs by these designers within the records of Stoddard Templeton (see STOD/DES/101/2 & STOD/DES/118/2 for examples).
Helen also told us that the archive has begun the process of collecting the work of current students. Prize-winning students submit a fabric sample and a printed portfolio and this will preserve the work of the best students from each year.
It was particularly useful for us to get an insight into these textile collections, especially given the strong textile collections held by the University of Glasgow Library. A distinction between Heriot Watt collections and our own is that our records pertain to non-woollen textiles like cotton and calico, whereas Heriot Watt specialise in wool-based textile records. A visit to see other textile collection was also very timely given the current Darning Scotland’s Textile Heritage project, to develop our textile collections, ongoing at the Library.
After we had viewed the collections, Helen took us over to the old mill where the studio and work-shop spaces were. We saw the loom room where current students weave and it was fantastic to see the actual process of creating the textiles we had just seen. It was also great to see how the heritage collections feed into the production of students’ course work through teaching students about the construction and production of materials, as well as providing inspiration for the design of fabrics.
On our way home we took the opportunity to stop by the Scottish Borders Donkey Sanctuary to visit the Archive sponsored Donkey, Daniel. Archive Services have sponsored a Donkey at Christmas-time for around ten years and Alma, senior cataloguer who retired last month from the University, was the person who organised the sponsorship each year. We thought it would be the perfect opportunity, as we were visiting the Borders, to stop by and visit Daniel who greatly enjoyed being fed by Alma!
It was a brilliant away-day that was educational, brought us together as a team and was great fun!