The National Museums Collection Centre at Granton, Edinburgh, provides a home for many of the objects and specimens that are not currently on display in the museums which included the textile archive. This includes the original 198 NDS items gifted to the then ‘Royal Scottish Museum’ in 1961/62 under the care of assistant keeper of Art and Archeology Revel Oddy. Having studied correspondence between Revel Oddy and Colin Martin, the then director of J&P Coats, regarding the gift of the NDS pieces to the museums, and having read about many of the individuals involved in the scheme alongside reproductions of specific pieces, e.g. Susan Riley’s machine embroidered The 3 Kings in NDS publications, the anticipation of the visit was particularly exciting at this point in the project.
Care and conservation of textile archive
Studying the care and conservation of textiles at the NMS collections center was also an important aspect of the visit to help us all in making further plans for the re-housing of our collection at ECA. Lisa Mason guided us through the current housing arrangements for the NMS huge textile collection which includes garments, accessories, curtains and framed pieces. As well as picking up hints on packing in Tyvek bags, acid free tissue and conservation grade mounts, we also discussed storage boxes. As well as clever ties for joints, to my particular delight we were introduced to boxes constructed using a glue gun, safe “as long as the glue does not come into contact with the textile itself”
Viewing selections from the NDS archive collection
A selection of pieces chosen from the NMS’ NDS collection for their significance and complimentary to the collection held in the University collection were out on display of us to study in detail. Typical of its era and always popular with the NDS, a Winsome Douglass piece can never go amiss for its design detail and superlative execution.
There were many highlights to the pieces selected for study from this textile archive, however the star attraction had to be Susan Riley’s 3 Kings.
This piece demonstrates her command of the medium. The image features on the front cover of Embroideries from Needlework Development Scheme, published in 1965 as a catalogue of the collection gifted to the museums in 1961. More digging needs to be done as there are 213 items in this catalogue but only 198 listed as having been gifted to the Royal Scottish Museum in the NDS list of 1961. This research project keeps uncovering more twists and turns of this fascinating story.
Other community groups working on this project over the next few months will be making similar visits to the Collections Centre to see these pieces at close hand for themselves.
Grateful thanks to Lisa Mason, Georgina Ripley and Emily Taylor for facilitating our visit.