Exploring the Art Extraordinary Archives: Extract from a research diary

By Cheryl McGeachan 

Today marks my first visit to explore the Art Extraordinary archive collection held at Glasgow Museum Resource Centre. As I step off the train the icy air encircles me and I pull my scarf tighter as I march purposefully through the dark landscape to get to my destination. The last time I saw the Art Extraordinary collection was at its former home in Pittenweem, where it was being boxed up and transported into the care of Glasgow Museums. I remember the warmth of the old gallery space and the volume of materials spread across every surface, preparing for transit. I can’t wait to see the materials in their new home.

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As I enter the building I am guided by friend colleague Dr Anthony Lewis (curator of Scottish History) through the seemingly endless corridors of the Resource Centre to the storeroom. In their new home the collection now sits quietly in the dark, next to boxes labelled ‘Archaeology’. The first piece to catch my eye is a poster from one of the first exhibitions of the Art extraordinary collection. The colours flash under their clear glass frame. As I walk down the stacks my eyes dart from object to object. Pictures, boxes, coffee tins, sculptures, all familiar due to the background work undertaken but also somewhat unknown. Contemporary white plastic boxes, located on the bottom shelf, store some of the most delicate of written materials. Labels marked ‘Angus McPhee’ strike up images of his majestic weavings now carefully enclosed within their cardboard containers.

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Where to begin?

The choices seem overwhelming but the work of one individual catches my eye – 3 white boxes full of wrapped materials. This is my chosen starting point. This is the beginning of my Art Extraordinary archival journey.

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Extract from the research diary of Dr Cheryl McGeachan, University of Glasgow. From the British Academy funded project A Tapestry of Tales: Investigating the Historical Geographies of Art Therapy and ‘Art Extraordinary’ in Scotland (1950-1980).

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