Following our 11th MmITS AGM, we were privileged to have Dr Nicky Imrie as our guest speaker to give a fascinating talk on the background and development of the Mackintosh Architecture Project. In July 2014, this will result in the launch of a freely accessible online resource, providing users with an authoritative list of Charles Rennie Mackintosh architecture, a catalogue of associated drawings, and biographies of related clients and contractors. The launch will also coincide with a major Mackintosh Architecture Exhibition at the Hunterian, which has drawn from the research project.
Dr Imrie first gave an overview of the project’s aims and challenges. This revealed how essential libraries and archives were to the project, resulting in successful collaborations with institutions both in the UK and as far afield as Dresden, Toronto and Sydney. We discovered that many different agreements had to be negotiated to secure the digitisation of Mackintosh material held in different collections. Dr Imrie also discussed the challenges of the future sustainability of born digital resources such as the Mackintosh website, and the steep technical learning curve faced by this group of architectural and art historians when developing the project database and working with XML.
In addition to the technological aspects of the project, it was very interesting to learn of the research work involved, sometimes relying on the generosity of private homeowners to give the project’s architectural historians access to Mackintosh features, many of which could then be photographed specifically for the online resource. One member of the audience also discovered that their current address has a direct Mackintosh connection previously unknown to them, and the Glaswegians in the audience were likewise surprised to learn that an outbreak of the plague in turn of the century Glasgow temporarily prevented Mackintosh from travelling overseas (see Glasgow University Library’s recent blog article honoring International Nursing Day for more details!)
Towards the end of the session, Dr Imrie then gave us a chance to see the online resource in action, demonstrating the different search techniques that can be used depending on the focus of the user’s interest. Authorship levels can be applied, for example, allowing users to refine their search based on the extent of Mackintosh’s involvement in a project. The project also reveals other sides to Mackintosh not always associated with his popular image, such as apprentice architect, competition designer, business partner etc.
In conjunction with the Mackintosh Architecture Exhibition, there are also plans to create displays and provide information about the project at each of the Mackintosh properties open to the public, including a poster exhibition curated by Dr Imrie at the Willow Tea Rooms. Further information and details of any private properties opening to the public will be available via the Hunterian exhibition page and also on the Mackintosh Society website.
The website is sure to provide architectural historians, practicing architects, and those with an interest in Mackintosh’s life and work around the globe with the first comprehensive study of Charles Rennie Mackintosh as an architect. This is an exciting and unique resource that will undoubtedly prove to be significant springboard for future research and we wish Dr Imrie and the project every success.
If you would like to read an additional review of Dr Imrie’s presentation, please read the post by Anabel Marsh on her excellent blog ‘Adventures of a Retired Librarian’.