Tag Archives: traquair

Open for all⤴

from @ ammienoot.com

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Another visit to my beloved Mansfield Traquair Centre this evening. 17 years on and it still takes my breath away. To have the responsibility and the stewardship of a place like this a privilege.

This evening was the Friends AGM. Formal business was blessedly succinct. A conversation between Susy Kirk and Elizabeth Cumming was delightful.

Chatting afterwards I confessed to a slight girl-crush at the moment for Dr Bendor Grosvenor.

What’s not to like about fighting for open access to the nation’s cultural heritage? The Chairman of our Board of Trustees (Dr Duncan Thomson) clearly agrees as he was one of the signatories to this letter in The Times.

This is a subject close to my own heart, and to friends in the room with me this evening. I’ve written about the Royal Hospital for Sick Children Mortuary Chapel murals before.* Many of us this evening remain concerned and worried for their future.

Fundamentally though, how do you raise awareness of the murals uncertain future when so few people know about them now?

One of the problems with public awareness is the location of the murals. They have remained largely inaccessible for over 100 years as they form an integral part of an incredibly intimate, private, and moving place. A mortuary chapel in a children’s hospital.

The most obvious way of making such a space more accessible, without being intrusive, is to make good quality images available online under open licenses. Until recently the only images that existed either belong to NHS Lothian (all rights reserved – mostly 35mm slides), or to Historic Environment Scotland (crown copyright – majority of images listed in Canmore date from 1982 and are not available online even to view).

I’m pleased to say that’s not the case any more. There are now 62 high quality images** of the murals, all available on Wikimedia Commons for immediate use under a CC-BY 4.0 license. Since initial upload they have already had their categorisation data enhanced and been linked up to Phoebe Traquair’s Wikidata profile by a keen editor (not me!).

I can already see the images appearing in Google image searches, and we know from other experiences that Wikimedia Commons is proving rich pickings for press articles.

My next steps are to complete the Wikipedia article I have been writing about the murals. Once that has been published the Google secret sauce will push it very swiftly to the top of the page rankings and the murals and their story will slowly start to become more open to all.

“What can be done, here and there, with moderate means and ordinary folk with such labour as they can spare […] open space amid the slums ” (Patrick Geddes)

 

* It’s worth briefly saying why these murals in particular are important and why they merit their Category A listing. They are the first mural scheme by Phoebe Anna Traquair. Traquair was a key figure in the Arts and Crafts movement in Scotland. She worked as an embroiderer, enamellist, book binder, illustrator and painter. She was the first important professional female artist in Scotland, and in recognition of this was the first female honorary member of the Royal Scottish Academy. The murals are also the product of a commission by the Edinburgh Social Union, founded by Patrick Geddes. They are the sole survivor of around 20 commissions instigated by the ESU. In 1899 in a published interview, Traquair herself considered them to be her finest work.

** Honourable mention for several ladies is required here. Dr Sally Ann Huxtable of the National Museums of Scotland who recommended the superb Diane Holdsworth’s photographic skills; Diane for doing the work pro-bono; and Sorrel Cossens of NHS Lothian for facilitating access. As with Phoebe herself, women of determination can achieve great things.

Mortuary Chapel, Revisited⤴

from @ ammienoot.com

Reading Time: 1 minute

I’ve written a little bit before about my work connected with the mural paintings of Phoebe Anna Traquair, and this week we had a lovely gathering to celebrate the 25th anniversary of our Friends organisation. I took the opportunity to share a few of the stunning images that Diane Holdsworth has taken of the Mortuary Chapel murals with my colleagues and friends. Diane has agreed that the photographs can be released under a CC-BY license and so tomorrow I will start working out how best to make them widely available (Wikimedia Commons is my preferred choice, but there’s some admin to do around clarifying copyright agreements).

Tonight though, I’m going to post a few of them here, because I can’t wait to share them. The photographs are brilliant and show how strange and wonderful these murals are; and what a precarious condition they are now in.

Photograph by Diane Holdsworth CC-BY 4.0

 

Photograph by Diane Holdsworth CC-BY 4.0

 

Photograph by Diane Holdsworth CC-BY 4.0

 

Photograph by Diane Holdsworth CC-BY 4.0

Mortuary Chapel, Revisited⤴

from @ ammienoot.com

Reading Time: 1 minute

I’ve written a little bit before about my work connected with the mural paintings of Phoebe Anna Traquair, and this week we had a lovely gathering to celebrate the 25th anniversary of our Friends organisation. I took the opportunity to share a few of the stunning images that Diane Holdsworth has taken of the Mortuary Chapel murals with my colleagues and friends. Diane has agreed that the photographs can be released under a CC-BY license and so tomorrow I will start working out how best to make them widely available (Wikimedia Commons is my preferred choice, but there’s some admin to do around clarifying copyright agreements).

Tonight though, I’m going to post a few of them here, because I can’t wait to share them. The photographs are brilliant and show how strange and wonderful these murals are; and what a precarious condition they are now in.

Photograph by Diane Holdsworth CC-BY 4.0

 

Photograph by Diane Holdsworth CC-BY 4.0

 

Photograph by Diane Holdsworth CC-BY 4.0

 

Photograph by Diane Holdsworth CC-BY 4.0

In my spare time…⤴

from @ ammienoot.com

Anyone who follows my Twitter feed will have seen amongst the random detritus quite a few posts about art or craft of varying sorts. I have quite wide ranging and eclectic tastes but one of my abiding interests is the Arts and Crafts movement – both the aesthetics and the politics. If you find yourself in Edinburgh during August this year I might therefore recommend that you visit one of the following free events that happen as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe:

In 1993 I dragged my then boyfriend along to an exhibition of work by an Irish born arts and crafts artist Phoebe Anna Traquair at the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh. I wasn’t well enough off to afford the exhibition catalogue, but a year later I was working for the city tourist board and in a cupboard were some old exhibition posters, including one for the Phoebe Traquair exhibition and I was able to save it from the bins. That poster graced various walls over the years, including my little flat and a couple of workplaces.

In around 1995 or 1996 I think I went to a cabaret evening at what was Cafe Grafitti – a club held in an old church on Mansfield Place, on the edge of the Edinburgh New Town. It was very badly lit, but I remember seeing glimpses of enormous gilded Phoebe Traquair murals high up on the walls. There was a lot of candlelight for atmosphere and of course indoor smoking, because this was still the 1990s. I saw performers from Cirque du Soleil dance on a ribbon strung from 60 feet up in the chancel, and it took my breath away.

In 2000 I went to visit the Song School at St Mary’s Cathedral as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to see their Phoebe Traquair murals. After the tour we were pointed towards a modest exhibition stand with photos of more incredibly beautiful murals, in heartbreakingly poor condition. A couple of volunteers from the Friends of Mansfield Place Church charity were waiting nearby, ready to explain the precarious position the building and it’s murals had been in. I sympathised, and never told them about that night in Cafe Graffitti when I might have contributed to the cigarette smoke in the air.

Thankfully with assistance from the City Council the building had just been purchased by the Mansfield Traquair Trust, and they were about to embark upon a multi-million pound project to restore the fabric of the building and convert it into an events and office space fit for modern use, followed by another multi-million pound project to conserve and restore the murals. The tenants for the building once complete would be SCVO – the umbrella organisation for the third sector in Scotland. The Friends were seeking volunteers to join and help prepare for the re-opening of the building. I was hooked. I still remember being given a tour by torchlight of the building just before work started. Again there were the tantalising glimpses of the murals up high, though this time they were mostly covered in protective panels to protect them from the imminent building work.

It will be 17 years this August since I joined the Friends, and I have served on their committee for most of that time. Each year I register our entry for the Festival Fringe and help my colleagues prepare to guide yet more visitors around this building that we all love so much. It’s now nearly 9 years since I was invited to join the Board of Trustees of the Mansfield Traquair Trust, and I am pleased to say I have also now managed to save up enough pennies to buy my own copy of the 1993 exhibition catalogue.

If you find yourself at a loose end in August, do visit. I promise it will take your breath away, and if you’re lucky, I may be your tour guide at Mansfield Traquair.