The current exhibition by Museum Services in the Lamb Gallery of the University's Tower Building showcases the work of the Needlework Development Scheme.
Run by Scotland's four art colleges between 1934 and 1961, the Needlework Development Scheme toured the world collecting examples of historic and contemporary embroidery designs as a national educational resource. Its aims were to encourage greater interest in embroidery and raise the standard of textile design. To mark 50 years since the Scheme came to an end, this exhibition features highlights from an extraordinary collection.
The Scheme originated with the Paisley-based thread manufacturers J & P Coats, who provided substantial funding (anonymously) and had a considerable influence over the selection of work. With mills in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Poland, Russia, Canada, Mexico and Japan, Coats had international contacts that were invaluable to the Scheme.
During the 1930s the Scheme concentrated on modern European design, but the coming of war in 1939 put a stop to its operations. It had collected almost 900 pieces for use by the art colleges, schools, training colleges, women's institutes and other organisations across Scotland. When the Scheme was re-started after the war, it was extended to the rest of Britain, involving the Ministry of Education and the V&A Museum, and employing internationally acclaimed textile designers as expert advisers.
By the time the Scheme came to an end in 1961 it had collected over 5,000 items. These were distributed throughout the country - as well as the four art colleges, pieces were given to various institutions including the V&A, the Royal Scottish Museum, colleges of education and the Embroiderers' Guild. While most of the pieces shown in this exhibition are from the selection given to Duncan of Jordanstone College, we are also delighted to be able to include items on loan from the collections of the Glasgow School of Art and Gray's School of Art (Robert Gordon University).
You can see more of the collection on our NDS website. The exhibition is on display until 30 April 2011.
Matthew Jarron, Museum Curator