Argyll Art The Argyll Collection
Sam J. Ntiro, Chopping Wood Credit The Argyll Collection, Copyright The Artist Estate

The Argyll Collection Reconnected

CHARTS is delighted to partner with Argyll and Bute Council to look after the outstanding Argyll Collection and plan for its vibrant future. Since The Argyll Collection, Reconnected began in Autumn 2023, much has happened, with exciting new pathways and opportunities developing at a pace.

History 

Owned by Argyll and Bute Council, the Argyll Collection is a unique group of over 170 artworks, established between 1960 and 1990, for the benefit of the young people of Argyll and Bute. Author Naomi Mitchison and art advisor and teacher Jim Tyre created the collection to enable young people to experience fine art in an area with little access to museums and galleries. Jim drove the collection around the county, taking the artworks into schools for engaging and inspiring lessons.

Naomi and Jim filled the collection with outstanding modern Scottish artists, including Joan Eardley, Alan Davie, Anne Redpath, Will McLean, Robert MacBryde, Elizabeth Blackadder, Robin Philipson, and Barbara Rae. Naomi’s travels to eastern and southern Africa are also reflected in an outstanding group of twelve artworks by artists from Africa, including works by Jak Katarikawe, Henry Tayali, Catherine Gombe and Sam J Ntiro.

Public Engagement 

Reconnected Project Manager Ros McKenna and Research Manager Kirsty MacNab have travelled the length and breadth of Argyll, carrying out an inventory of the collection. Currently, the work is spread across 9 secondary schools, including Oban, Tobermory, Lochgilphead, Tarbert, Campbeltown, Helensburgh, Dunoon, Rothesay and Islay, as well as  5 primary schools and 2 libraries.  Establishing the location of the pieces in the collection, the Reconnected team have carried out condition checks in order to initiate a conservation programme and, importantly, meet and build working relationships with school staff. Plans are now underway, in consultation with teachers, for new curations of the collection to be rotated around the secondary schools for the start of the 2024/25 academic year, alongside interpretation materials such as interpretation and teacher’s information packs.

Between January and April 2024, CHARTS was delighted to work alongside Exhibition Trainee Lily Vaughan, who curated Awaken, The Argyll Collection, an exhibition of pieces from the Collection that ran in Dunoon Burgh Hall and was covered by journalist Jan Patience

Looking to the future, exciting plans are underway to share the Collection with a wider public audience through a series of displays, exhibitions and a public programme of creative events.

Digitisation 

Working in partnership with Art UK, the Rconncected team is working to upload the complete collection, which will be supported by digital stories and curations. This is an exciting way to share the amazing works with a national audience.  From August onwards, Ros and Kirsty will also be delivering a Visual Literacy project with 6 primary schools in Kintyre using work from the Collection to explore Art UK’s exciting new programme, The Superpower of Looking, as well as continuing to work with Argyll and Bute Council Education team on a series of training events for teachers.  

In addition to working with Art UK, the Reconnected team is working to digitise the Argyll Collection for global exposure after being chosen to participate in a unique collaboration between XpoNorth Digital, Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s specialist digital support programme for the creative and heritage sectors, and Smartify, the world’s most downloaded museum app. 

Working Nationally and Internationally 

CHARTS is delighted to work in partnership with Dr Kate Cowcher, Lecturer in Art History at the University of St Andrews; Dr Lucy Steeds, Senior Lecturer in Art at the University of Edinburgh; and Prof. Christina Young, Professor of Conservation and Technical Art History at The University of Glasgow, whose research and expertise continue to enhance and uncover incredible connections in the Collection. In January 2024, CHARTS’ International Manager, Dr Deirdre MacKenna, visited Uganda with Dr Kate Cowcher, establishing links between The Argyll Collection, CHARTS and important cultural institutions in Kampala, including Makerere University and The British Council.

Reconnected, The Argyll Collection is a CHARTS led project funded by Art Fund to review the cultural significance of the Argyll Collection and its social and educational value, which has been featured in Group for Education in Museums  (GEMS) Case Studies #32, Reimagining Engagement, Reviewing a Museum Without Walls, The Argyll Collection, Reconnected.

Discover more about CHARTS international work in Kampala

The Argyll Collection Reconnected is funded by the Art Fund and supported by Argyll and Bute Council, National Lottery Heritage Fund, The Gannochy Trust, Bòrd na Gàidhlig and the William Syson Foundation.

Image: Chopping Wood, Sam J. Ntiro. Credit the Argyll Collection © The artist’s estate.

The Argyll Collection Reconnected