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16 Nov 2018

Why Reveal?

Written by Emma Inglis, Curator (South and West)
Project Reveal Team West at work in the Library at Hill House
Team West at work in the Library at Hill House
During the last 16 months, the Reveal teams have worked at a range of National Trust for Scotland places, inventorying and documenting our collections. The Hill House inventory was the first to be completed by the West team.

The essential documentation and photography that lies at the heart of Project Reveal is giving us new confidence in the accuracy of our collections records. It’s also proving to be a springboard for the closer identification of objects, a means to make new connections, and a stimulus to curatorial research that will feed into the visitor experience.

At the Hill House I’ve had the pleasure of unwrapping original fragments of carpets designed for the house by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. To see the colours originally intended for the flooring in the hall and on the stairs, compared to the lighter tones chosen by a later resident of the house, enables us to consider the space in a new light.

An original fragment of carpet designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh for the Hill House
An original fragment of carpet designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

When we imagine Mackintosh’s original carpet in place, it would have created a very different visual effect: more subtle, softer and more enclosed. Now we have these original carpet fragments, accurate dimensions and colour-accurate photography, we’ll be better able to make curatorial decisions about the carpet when a replacement is required or the interiors are represented.

Other collection items have come to light at the Hill House during the Reveal process. Fragments of the beads that Mrs Blackie is depicted wearing in her portrait emerged from a rarely visited cupboard; they will enhance the interpretation of her portrait.

Mrs Blackie’s beads at the Hill House
Mrs Blackie’s beads

A pair of single beds lying unused in the attic will have a future in the representation of the family bedrooms. Whilst they’re not treasures in any monetary sense, these finds are definitely encouraging us to look at our collections with fresh eyes and to discover new opportunities.

From a curatorial point of view, Project Reveal is also encouraging us to look more closely at the information held on our collections database. Following on from the basic descriptions provided by the Reveal team, we’re taking the opportunity to enhance records with web-ready text, additional contextual information and additional research material. Having all of this information in one place for the first time really is a step in the right direction.

Project Reveal is a Trust-wide collections digitisation project. It will result in an updated database with high-quality images and unique object numbers for every item in the National Trust for Scotland material culture collections. Six regionally based project teams, supported by experienced project managers, will work across all our properties with collections to complete the inventory in 24 months from July 2017 until July 2019.

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