Glasgow Women's Library for Museum of the Year

Glasgow Women's Library for Museum of the Year

(L-R) Councillor Susan Aitken, Lord Provost Eva Bolander and Sue John / credit: Jeanette Lang, Glasgow Women's Library

A few reasons why we're flying the flag for GWL

This Thursday the Art Fund will announce the winner of 2018's Museum of the Year. There are five nominees vying for the £100,000 prize; Brookland's Museum in Weybridge, Feren's Art Gallery in Hull, The Postal Museum in London, Tate St Ives and Glasgow Women's Library. While all worthy institutions, for us the winner is clear: we're flying the flag for Glasgow Women's Library. Here are a few reasons why:

It's been a trailblazing organisation, right from the start
The Women's Library was inaugurated in 1990 as part of Glasgow's European City of Culture Year and from then on it's been a part of the trajectory for change in Scotland – from taking part of the first Pride events, to being a hub for the incubation of the Lesbian Avengers and a crucible for subsequent research and activism.

It's produced ground-breaking research
Major reports such as 'Poverty and social exclusion of lesbians and gay men in Glasgow', (1999) and 'Something to Tell You' (2002) were written by GWL at a time when hardly any research was being conducted into the histories and contemporary experiences of homophobia. And the museum has continued to deliver hugely significant research since; just last month GWL published 'Equality in Progress' focusing on the health of equality diversity and inclusion in museums in Scotland.

It's collected and shared stories that might have otherwise gone untold
Projects like 'She Settles in the Shields', a collection of stories on migrant women's histories of coming to Scotland from South Asia, is one example of the ways that GWL has worked with minority communities across Scotland to capture significant, but lesser known histories. They've also supported major partnerships with like-minded organisations, collaborating in 2017 with Scottish Women's Aid (SWA) on a major research project, 'Speaking Out', that captures histories of some of the pioneering women who have been part of SWA over the last 40 years.

Hundreds of thousands of women have taken part in their learning programmes
Last year alone the Museum delivered 160 events, with thousands of people attending projects in Glasgow and across Scotland. One crucial part of their work is supporting women to develop their literacy and numeracy skills, whether that's for job application forms, being more confident about studying or writing a diary. Support is available in a group or one-to-one with a tutor, or both – and it's free.

Glasgow Women's Library for Museum of the Year

Archivist Nicola discussing materials at one of the Open Archive events / credit: Glasgow Women's Library

It's saved and homed invaluable items from women's history
Within the GWL collection are newsletters from the Women's Liberation Movement; knitting and dress making patterns; the Scottish and National Abortion Campaign archives; journals including Spare Rib, Off Our Backs, Trouble and Strife and the Women's Suffrage Collection, which includes ephemera such as card games, jewellery, postcards and clocks and rare books and newsletters on the topic of Women's Suffrage.

It's a museum created by everyone
Everything in the GWL collection, the library, archive and museum is donated. There is no acquisitions or stock budget so the collection truly reflects the interests of GWL's diverse users and supporters.

It's so well-loved that other organisations have started to acquire major works of contemporary art on its behalf
Outset Scotland recently acquired Kate Davis' film Charity to be jointly shared by Edinburgh College of Art and GWL. The work, created by this year's winner of the Margaret Tait Award, takes motherhood and specifically breast-feeding as its focus. The Library has also previously commissioned artists and writers to respond to their collection; In 2011 (ahead of its 21st birthday in September 2012) 21 artists and 21 writers made work inspired by GWL's diverse and remarkable collections for the project 21 Revolutions. Some of the most significant names in Scottish art and literature including Turner Prize nominees and lauded authors responded with new texts and artworks, from Janice Galloway to Denise Mina, Claire Barclay to Sam Ainsley.

GWL would do something amazing with £100,000 prize money, guaranteed
Adele Patrick, Lifelong Learning and Creative Development Manager at GWL, certainly thinks so: 'Having consulted with new and existing GWL users recently as part of our GWL Hearsme research, we discovered even more about what people want from us in the future, from a gorgeous café to a creative retreat (people visit us each week from all over the world but we love the idea that people might travel the globe to come to Bridgeton for extended creative inspiration!) So...there are always capital build ideas in the pipeline and no end of ideas of ways to use each and every penny we might get from this or other sources, especially where making the building and our work as accessible as possible is concerned. At the moment we are trying to make sure this golden opportunity helps us get the word out about a very special resource that is unique in the UK, and is proud to be based in Glasgow.'

The winning museum will be announced at a ceremony at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London on Thu 5 Jul 2018.

You can download a banner image to 'Fly the Flag' for Glasgow Women's Library on social media.

Glasgow Women's Library

23 Landressy Street, Glasgow, G40 1BP

Glasgow Women’s Library is the only resource of its kind in Scotland. As well as a lending library, they house a treasure trove of historical and contemporary artifacts and archive materials that celebrate the lives, histories and achievements of women.