Alison Smithson’s Mind: An Architectural Scrapbook, 1950-1990 will see urgently needed conservation work carried out on a voluminous collage scrapbook, by Alison Smithson (1928-1993) for the benefit of future research into British modernism, postwar architecture, and visual culture, and for museum display.
The project aims to catalogue each page and index the images that help historicize and theorise Smithson’s work within British post-war cultural history, and to provide some chronological markers for the composition of the book over the four decades of its creation. The project also plans to photograph and digitise each page to allow a window into Smithson’s working methods, enabling viewers to access one of the least filtered outputs of her creative intelligence for the first time.
Preserving, digitising, and researching the rapidly-decaying scrapbook is a first step in parsing the workings of an important and currently neglected thinker in post-war British culture. It will situate Smithson’s work within a changing post-colonial landscape in which the very concept of Englishness—of nationhood itself—is re-presented and interrogated. As nationalism resurges worldwide, the book soliloquizes and reflects on changing national identity, where images of international consumer culture cover and nearly obliterate the English source material over which Smithson mounted them.
Adrian Glew, Library & Archive, Tate; Claire Zimmerman, Associate Professor, John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, University of Toronto; Victoria Walsh, Professor of Art History and Curating, Royal College of Art, London.
The project is generously supported by a Digital Project Grant from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and Paul Mellon Centre.