In the wake of the fire which devastated the Mackintosh Building at The Glasgow School of Art on May 23, 2014, a specialist team of forensic archaeologists spent three months sifting through the damage to see what could be salvaged. 

While about 90% of the grade A-listed building was saved, the blaze, which was caused when flammable gases from a canister of expanding foam were set alight by a film projector at a degree show installation, almost entirely destroyed the iconic and unique Mackintosh Library, and the contents of the studio room above it.

One of the most important and widely-recognised library spaces in the world, the Mackintosh Library was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh between 1897 and 1909 and was accepted as one of the finest Art Nouveau interiors internationally. 

Constructed around a complex framework of timber posts and beams influenced by traditional Japanese architecture, the lost library represented one of the School’s most treasured interiors.

Writing in 2015, Peter Trowles, who served as the Mackintosh curator at the Glasgow School of Art for more than 30 years, described the Mackintosh Library as “one of the most photographed interiors of any modern building”.

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Nearly all of the items that were in the studio above the Library, which was historically a bookstore and then the GSA's Furniture Gallery for over 20 years from the 1980s until 2008, were lost in the fire. 

This included around 90 oil paintings on canvas in the School's collections, including two paintings by Mackintosh, a handful of works by Francis Newbery and one work by Joan Eardley.

97 pieces of furniture were also lost, including chairs, tables and benches which Mackintosh designed for The Argyle Street Tea Rooms, the Willow Tea Rooms, The Hill House, the original board room at Glasgow School of Art and his bedroom at 27 Regent Park Square, Glasgow. 

A further 60 items of furniture were saved, while all the items that were in the east wing of the Mackintosh Building, including in the Furniture Gallery, Director's office, Mackintosh Room, Mackintosh Museum and Boardroom survived intact.

The majority of Glasgow School of Art’s paper archives and artworks on paper, including 100 works by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, were also unharmed by the fire. 

The Herald: The 2014 fire resulted in the loss of parts of the School of Art's built heritageThe 2014 fire resulted in the loss of parts of the School of Art's built heritage (Image: NQ)

Speaking in March 2015, after the full toll of the devastating fire was revealed, Professor Tom Inns, then director of the Glasgow School of Art, said: "We are obviously devastated to have lost anything from our Archives and Collections in the fire.

"Fortunately the vast majority of the artefacts survive including all the works on paper by Mackintosh and many of the most important pieces of furniture, some of which are now on display in our new Furniture Gallery."

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He added: "We are delighted that the majority of the pieces making up the intricate metal lanterns from the iconic light fitting have been found along with books from the rare book collection which can be conserved to some degree, parts of the studio clock and of the original library chairs and periodicals desk."

The second fire in the Mackintosh Building, which took place on June 15, 2018, also affected a small number of The Glasgow School of Art's collection items that had remained in the Mackintosh Building for restoration purposes following the 2014 fire. 

The majority of the School’s archives and collections had been moved to a new, secure and accessible storage facility at The Whisky Bond in the Speirs Locks district in the north of Glasgow, and as such were not impacted by the second fire.

However, due to their size and fragility, or because they were fixed to the fabric of the building, 29 items from The Glasgow School of Art's collection of plaster casts were lost, while a metalwork coat of arms was severely damaged.

One of the lost plaster casts was a carved tribute panel dedicated to Sir James Fleming (Chairman of The Glasgow School of Art's Board of Governors), which was unveiled in 1903 and was located on the half landing between the ground and first floors of the Mackintosh Building.