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Tours of the Herbarium for Looping and Linking installation

February 14, 2013

Today at 11.30 is the first Herbarium tour by curator Rachel Webster, which is part of the Looping and Linking community project. If you can’t make today there are other tours on Sat 16 Mar: 1.30-2.30pm, Wed 17 Apr: 11.30am-12.30pm, Sat 11 May: 1.30-2.30pm. To book a place ring 0161 275 2648 or museum@manchester.ac.uk.

If you take a closer look at the tree outside the entrance to the Museum, you will discover a soundscape and installation of weaved local grasses telling a tale of illness and lost traditions. Part of the Looping and Linking project, this installation has been inspired by our herbarium collections and the grass-weaving work of Scottish crofter and ‘outsider artist’ Angus McPhee.

Looping and Linking is a community project by Manchester Museum and Whitworth Art Gallery. The project has evolved from Close Knit, a monthly knitting programme inspired by the patterns discovered in the archives of the Gallery of Costume, Platt Hall. Developing themes of knitting and weaving, Looping and Linking is a project targeted at men and their wellbeing, drawing its inspiration from the life and work of Angus McPhee.

The Story of Angus McPhee: Angus McPhee (1916-1997) grew up in a remote crofting community on the island of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides. After World War II, Angus’ developing mental illness saw him committed to a psychiatric hospital – a place where he would stay for the next fifty years.

During his time at the hospital, Angus chose not to speak. He preferred to spend his time outdoors creating woven grass work. Angus would weave the grass compulsively, hanging his designs from trees in the hospital grounds. The process of making that was the most important thing to Angus. The objects he created were often extraordinary pieces of clothing, intricate and sturdy, twisted and looped.

Angus’ unique creative skills came to the attention of Art Therapist and Curator Joyce Laing during the 1970s. She saw how special Angus’ work was and exhibited it in Scottish galleries as well as internationally.

Following changes to mental health policy and the structured closure of psychiatric hospitals, Angus was discharged to live near his sister on South Uist in 1996. Returning home fifty years later, and despite being almost blind, Angus continued to weave grass until his death in 1997.

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