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Scottish Women and the Arts Research Network

Case study

Scottish Women and the Arts Research Network (SWARN) was founded in 2018 to promote knowledge of the work of historic women artists, designers, makers and collectors in Scottish collections and increase their visibility, chiefly through collaborative initiatives between collections in the public and private sector.

Led by Dr. Patricia de Montfort, University of Glasgow, the network has grown to include the National Galleries of Scotland, Glasgow Women’s Library, Glasgow School of Art, The Hunterian, University of Glasgow Archives & Special Collections and Paisley Museums.

We welcome all individuals with a working interest in the topic – the current membership includes academics, students, archivists, artists, curators, other heritage professionals and art trade professionals.

SWARN seeks to uncover and share the stories of women artists, designers, architects, and other makers in Scottish collections, and to enhance understanding of the work of these amazing women. We also work to support its care and preservation for future generations. We are particularly interested in women whose practice cannot be easily categorised within traditional canons of art history, and/or whose work survives isolated, or scattered across private and public collections.

To this end, an important aim is to bring together a wide range of specialists – from curators, archivists, and art historians to conservators and practitioners – and to link perspectives from historical, technical, and provenance research, as ways to enrich understanding of women and the arts in Scottish collections. We seek to enlarge the audience for women artists, makers, patrons and collectors by promoting loans of objects between a wide range of institutions, and devising innovative, inclusive and sustainable events and outputs, that attract diverse audiences. Our ‘Eardley 100′ celebration, for example (see below), includes exhibitions, public programming, online digital platforms, and publications, and brings together over 25 institutions and collections through a series of collaborations between academics, museums, galleries and archives, Eardley’s family and friends, and media representatives.

Our current project is ‘Eardley 100’, a year-long celebration of the centenary of one of Scotland’s leading twentieth century artists, Joan Eardley (1921-1963), whose work is known only to a limited extent outside Scotland. We undertook this in collaboration with Eardley’s family descendants who have created their own website giving information about the artist (

We launched the centenary on 18th May 2021 (Eardley’s birthday), via an online event hosted by BBC Arts Correspondent Pauline McLean, which featured talks by artists, writers, and curators (Joan Eardley: The Centenary Celebration). To date, the project has spawned over 10 exhibitions and five talks/online workshops at venues including the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, The Hunterian, Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museum and Glasgow Women’s Library.

Eardley 100 is our first project and we intend that lessons learnt from it will help us evolve models for future activity. Our strategy is to alternate focus on single artists such as Eardley with broader themes and questions around the careers and practices of historic women working in the arts in Scotland. This may require us to adopt a monographic approach (as with Eardley) or to develop interrelated points of focus, each attracting different sub-groups of the network. Both approaches will, however, address the topic of women and the arts in Scottish collections.

We encourage anyone reading this case study to follow our activities online and support events held by member institutions, which include exhibitions, talks and workshops. You can also keep up with individual member research activity and related legacy content via the news section of our website.

SWARN Project Website:

Twitter @SWARNetwork