The Staff Portrait V’s the Selfie

Over the years the Digital Imaging Unit have grown into the role of photographing official Library staff portraits. These images are used by the Library online to identify teams and in publications like the Piper when there is a focus on a department. In general terms the prospect of a staged portrait sends most staff fleeing for the Pentland hills. Some staff point blank refuse using colorful metaphors to explain why they will not do it and certainly most staff are guaranteed to be unhappy with the resulting image. It is without a doubt the least popular aspect of the the work we do in DIU. However most staff accept the formal portrait as a necessary evil a bit like going to the dentist. There are also a minority who are comfortable with the concept. What I have come to realise in this role is that I almost always only have about three shots right at the beginning of the session to capture a reasonable portrait. After those first three clicks the sitters brain goes of to an unusual place and we end up with overly self conscious faces that are beginning to do weird things with their facial muscles resulting in contorted bizarre expressions ending with an uncomfortable grimace. In this dominant age of the selfie I feel there is still a role for an official staged portrait and we don’t need to look any farther than the University of Edinburgh’s historic collection of staff portraits to see why they are an important record of individuals at work. Maybe the staff selfie should replace the staff portrait? Lets discuss………..

Malcolm Brown, Deputy Photographer.




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Sport and social sciences: A Commonwealth Games inspired reading list

The 2014 Commonwealth Games start today and we’ve had a look through the wealth of e-books currently available to University staff and students at the Library, to pull together just a small number of titles that look at different aspects of sport related to social and political science.

sport_culture_societySport, culture and society: an introduction by Grant Jarvie with James Thornton looks at the place of sport in contemporary society and culture. It argues that sport is part of our social and cultural fabric, possessing a social and commercial power that makes it a potent force in the world, for good and for bad. It looks at how sport has helped to start wars and promote international reconciliation, while every government around the world commits public resources to sport because of its perceived benefits. Read More

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Preparing for the new academic year – how we can help

Univeristy of Ediburgh Logo

As you enjoy the summer sunshine we at Library Learning Services would just like to remind you of some of the ways we are available to help you prepare resource lists for the new academic year.

Did you know that Library Learning Services are able to take your existing Reading List and turn it into a Resource List for you?

If you have a reading list that you would like to see transformed into an interactive online reading list at we can do this for you!

Simply send us your list, and the earlier the better.

This service also includes providing a summary of the items on your list, books, journals and articles, with information on how many are held and at what locations. This means you can see in advance where additional materials might need to be ordered or moved into reserved/short loan sections of the library.

If you would like to send us your reading list there are a few important pieces of information that will help us provide you with the best possible service:

Required information for Resource List creation (PDF)

If you prefer to create your own resource list we have guides and example lists to help!

Creating a resource list is a fairly simple process

1. Contact the IS Helpline to request access (

2. Accept the email invitation to register as a List Creator.

3. Install the bookmarklet tool to your browser. This is a quick and simple process and you only need to do it once.

We have created a detailed user guide to help you get started and a series of shorter guides that focus in on specific tasks within Resource Lists. The guides are available on our Resource Lists @ Edinburgh using Talis Aspire webpage and also on our blog User Guides page.

Example lists are provided for you at Resource Lists – Library Guides on the use of sections, notes, fields, and general good practice to demonstrate the variety of resources and formats available. Note: if you haven’t done so already, you will be prompted to log in to EASE.

Prefer assistance that is more hands-on? Try one of our hands-on sessions this July.

The sessions are designed to introduce a new users to Resource Lists, to become familiar with the system and feel confident creating and editing lists. All sessions are bookable via MyEd.

The sessions are open to all Course Organisers, Programme Directors, College/School IT staff or Admin staff and Library staff who may create lists on behalf of others.


Tue 22nd July 2014: 10am-12noon, Main Library, George Square, Training Rm 1.12

Wed 30th July 2014: 2-4pm, Main Library, George Square, Training Rm 1.08

Before you attend

When you register for the session, you will be sent an email inviting you to register to use Talis Aspire. Please follow the link in the email to accept the invitation. This will give you access to the Resource List system.

If you can’t make these dates

If you are interested in Resource Lists @ Edinburgh but can’t attend on these dates, please get in touch. We are happy to arrange alternative training sessions for individuals or small groups.

More information is available on the Resource Lists using Talis Aspire webpage and the ResourceLists@Edinburgh Blog.


Stephanie Farley

Library Learning Services Assistant

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Interior Challenge

Reid Concert Hall Museum of Instruments before re-developement, June 2014.

In the last couple of weeks I have been out to visit both the Reid Musical Instrument Museum and St. Cecilia’s Music Hall to document the buildings prior to a makeover.

The Reid is a particularly challenging location for a photographer: tight spaces with mixed lighting and tall glass cabinets lining the walls and centre of the room. Reflections everywhere. It turns out that this was not a good day to wear my new white top! Read More

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Top 5 women’s studies library resources

Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the British suffragette movement and one of the most important feminist public figures of all time, was born today (15th July) in 1858. To celebrate her birthday and work we thought we would give you a taster of women’s studies resources here at University of Edinburgh Library.

1. Take a look at the database Women, War & Society (part of Archives Unbound). The First World War had a revolutionary and permanent impact on the personal, social and professional lives of all women. This database is a collection of primary source materials sourced from the Imperial War Museum, London that documents the essential contribution women made to the war in Europe. You can access this and other relevant databases at databases for women’s studies.


Read More

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A Photo Opportunity

“A picture is worth a thousand words”. As this often quoted adage alludes to, photographs have the ability to capture a moment in time. Whether they are images of stern Victorian family portraits or informal snaps of loved ones; spontaneous scenes of celebration or harrowing depictions of war and violence; shots of nature in all its glory or nature at its most powerful and destructive – photographs have the capacity to produce a wide spectrum of emotions in the viewer.

It is for such reasons that photographs form an invaluable part of the collections held by the University and why it is important that appropriate steps should be taken to ensure that they are preserved for future generations. I was fortunate, therefore, to have the opportunity to attend a three day course at West Dean College in Sussex on the ‘Conservation of Photographs’, led by photographic conservator Susie Clark.

During the course, I was introduced to the numerous photographic techniques and processes, which are many and varied. These range from daguerreotypes, developed by Louis Daguerre and introduced in 1839 – a date often cited as the ‘birth’ of photography – to glass plate slides, and right through to modern ink jet printing. What was clear from the outset of the course was that each process comes with its own associated conservation needs and, as a result, there is no “one size fits all” approach that can be taken when deciding on appropriate treatment options.

Damage to photographs can range from gradual deterioration due to natural ageing or poor storage and housing, to actual loss and breakage (to which glass slides, by their nature, are particularly susceptible). It was beneficial, therefore, that part of the course was dedicated to interventive ‘practical’ treatment options that could be carried out, with particular reference to the more vulnerable glass plate slides. This included polishing replacement cover glass (a rather messy process), which is in important step to ensure that any glass that is to come into contact with the photographic emulsion layer is completely clean and free of dirt and residue. We also had the opportunity to undertake different methods of repairing cracked or broken glass slides using various adhesives.


Polishing a replacement cover glass


Repairing glass slides with a resin adhesive

However, when it comes to caring for photographic collections, preventive measures are a far more favourable approach. Adopting correct storage, housing and environmental conditions (as discussed in our previous conservation blog post) can slow down the rate of deterioration, and ultimately reduce the need for more interventive conservation treatment further down the line. These measures can be particularly important when dealing with the more volatile photographic materials such cellulose acetate film. Upon degrading, this film material can suffer from the aptly named ‘Vinegar Syndrome’ due to its propensity to release acetic acid resulting in a distinctively strong odour.

Photographic techniques, for example tintypes (produced by creating a positive image on a sheet of iron), were often inexpensive and easy to produce. They were therefore in popular use at recreational destinations such beaches, promenades and parks, and were often taken on the spur of the moment to mark the day or capture a cherished event. Such photographs were not necessarily intended for longevity, and yet many now form an important part of our shared cultural collections.

This may make you look at your own collection of holiday snaps in a different way!


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Trial ending Thursday 17th July

There are a couple of days left to try out 37 e-books from Dō Sustainability.

Do logo

DōShorts are short, practical ebooks that give you the latest thinking on a broad range of business sustainability issues. Written by experts with hands-on experience in the field, DōShorts consolidate the facts, providing clear guidelines for making sustainability within your organization a reality.


Feedback and further info

We are interested to know what you think of these e-books as your comments influence purchase decisions so please do fill out our feedback form.

Previous trials are listed on our trials webpage.


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The World History of Rashid al-Din, 1314. A Masterpiece of Islamic Painting




Iconic Persian Manuscript in New Exhibition at Main Library:  ‘The World History of Rashid al-Din, 1314. A Masterpiece of Islamic Painting’


The Centre for Research Collections and the Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World are delighted to announce the opening date for the public exhibition The World History of Rashid al-Din, 1314. A Masterpiece of Islamic Painting at the Main Library, University of Edinburgh.

The exhibition, opening on 2 August, features folios from the Jami’ al-Tawarikh (or “World History”) of Rashid al-Din: one of the most important illustrated medieval manuscripts to have survived from either East or West.

Datable to 1314, it was produced in the city of Tabriz, a seat of power of the Ilkhanid rulers, descendants of the Mongol Chingiz Khan, who held sway over an empire encompassing Persia and large parts of present-day Azerbaijan and Turkey.


Detail of miniature showing Sultan Berk-Yaruq ibn Malik-Shah. Ruler of the Seljuk Empire from 1093-1105.    Or.Ms 20 f.139 v

Detail of miniature showing Sultan Berk-Yaruq ibn Malik-Shah. Ruler of the Seljuk Empire from 1093-1105. Or.Ms 20 f.139 v


The author, Rashid al-Din, was a physician and court historian to the Ilkhanid court. Born about 1247 AD into a Jewish family, he converted to Islam and served as vizier (prime minister) to the sultan. He met an unhappy end in 1318 AD, being executed on a charge of poisoning his royal master. Before that, however, he wrote what would become one of the world’s most important historical and artistic documents. The Arabic copy of his Jami’ al-Tawarikh in the exhibition is a history of the world as it was then known, covering not only the history of the Mongols, but also that of the Chinese, Franks and Indians.

Situated in the highly international and multi-cultural city of Tabriz in modern-day Iran, the scriptorium of Rashid al-Din welcomed artists from all parts of the Mongol empire and beyond. Elements of Byzantine, Chinese and other Islamic traditions are all evident in the illustrations. The Jami’ al-Tawarikh manuscript demonstrates a profound fusion of techniques, and marks the birth of a new and distinguished style within Persian painting.

The Edinburgh portion of the manuscript made a long journey, from early fourteenth-century Iran to Victorian Scotland. The original manuscript left Iran and eventually passed to the court of the Mughals in India. It was divided into two parts around the mid-1700s, but both sections remained in India until the nineteenth century, when they were acquired by the British. The Edinburgh portion was acquired by Colonel John Baillie(1772–1833) of the East India Company, and together with other Islamic manuscripts, it was passed to Edinburgh University Library in 1876. The other portion was bequeathed to the Royal Asiatic Society and is now in private ownership. The manuscript on display is one of the greatest treasures of Edinburgh University Library.

This exhibition offers a unique chance to view folios of the original manuscript, complemented by loans relating to the material culture of fourteenth-century Iran from the National Museum of Scotland.


Detail of miniature showing the Samanid king Al-Muntasir crossing the frozen river Jayhun (Syr Darya) in central Asia.  Or.Ms 20 f.122 r

Detail of miniature showing the Samanid king Al-Muntasir crossing the frozen river Jayhun (Syr Darya) in central Asia. Or.Ms 20 f.122 r

The exhibition is free and open to the public from 2 August 2014, Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm.

Exhibition Opening: 2 August 2014 | Where: Exhibition Gallery, Main Library, George Square | Closing: 31 October 2014 | Curated by: Prince Alwaleed Centre and the Centre for Research Collections, University of Edinburgh


Blog posted by:

Emma Smith and Steven Skeldon, Centre for Research Collections.

With kind thanks to Andy Grout (Friends of Edinburgh University Library) for contributions, and the University of Edinburgh Digital Imaging Unit.

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Very Short Introductions – Social Sciences

VeryshortintroductionsThe Library has recently subscribed to the online version of Oxford University Press’ Very Short Introduction series for the Social Sciences.

The Social Sciences collection includes titles within the following fields of study:

  • Anthropology
  • Human Geography
  • Politics
  • Sociology
  • Warfare & Defence

And also includes titles on business, management, economics, education, research and information.

You can access Very Short Introductions via the Databases A-Z list on the Library website. Once into the site you can click on Browse by Subject and click on the relevant subject under the Social Sciences heading. Or you can use the search facility on the site, though full text access is only available to titles within the Social Sciences collections.

Launched in 1995 by OUP, Very Short Introductions offer concise introductions to a diverse range of subject areas. Since the series was launched it has continued to offer new books each year for students and scholars, and the avidly curious, offering a bridge between reference content and higher academic work. All titles provide intelligent and serious introductions to a huge range of subjects, written by experts in the field who combine facts, analysis, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make challenging topics highly readable.

The Library also holds the print copies of many of the Very Short Introduction titles; you can find these in the Library Catalogue.

Caroline Stirling – Academic Library Support for Social and Political Science.

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Trials ending Tuesday 15th July

Last chance to try out the following databases!  These all expire tomorrow and are available on campus or via the VPN at the links below.

From Adam Matthew we have two databases on trial.

Foreign Office Files China 1957 – 1966 and Foreign Office Files China 1967 – 1980

These 2 databases make available British Foreign Office files dealing with China, Hong Kong and Adam Matthew logoTaiwan between 1957 and 1980.  We already subscribe to content between 1949 and 1956.

From North Waterloo Academic Press we have 1 database on trial.

Waterloo Directory of English Newspapers and Periodicals 1800-1900 Series 3

Waterloo DirectoryThis is a subject-inclusive, language-inclusive bibliography of
73,000 publications, 68,000 personal names, 6,300 issuing bodies, 2,400 publishing towns, 23,000 title pages, 2,000 subjects.

Feedback and further info

We are interested to know what you think of these databases as your comments influence purchase decisions so please do fill out our feedback form.

A list of all trials currently available to University of Edinburgh staff and students can be found on our trials webpage.


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