Health in Motion: I move, therefore I am

As many of us face the challenge of managing our mental and physical well-being during the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we look to the doyenne of movement and pioneer of dance, Margaret Morris, for inspiration…

Scrabble letters laid out to spell out 'Mental Health'In 2018, a YouGov online poll (based on a sample of 4619 participants) recorded that 74% of people have felt so stressed that they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope, 61% felt anxious and 37% lonely due to isolation. A further 36% of adults who reported stress in the previous year cited either their own or a friend/relative’s long-term health condition as a factor, rising to 40% in adults over 55. Housing worries were another key source of anxiety. In 2013, there were 8.2 million recorded cases of anxiety in the UK.

Reproduction of an image illustrating CoronavirusIn 2020, we can now add the stresses and strains of coronavirus (COVID-19) into the mental health mix. There is little doubt that current measures around social distancing and restrictions on movement – in place to protect ourselves and others from coronavirus – are exacerbating the collective strain on mental and physical well-being. Mental health organisation websites (such as the Mental Health Foundation, Mind, and the Scottish Association for Mental Health) are all leading with how to protect our mental well-being during the coronavirus pandemic. On 27 March 2020, the Scottish Government announced an additional £3.8 million investment to expand support for digital mental health services specifically in response to further demand as a result of the current crisis.

As our first-hand experience of social isolation informs our understanding of its impact, many of us are developing a new found empathy for those who had been living in social isolation pre-coronavirus. For those of us accustomed to leading active lives and moving around freely, we are now having to consider carefully the new risks associated with moving and exercising outwith our homes. For many of us, physical movement will be at the very bottom of our priority list as we juggle all of our other commitments. After all, just thinking about how to incorporate physical movement into our new daily routine (if we have managed to establish one) can be mentally exhausting given our work, family, child-care, pet-care, carer, domestic, social media, volunteering, and the new plethora of video group-chat catch-up commitments. That’s before we even register the anxiety around actually becoming infected with or transmitting coronavirus.

There are many studies which have shown that doing physical activity can improve mental health by aiding sleep, releasing feel-good hormones, distracting our brains from intrusive and racing thoughts, improving self-esteem, and reducing the risk of depression. All even more important in the current environment. How then, at this time of crisis, do we move physical and mental well-being up the priority list? For help, we decided to look to our archives and into the past. We look to the great doyenne of all things movement and pioneer of dance, Margaret Morris (1891-1980), for some inspiration and guidance.

Reproduction of Front cover of Margaret Morris' Basic Physical Training, 1937, courtesy of Culture Perth and Kinross

Front cover of Margaret Morris’ Basic Physical Training, 1937, courtesy of Culture Perth and Kinross

Ideas around the integration of mind and body are not new. In the 1920s, Margaret Morris, a dancer, choreographer and teacher, was part of a wider campaign that promoted health via ‘movement, wholefood, fresh air etc’. Morris developed her ‘Margaret Morris Movement’ method in which students studied form, line, colour, movement, music, rhythm, sound and composition. When she was interviewed in 1926 for Architecture: the magazine of architecture, the applied arts and crafts, Margaret Morris highlighted one of the primary problems in the area of physical movement which was, (and still is), ‘how can physical exercise be made interesting?’ Morris remarked in her 1937 publication Basic Physical Training, ‘corrective exercises have…excellent results when persisted in long enough – but they are terribly boring to do…’ Morris was convinced that interest could only be done by bringing the creative or artistic element; which she argued was not so difficult or far-fetched as it may at first appear. Underlying her approach was the inter-relation and harmony of all the arts. ‘All movements performed for the establishment of health…must combine the aesthetic as well as the medical values of movement.’

Morris developed and refined her method throughout her lifetime. By 1938, four divisions of Margaret Morris Movement had been established: normal, medical, athletic and aesthetic, all of which were interrelated. Morris propounded the remedial and health benefits of dance and her particular movement method as she witnessed improvements in her dancers’ posture and general health. Morris developed a dance system which, she argued, was more natural than classical ballet and allowed for all the possibilities of movement, including spring and balance, without artificialities or contortions – to allow a true freedom of expression. Many of us are currently experiencing high emotional states, but may be finding it difficult to express ourselves in words. Dance allows individuals to express powerful emotions through their physical bodies perhaps more instinctively and intuitively, and our bodies provide a physical medium through which pent up emotion may be released.

Central to the Margaret Morris Movement method is the science of breathing, and she advocated the teaching of correct breathing before anything else so that the breath is synchronised with movement. Many of the movements she devised are based on a ‘twist of the trunk, with counter-balancing arm and leg movements’. Writing in her book Roar (2016), about female physiology, health and fitness performance, Dr Stacy T. Sims tells us that ‘when our entire torso (collarbone to hip) is strong and solid, so are you.’ Unlike many other sports or physical activities, dance develops core strength as the foundation of every other move. Morris underlines the importance of the lungs, the abdomen and feet in Basic Physical Training claiming, ‘their efficient functioning is unquestionably of the first importance for success in any form of physical activity whatsoever.’

A coloured drawing by Margaret Morris, showing muscles of the arm, drawn as part of her physiotherapy training.

Margaret Morris Movement was informed by Morris’ deep understanding of human anatomy, illustrated here in one of her many anatomical drawings, underaken as part of her physiotherapy studies.  Courtesy of Culture Perth and Kinross

From 1925 Morris began to demonstrate remedial qualities of her movement method to health professionals. In 1930 she qualified as a physiotherapist and by 1937 she was invited to join the National Council for Physical Education. By 1939 Margaret Morris had authored or co-authored a number of publications which described the Margaret Morris Movement method and explained its application to a range of physical activities including dancing, skiing, maternity and post-operative exercises, tennis and basic physical training. The continuing relevance of her ideas was recognised in 2013 in the New Zealand Journal of Physiotherapy in which her ‘maternity exercises’ from 1938, are considered to translate well to the present day, with more evidence to support their use in some instances. Margaret Morris Movement dance teachers continue to teach her technique and dances today to encourage the love of dance and movement for health benefits, satisfaction and performance. You can read more about Margaret Morris and the current work of Margaret Morris Movement International Ltd on their website.

While our freedom of movement may be geographically constrained, why not let Margaret Morris and her dancers inspire you to explore a physical freedom of movement and expression within your home? There is wonderful video footage of Margaret Morris demonstrations to be found online via British Pathé. Perhaps put on some music, breathe a little more deeply and rhythmically, give your trunk a little twist, counter-balance your limbs, think a little less, move a little more. Dance your way physically, through your body, to a better mental space. Alone or with your family, or dare I mention it, shared via video call. Test the assumption of intellectual superiority suggested by Descartes when he declared “I think, therefore I am” and try out our favoured alternative: “I move, therefore I am”.

We hope Margaret Morris will inspire you to add a little physical movement to your day.  Stay safe, stay well, stay home – keep moving.

Elaine MacGillivray – Project Archivist

Acknowledgements
The Margaret Morris Archive was gifted by the International Association of Margaret Morris Movement to our project partner Culture Perth and Kinross in 2010. Images are courtesy of Culture Perth and Kinross and Margaret Morris Movement International Limited.

The Margaret Morris Archive is being catalogued as part of our Wellcome Research Resource-funded ‘Body Language’ project. The archive is held at the Fergusson Gallery in Perth. The Gallery is currently closed in line with Scottish Government guidance relating to the coronavirus pandemic. Updated information regarding re-opening will be published on the Culture Perth and Kinross Museums web-pages when available.     

References
Morris, Margaret and Daniels, Fred, Margaret Morris Dancing, (Kegan Paul, 1926)
Morris, Margaret, The Notation of Movement, (Kegan Paul, 1928)
Morris, Margaret and Falkner, Hans, Skiing Exercises, (Heinemann, 1934)
Morris, Margaret and Randell, M., Maternity and Post-Operative Exercises, (Heineman, 1936)
Morris,Margaret, Basic Physical Training, (Heinemann, 1937)
Morris, Margaret, My Life in Movement (1969)
Power, Richenda, Healthy Motion: Images of ‘natural’ and ‘cultured’ movement in early twentieth-century Britain, in Women’s Studies International Forum, Vol 19, Issue 5, (Sept-Oct 1996)
Simpson, Betty and Whitfield, Frank, Notes on the theory of teaching Margaret Morris Movement (1936)
Sims, Stacy T., Roar, (Rodale, 2016)
Hay-Smith, E Jean C, Maternity Exercises 75 years on: what has changed and what does experimental evidence tell us? in New Zealand Journal of Physiotherapy, Vol 41, Number 1, (March 2013)
Miss Margaret Morris at Crosby Hall in The Academy, (25 May 1912), p.658
Architecture, a magazine of architecture and the applied arts and crafts, Vol 4, Issue 10, (London, February 1926).
Margaret Morris Movement International Ltd website
Mental Health Foundation website
Mind: the mental health charity website
The Scottish Association for Mental Health website
The Scottish Government website (news web-pages)

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On trial: South Asia Archive

Thanks to a request from a HCA staff member the Library has been given extended trial access to South Asia Archive from Taylor & Francis, providing online access to documents ranging from the mid-18th to the mid-20th Century.

You can access South Asia Archive from the E-resources trials page.
Access is available on and off-campus.

Trial access ends 1st June 2020. Read More

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This Is (Almost) The End

A brief update on the final stages of our Wellcome Research-Resource funded project, read on to find out what to expect next….

Our Wellcome Research-Resource funded project ‘Evergreen: Patrick Geddes and the Environment in Equilibrium’ is very near to its conclusion. While officially, the funding came to an end in the middle of March 2020, there are one or two loose ends that we continue to tidy up.

A black and white photograph showing Patrick Geddes at the Scots' College, Montpellier, France

Patrick Geddes at the Scots’ College, Montpellier, France (Ref:  Coll-1869)

The collections at the University of Edinburgh have now been fully catalogued and we are just running some final checks before the new online catalogue goes live. You can look forward to browsing over 2000 catalogue descriptions and we will look to link digital objects to the catalogue descriptions wherever we can so that you can view some of the collections material online.

The new online portal to both the Universities of Edinburgh and Strathclyde’s Patrick Geddes collections is undergoing final tests.  We are working hard to make this live as soon as we can but you can expect it online in early May, 2020. This means that you can look forward to searching for material across both collections in one place and lots of useful information to help you contextualise and navigate the collections.

A final report highlighting all of the achievements and successes of the project will be available via the project blog and the new online portal once it goes live. Thank you to all of our stakeholders, researchers, project staff and followers for your continued support and patience. Watch this space!

Murdo MacDonald's 'Patrick Geddes's Intellectual Origins' front cover, published by University of Edinburgh Press, March 2020

Patrick Geddes’s Intellectual Origins, front cover

In the mean-time, we recommend exploring Murdo MacDonald’s latest publication, Patrick Geddes’s Intellectual Origins, which came hot off the Edinburgh University Press last month (March 2020).  Murdo Macdonald is Emeritus Professor of History of Scottish Art at the University of Dundee. He was editor of Edinburgh Review from 1990-1994 and the author of Scottish Art in Thames and Hudson’s World of Art series. He has written extensively about Patrick Geddes over many years and we were very fortunate to have him as our academic adviser throughout the duration of our project. You can also read an interview with the author on the Edinburgh University Press Blog.

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British Online Archives – full access until mid April 2020

I’m happy to let you know that British Online Archives (BOA) are providing 30 days free access (starting from 23rd March) to its entire collection of digital primary sources in light of the Covid-19 outbreak.

BOA provide students and researchers with access to unique collections of primary source documents. Their website hosts over 3 million records drawn from both private and public archives. These records are organised thematically, covering 1,000 years of world history, from politics and warfare to slavery and medicine. Read More

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JSTOR – expanded set of content freely available now

I’m delighted to let you know that JSTOR, and their participating publishers, are making an expanded set of content freely available to participating institutions where students have been displaced due to COVID-19.

What this means at the University of Edinburgh is that we are getting access to journals and primary source collections that we do not already have a licence for and a collection of ebooks freely available through June 30, 2020.

To see the journals and primary source collections included see JSTOR’s Expanded access to journals and primary sources page. To see the participating publishers for the e-books (not all of their partner publishers are participating) see JSTOR’s Expanded access to ebooks page.

While at the University we already have access to 2 of JSTOR’s primary source collections, 19th Century British Pamphlets and Struggles for Freedom: Southern Africa, this expanded offer from JSTOR gives us access for a limited period to World Heritage Sites: Africa and Global Plants. Read More

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Bloomsbury Digital Resources – full access until May 2020.

I’m pleased to let you know that Bloomsbury Digital Resources are providing us with full access to their online resources until the end of May 2020 in light of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Bloomsbury Digital Resources products cover a range of disciplines in the Humanities, Social Sciences, Visual Arts, and Performing Arts. Their collections include primary documents, critical texts, historical archives and the latest in video and audio resources.

While at the Library we already have access to some of these collections, this current offer from Bloomsbury Digital Resources gives us access to a wide range of further resources including Bloomsbury Medieval Studies, Bloomsbury Cultural History and Arcadian Library Online. Read More

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Edinburgh Research Archive Statistics: February 2020

Edinburgh Research Archive: February 2020 downloads infographic

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New Post: Project Archivist (Climate Change)

courtesy of Jasmine Keuter

My name is Elise Ramsay, and I am delighted to introduce myself as the University of Edinburgh’s new Project Archivist on Climate Change. My remit includes cataloguing the Lyell notebooks, and scoping other collections the University holds related to Charles Lyell, climate change, and Earth Science. Even in my short time working with the collection, it is apparent that there is an incredible wealth of research opportunity in these notebooks, not only concerning the environment and climate change, but also women’s contribution to science, 19th century social dynamics, international relations between scientists, and 19th century methods of travel, to name but a few.

about me:

I am an Archivist, trained at the University of Glasgow’s Information Management and Preservation course, and with experience in a variety of academic institutions, recently St. George’s School for Girls, and as a volunteer cataloguing on other projects at the Centre for Research and Collections (CRC). In my undergraduate studies, I read French and History, but was very interested by environmental and earth sciences, so in working on this collection, I can employ my understanding of French (Lyell often drafts letters to French colleagues in his notebooks), and continue to learn about Earth Science so as to create detailed metadata.

why climate change?

The University of Edinburgh has committed to become zero carbon by 2040. In line with this, the CRC is committed to improve access to Earth Science collections, and create opportunities for ground-breaking research about the climate, species biodiversity, and more. The Lyell collection particularly captures many of these initiatives.

progress so far…

For a collection of this size, a set methodology is key to completing the project, and ensuring that all items are catalogued equally.  Therefore, I dedicated the first few weeks to reading biographies of Lyell, highlighting important people, organisations, and places (known archivally as authorities), and created a process for cataloguing. To ensure that each notebook isn’t damaged in the process of cataloguing, I limited the time each notebook is open to 15 minutes. In those 15 minutes, I take note of the following information:

  • How many pages? How many folios? (Imagine you’re taking a picture of each page with text; how many pictures?This number tells us how full the notebook is, and allows us to estimate the effort needed to digitise)
  • Authorities
  • Subjects (the goal of this is to be as detailed as possible; specimen terms are especially important to make note of so researchers can access material based on their specialisation; for example, volcanoes and volcanic activity; strata; lithification; silicification; opal; coal)
  • Illustrations, and page numbers
  • Index, page numbers

All of these elements are then created in Archive Space, and included in the catalogue entry.

character of the collection

In reading the notebooks, I have relied on the support of Dr. Gillian McCay to provide specialised knowledge and identify key areas which will be important to researchers. This means learning about geological theories and concepts, and often opposing ideas from scientists of the time. It is clear that the network Lyell operated in featured intense, driven personalities, all motivated to prove their theories about the Earth’s origins and activity. This therefore informs the way I will catalogue this collection to prioritise authorities and give context to Lyell’s contemporaries.

more to come…

Watch this space for details about the collection, discoveries, photos, and updates on the project!

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On trial: Telegraph and Financial Times Archives

Thanks to a request from a HCA student the Library currently has trial access to two extensive newspaper databases from Gale, The Telegraph Historical Archive, 1855-2016 and Financial Times Historical Archive 1888-2016.

You can access these databases from the E-resources trials page.
Access is available on and off-campus.

*Trial access has now been extended until 30th June 2020.*
Read More

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Edinburgh Research Explorer Statistics: February 2020

Edinburgh Research Explorer: February 2020 downloads infographic

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