I am writing this on the very last day of my work placement here at the University of Edinburgh. I have had an amazing six weeks learning about caring for the historic musical instrument collection. Many of the things I have learnt can be applied to other kinds of collection material but some things are very instrument-specific. So I thought I’d talk about some of those.
For example, I have learnt how to make frets from gut (the same material used for early strings) for 17th century string instruments. This involves using a special knot to tie the gut round the fingerboard, making it as tight as possible and sliding it to the right position, then burning the ends so it won’t unravel (and so it looks really neat). Fire is something I never thought I would use in conservation, so this was awesome!
There is a mathematical equation for positioning the frets on the fingerboard in order to achieve perfect semi-tones. However, these instruments are not in playing condition, so it doesn’t matter too much about the precise positioning of the frets. You may ask, why put them on in the first place, if they are not needed for playing? For the same reason you’d take plastic strings off a baroque instrument and replace them with new gut strings: the instrument should be made to look complete and correct so the viewer understands how it works, and how it should look. It should look as if it could be played, and if it were played it would sound authentic. But let’s not get started on authenticity of sound…
Many of these instruments did have frets, and most people wouldn’t know (I didn’t) but it makes a lot of difference to the sounds they would have made. Also they did not have nylon in the 17th century!
However, it’s not just about using the correct materials, but using them properly and wasting as little as possible. So when I put strings on a baroque guitar, the strings which have been made (by Gamut, an early music string maker) have a few extra inches that are not needed. These few inches can then be used to make frets, for example. The knots at the bridge of a guitar or lute can be tied in many different ways, but the way we do it here is so that all the ends point downwards (when the instrument is held as if for playing) and are tucked away behind the bridge. Beautiful!
Last week I did a short presentation to show the CRC staff what I have been doing during this placement, which I rounded off with before and after images of the head of an instrument called a viola da gamba – the first string instrument I had the pleasure of working with. And the loveliest, I think. In Southampton I volunteer at the SeaCity Museum, working with their objects conservator who likes to personify things in the collection, describing a piece of newly consolidated Murano glass as ‘a lot happier’, or a rusty medieval sword as ‘not very well’. I think this can be applied nicely to the viola da gamba. She looks great for a 319 year-old, and genuinely seems happier with her new strings.
Post by Harriet Braine, Preventive Conservator Student Placement
Today, I added a number of risks related to Open Access to the University’s Information Services Group Risk Register. The risks were around loss/reduction of funding for Open Access and non-compliance with RCUK and REF Open Access policies.
The purpose of this exercise was to make sure that risks are formally documented to library management, and also to show that we have thought about mitigation, and identified individuals responsible for these risks. As mentioned in earlier posts, we have included more detailed risk registers on School implementation plans. We are now thinking about whether it would be appropriate to encourage Schools and Colleges to include similar items in their organisational documentation.
We’d be interested to hear if other Universities have taken a similar approach, and if this has had any impact in raising awareness or on planning for OA implementation. Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss this more, or have anything to feed back.
One of the elements of archival work I have always enjoyed is the opportunity to get to know a collection really intimately. In order to generate intelligible finding aids for researchers, it is important to get a good overview of a collection: to understand how records relate to each other and to learn all that you can about the format, creator, use and date of an item. Luckily, this is often pretty easy but sometimes an item comes along which presents a bit more of a challenge.
Challenging items bring out an archivist’s inner Sherlock Holmes. Minute clues are forensically examined in the hope of cracking the mystery. However, some challenges are easier than others and today I would like to ask for your help with a mystery I have been unable to solve so far.
The item in question is a six-line, rhyming poem on a suitably psychoanalytical theme.
My familiarity with Ronald Fairbairn’s papers means that I know this item is in his handwriting*. However, I have no real idea as to the author of this poem. Is this an original Fairbairn composition or is it something he merely transcribed?
Knowing the answer to this mystery will be invaluable as it will help to ensure Fairbairn’s papers are catalogued to the highest possible standard. So, can anyone out there help?
*By now, I can read Fairbairn’s hand pretty easily, but just in case it proves a little tricky, here’s a transcription of the poem:
Remember well what Freud hath said-
We want to take our mums to bed.
And, since they always utter “no”,
We feel we’ve nowhere else to go.
Hysteria doth thus emerge
Through failure of the sexual urge.
As there were several separate requests recently for images from the splendid ‘Song School St Mary’ manuscript by Phoebe Anna Traquair, we decided the time was right to digitise the book from cover to cover, replacing some fairly mixed quality old digital images and preparing it for the LUNA Book Reader http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/109unz . This item is one of my favourites (yes, I know I have many…), and it is a beautifully illuminated, vibrantly coloured, jewel-like treasure. Although made in 1897, Traquair created this on vellum, which adds to the impression of exquisite quality. Read More
This January we began cataloguing work on the MR Collection from New College Library’s Special Collections. This sequence contains much early and rare material, and carries the shelfmark MR because at one time these books were housed in the Martin Hall in New College.
We were really excited to find this lovely item, Historia apostolica illustrata : ex actis apostolorum et epistolis Paulinis. Published in seventeenth century Geneva, the author Louise Cappel writes about the works of the apostles, and Paul in particular. What’s immediately striking about it is that it is covered with a vellum wrapper (waste parchment) with beautiful manuscript lettering.
While further research is required on the wrapper, it appears to be a medieval liturgical text. The back cover (pictured) is in honour of St. Nicholas, with his name appearing in the line with the musical notation.
Christine Love-Rodgers – Academic Support Librarian, Divinity
Paul Nicholas – Funk Cataloguer
Elizabeth Lawrence – Rare Books Librarian
Resource Lists @ Edinburgh are looking for students and/or tutors willing to catch up for an informal discussion on their experiences using this new service. Do you have half an hour free to sit down for a chat in the Business School or DHT Café? We’ll buy the coffee. Feedback is incredibly useful at this time as it helps us improve the service for next year.
If you would be available to sit down for a chat, coffee provided, please email: Library.Learning@ed.ac.uk
Library Learning Services Assistant
I realise we’ve been a bit quiet recently, so it is high time we posted an update to let you know what we have been doing over the last few months! The good news is that we now have a case study and a number of related documents which we are pleased to be able to share with you. We hope that these documents will provide some inspiration and assistance in planning and gearing up for Open Access in the next REF.
ARMA Good Practice Event
Last week Janet Aucock and I attended ARMA’s Good Practice Exchange event, at which we presented St Andrews and Edinburgh Universities’ approaches to preparing for OA in the next REF. St Andrews are adopting a more central approach with the library taking ownership for all the administration, whilst here at Edinburgh, we are adopting a more decentralized approach, with more work being carried out in Schools and Colleges. We’ve made St Andrews and Edinburgh’s slides available, as well as our planning checklists.
Open Access Implementation Case Study – College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Anna Krzak, Edinburgh’s Open Access Administrator in CMVM has kindly put together a case study looking at the specifics of implementing the REF OA requirements in the context of medical sciences. Hopefully this will be of use to other Universities. If you have any comments about this then please contact either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and we would gladly discuss this work further.
Communications Best Practice – Example Emails
Here at Edinburgh, we are starting to contact academics about the new requirements, and you might be interested to this exemplar draft email, which is intended to be sent to all staff in the College of Medicine. This second example email was sent to all staff in the School of Mathematics.
School Implementation Plans & Job Descriptions – Humanties & Social Sciences
The University of Edinburgh is in the process of agreeing implementation plans within many of its Schools to agree locally how the new OA requirements will apply, and to details the processes needed to make this happen. We’re delighted to include here an example School Implementation Plan, drafted by Jacq McMahon (Research Officer in the College of Humanities & Social Sciences). This College is also starting to think about what resources will need to be put in place to manage any additional workload. At present the College is considering employing new Open Access Facilitators to work in Schools and in co-ordination with the Library’s Scholarly Communications Team. A (draft) job description is also available.
ARMA Good Practice Event:
University of Edinburgh Slides: https://www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk/handle/1842/10009
St Andrews University Slides: https://www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk/handle/1842/10015
Discussion Points and Planning Checklist: https://www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk/handle/1842/10014
College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine Open Access Implementation Case Study:
College of Medicine: https://www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk/handle/1842/10012
School of Mathematics: https://www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk/handle/1842/10011
Example School OA Plan and Risk Register (Humanities & Social Sciences): https://www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk/handle/1842/10013
OA Facilitator Job Description: https://www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk/handle/1842/10016
This week, we say farewell to our conservation intern, Samantha. To mark the end of her 10-week internship working on the Thomson-Walker collection, we put some questions to Samantha to find out more about her time working on the project:
When I graduated last June I decided to make a career plan. This included at least one year of work experience, which would allow me to put my education into practice, strengthen my skills set, and improve areas of weakness. This need to develop had been my main ambition when applying for opportunities. However this particular internship intrigued me for a couple of other reasons. I was interested in the idea of working for a University conservation studio and how this might compare with working for a museum for instance. Inviting also was the prospect of leading a big project during the first phase of conservation; when you train as a conservator it is unusual to work on a large collection independently and so this was an excellent opportunity to do so.
I thought I would be working solely on the Thomson-Walker collection, but I very quickly recognised that this was not the case. I would indeed be occupied with the Thomson-Walker collection on a daily basis, however I would also be giving tours, supervising volunteers, teaching taster days, writing blog posts and assisting with an exhibition, which was a pleasant surprise.
I now know how to survey a collection and create a project proposal. Creating a programme of conservation and preservation that doesn’t just benefit one print but over 2000 felt very daunting 10 weeks ago. But by taking small steps, and keeping in mind that my approach would have to be interpreted by interns after me I have been able to get through it by staying methodical, and making vigorous notes and to do lists!
The conservation treatment of the Thomson-Walker collection included removing old backing boards and using a carboxymethyl cellulose poultice to remove tape and adhesive. As this poultice is essential to the treatment I would prepare the CMC the previous evening and construct the poultices as soon as I arrived at the studio the following morning. Once these were ready I began the treatment. Because of the demanding nature of the project, I worked on a number of prints simultaneously, aiming to conserve and rehouse around 10-15 per day. Whilst this is going on I might assist with a tour of the conservation studio, discussing the project with visitors and giving demonstrations. And then during the second half of the day a volunteer would help me to create archival folders to rehouse prints that I’d previously conserved. The CRC has a number of dedicated volunteers, usually students with an interest in conservation wishing to gain experience before embarking upon a relevant degree. This partnership has been very successful for the Thomson-Walker collection, as it has allowed me to conserve more prints, whilst a volunteer has gained new skills and experience.
Working within a University. I was unsure how this would compare with my previous experience of working within a museum or archive setting, but the difference has been huge. One of the main objectives of the CRC conservation studio is to make their collection more accessible and fun. I have really embraced this ideology during my time here, and hope to be an advocate of such aims during my future career. Working in such an open and exciting atmosphere has also done wonders for my confidence.
Creating a rehousing programme for the Thomson-Walker collection. This wasn’t just difficult because of the sheer number of prints but because they are all completely different sizes! I started out by wrestling with measurements, conservation catalogues, budgets, time restrictions, calculations, and ordering forms. Once this was all worked out I could relax a little. That was until my order arrived…then I had to make sure that all those calculations had been correct and actually get the project underway.
As an intern, it is not always possible to be self-directed, and projects aimed for interns are typically already set up and ready to go. For this reason I shall miss the independence I have experienced whilst working on the Thomson-Walker collection. I have enjoyed creating and following my own rules.
Yes! I recently discovered a print of Dr Albert Isaiah Coffin (1790–1866). Whilst the print itself isn’t spectacular I found the name rather amusing and decided to do some research on the American herbalist. It turns out that Dr Coffin was a man ahead of his time and has even been called a revolutionary. Instead of paying extortionate fees for a conventional doctor, Dr Coffin advocated that one should learn the secrets of medical botany and be their own doctor. In the north of England, Coffin delivered lectures to working people and set up botany societies where people could meet to learn and discuss medicine, as well as sharing problems and tips. This idea was nicknamed, “coffinism.” In a way I feel that Coffin’s aims are echoed within the CRC conservation studio…well not quite, but we do offer conservation taster days!
The conservation studio is currently a very exciting place to be working for all of the reasons I’ve mentioned above. Take advantage of all the extra activities on offer. Work hard but play harder!
From all of us in the conservation studio, and the CRC as a whole, we would like to thank Samantha for all her fantastic work, and wish her the best of luck in her future career. In the meantime, we will be sure to keep you updated on how the Thomson-Walker project developments….
Post by Samantha Cawson, Conservation Intern
LAST LOSSES OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR, 1939-1945 – Christian Salvesen & Co.
22 March 2015 is the 70th anniversary of the sinking of the steam cargo vessel Empire Kingsley. Its sinking during the closing phase of the Second World War was the last maritime loss suffered by the general shipping and whaling firm Christian Salvesen & Co. of Leith during the War. Families couldn’t have known it at the time, but the ship’s destruction with the loss of 8 lives happened only 7-weeks before VE-Day (Victory in Europe).
The Empire Kingsley was one of a number of Empire vessels listed as Salvesen ships – other losses of these included the Empire Bruce, Empire Dunstan, and Empire Heritage (the latter being the firm’s greatest as far as lives were concerned with 60 crew dead) – and each was in fact owned by the Ministry of War Transport and managed on contract by Christian Salvesen & Co.
On Thursday 22 March 1945, on its way from Ghent to Manchester, the Empire Kingsley was sunk by a torpedo from the German submarine U-315 off Land’s End in Cornwall. U-315 surrendered at Trondheim in Norway a few weeks later in May 1945. It had hunted in several patrols since entering service with the German Kriegsmarine in July 1943, but had sunk only the Empire Kingsley and written off a Canadian frigate.
The British merchant marine suffered heavy losses during 1939-1945. Merchant ships and their crews suffered attack from submarines, surface raiders, mines and assault from the air. Christian Salvesen & Co. suffered no less than any other firm, indeed the whaling side of its business was all but suspended after the 1940-41 season. The firm’s transport ships and whale catchers were pressed into naval service under the control of the Ministry for War Transport, with its factory ships being used as tankers and heavy lift vessels.
Contained within the Salvesen Archive (1st tranche. B2. Box 4.) is a copy of a list of Chr. Salvesen & Co.’s Vessels Lost or Damaged by Enemy Action… a list that records the deaths of over 400 seamen between October 1939 and April 1945, and the loss of Salvesen tonnage all over the world and around the home waters of the British Isles…:
The firm suffered its first wartime loss at sea with the sinking of the Glen Farg – a coaster – by the German submarine U-23 on 4 October 1939. The ship was on its way home from Norway to Methil and Grangemouth with a cargo of pulp, carbide and ferro chrome when it was captured and sunk off the north of Scotland, west of Orkney and Duncansby Head. One seaman was lost, but there were 16 survivors who were picked up by a Royal Navy destroyer based at Scapa Flow, Orkney.
The loss of the whale factory ship Salvestria in July 1940 – on Edinburgh’s own doorstep – brought the deaths of 10 seamen. On 22 July 1940, two miles east of Inchkeith in the Firth of Forth, the ship was sunk by a magnetic mine while on its way to the naval installation at Rosyth with a cargo of fuel oil.
The same year, in September 1940, the whale factory ship New Sevilla was sunk off Northern Ireland – a bit out from Islay – on the way from Liverpool to Aruba and South Georgia.
The vessel was carrying a cargo of whaling stores when it was struck by a torpedo fired from the German submarine U-138. The attack could have had worse consequences as the human cost was 2 lives lost out of a total complement of 285.
Further west of Ireland, and south of Iceland, the Sirikishna was lost in February 1941. This steam cargo ship was on its way from Glasgow to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and had become separated from a convoy. It was attacked by the submarine U-96.Not all attacks on Salvesen’s stock ended in a sinking. The vessels Coronda, P.L.M. XIV (a former French vessel taken as booty when France surrendered), Folda, and Daphne II were each either bombed or torpedoed but none of them were immediately lost. In September 1940, the steam-driven tanker and supply ship Coronda (the second Salvesen vessel to bear that name… the namesake was the vessel that transported the first penguins to Edinburgh Zoo in 1913) was bombed in a German air attack off Northern Ireland on a journey from Iceland to Liverpool, carrying herring-oil.
Coronda suffered the loss of 21 seamen and suffered heavy fire-damage, and was beached on Kaimes Bay, Tighnabruaich, in the Kyles of Bute. P.L.M. XIV was torpedoed on Smith’s Knoll (part of the Haisborough Sands, off Norfolk) in October 1940 with the loss of 10 crew, and the vessel was towed to Immingham. In November 1940, Folda was bombed off the Thames estuary with the deaths of 3 seamen, and then the ship was towed to Harwich. Then, in March 1941, the vessel Daphne II was torpedoed off the Humber with no human loss, and towed to Grimsby.
Not all the attacks on Salvesen’s ships ended in the deaths of crew. Between September and October 1940 the Crown Arun, Shekatika, Strombus and Snefjeld were each mined or torpedoed. The Crown Arun, known earlier as Hannah Böge, and taken into British service as war booty, then placed under Salvesen management by the Ministry of Shipping, sank off north west Ireland with a cargo of pit-props while in a convoy. Shekatika was sunk near Rockall en route to Hartlepool carrying steel and pit-props. Strombus broke up near Swansea after being attacked just as it was setting off for South Georgia, and Snefjeld sank north west of Ireland, also while in a convoy. None suffered human loss, and as has already been told Daphne II was attacked in 1941 with no losses either. Then, in March 1942, the tanker Peder Bogen was torpedoed, shelled and sunk south east of Bermuda by the Italian submarine Morosini, and again all crew were saved. The crews of the Indra lost in the Atlantic just above the equator in November 1942 and the Empire Bruce lost off the coast of Sierra Leone in April 1943 were also saved.
However, a few months after the loss of the Peder Bogen in March 1942 – and the saving of all the crew – the Saganaga was lost at anchor in Wabana Harbour, Newfoundland, in September 1942 with the loss of up to 30 lives. The steam cargo vessel loaded with iron-ore was sunk by a torpedo from the German submarine U-513.
The Salvesen vessel Saganaga was reported in the Minutes of the Meeting of Directors of the Salvesen enterprise, The South Georgia Co. Ltd., on 30 December 1942, as having an insurance value of £155,000, which at today’s values would be circa £6.5-million. The Sourabaya which was lost earlier – in October 1942 – had an insurance value of £220,000, or £9.2-million today. Sourabaya was a whale factory ship and it was steaming in convoy from New York to Liverpool with a cargo of fuel oil, war stores and landing craft. It was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-436 in the mid-Atlantic. 30 crew lost their lives.Another whale factory ship was lost in October 1942 – the Southern Empress. This ship was on its way to Glasgow, in convoy, and was also carrying a cargo of fuel oil and landing craft. In a position north west of St. John’s, Newfoundland, and south of Kap Farvel, Greenland, the Southern Empress was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-221.
The greatest loss of life came in September 1944 when the tanker Empire Heritage, managed by Salvesen, was sunk by a torpedo north west of Malin Head, Ireland, on its way to Liverpool from New York. The vessel was carrying a cargo of fuel oil and a deck cargo including Sherman tanks when it was met by German submarine U-482. Over 100 lives were lost (of which 60 were crew). On 3 March 1945, the Salvesen vessel Southern Flower, formerly a whale catcher and which had been requisitioned for Admiralty service in anti-submarine duties, was torpedoed and sunk off the Icelandic coast by U-1022 patrolling between Bergen in Norway and southern Iceland. The Southern Flower had been owned by Salvesen since 1941 the year in which the firm acquired the Southern Whaling and Sealing Co. Ltd. from Unilever (Lever Bros.) along with its two whale factory-ships and fifteen whale-catchers.Then, later the same month the Empire Kingsley was sunk off Land’s End with the loss of 8 lives from a crew of 57.
Many of Salvesen’s officers and men received awards for gallantry and for meritorious service at sea during the War, and others were commended.
Appreciation of the efforts and sacrifice of the seamen during the War years was met by Christian Salvesen & Co. through the establishment of a fund to assist the families of those whose lives were lost.
Money was also made available from various members of the Salvesen family for the building of homes for veterans through the Scottish Veterans’ Garden City Association.
Construction of the houses designed in a ‘garden village’ style in Muirhouse, Edinburgh, was begun in 1946, and the houses were occupied by 1948. Streets were named Salvesen Crescent, Salvesen Gardens, Salvesen Grove, and Salvesen Terrace.
Dr. Graeme D. Eddie, Assistant Librarian – Archives & Manuscripts, Centre for Research Collections (Special Collections)
Sources used in this piece:
Salvesen of Leith. Wray Vamplew. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1975; A whaling enterprise. Gerald Elliot; as well as internet wreck sites, and material contained in the Salvesen Archive