Category Archives: School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures

Dong Ding The Boundary of Balance – Documentary Condition Photography

The Art Collection acquired one piece from Dong Ding’s sculptural jewellery collection Boundary of Balance; a series of works which explores the relationship and tension between balance and imbalance.  Each of the carefully crafted kinetic pieces can be worn in multiple ways – disassembled and re-assembled by the wearer – with interchangeable and detachable details such as rings, tie pins and earrings integrated into the overall composition.

The movement of each piece is influenced by these counterbalanced components, as well as by the body and actions of the wearer. Sharing a passing resemblance to historical navigational tools, the works come accompanied with bespoke laser cut instructions identifying the multiple permutations for the wearer.  Julie-Ann Delaney Art Collections Curator University of Edinburgh.

“A piece may contain hidden details and contrasting elements of weight and material. The work is kinetic with moveable parts that invite play. Movement is influenced by counterbalanced components, interchangeable parts and the wearer’s body movement. Through interaction with the work, the wearer is invited to play with the tension between balance and imbalance.” Dong Ding.

Museum Collections Manager Anna Hawkins outlined the photography and handling of the complex object. Multiple images were required to accurately record the condition of the piece at point of entry into the Museum Collections. This included two views of the whole object back and front and in addition back and front views of each individual part of the object in isolation.

To achieve a detailed representation I employed focus stacking to achieve the consistent detail. This involves taking multiple images at different focal lengths and aligning these images to create one image with overall focus. Below is a selection of some of the images captured. I have included partial details to demonstrate the capabilities of our medium format cameras. The resulting Tiff files are delivered to the Museum Collections team in excess of 100Mb which can be used for condition checking and allowing detailed object examination. These images are also suitable for publication, broadcast and social media.

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Incunabula: Fables, foliage and a female Pope

Hortus sanitatis, Fol.101 verso

I was lucky enough to be involved in the Incunabula pilot project here in the Digital Imaging Unit. This project  helped to create a digitisation workflow for Incunabula collection items using the i2S CopiBook v-shape scanner. These bound volumes are printed using a variety of early printing methods including wood block printing resulting in beautifully crafted and illustrated objects. This project afforded an opportunity to get up close and personal with these beautiful and often entertaining treasures,  that were quite literally being brought into the light through the capture of images.  

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Baltic, Books and Solidarity: Gdańsk University of Technology (GUT) International Staff Week

Gdańsk University of Technology

I was delighted to be able to participate in the 4th International Staff Week at the Biblioteki Politechniki Gdańskiej recently. I work as the Senior Photographer for Edinburgh University’s Library and University Collections, so when I saw that the programme included a visit to the Pomeranian Digital Library it looked like a great opportunity. Additionally, this was the home institution of one of the delegates on our own Knowledge Exchange Week in 2018, allowing further development of previous Erasmus links.

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A Stitch in Time: Mahābhārata Delivered Online

I don’t know if I have ever been more excited about a digitisation project going live:  the Edinburgh University’s 1795 copy of the Mahābhārata is now available online.  This beautiful scroll is one of the longest poems ever written, containing a staggering 200,000 verses spread along 72 meters of richly decorated silk backed paper. As one of the Iconic items in our Collection it was marked as a digitisation priority, so when a customer requested the 78 miniatures back in April 2017 it seemed like a good opportunity to digitise it in its entirety. There was just one problem: it was set to go on display in the ‘Highlands to Hindustan’ exhibition, which opened at the Library in July. This left us with only a narrow window of opportunity for the first stages of the project: conservation and photography. Continue reading

Correcting Shakespeare

Since November last year, I have been volunteering on the Luna Project in the Digital Imaging Unit. Throughout the project I have been working with the University of Edinburgh’s Shakespeare Collection. As a fan of Shakespeare’s work, I was delighted to have the opportunity to work closely with this collection which contains a variety of different classic Shakespeare plays such as; Romeo and Juliet, Henry VI, Midsommer Night’s Dreame and my personal favourite, the Taming of The Shrew. Continue reading

Training Sessions: Low-Tech Imaging for Social Media


There’s no doubt that in our digital age, social media and online presence is crucial to engaging with your customers, audiences or users. Due to the growing demand of higher quality images on these platforms, several of us in the DIU have recently given talks about achieving the best image quality using low-tech solutions. The great thing about phones and tablets is that we’re able to share content to social media from anywhere, creating a sense of immediacy and dynamism. Being able to take great photos and videos with just our phones can be challenging, but knowing the best settings and set-up can help to create great images that will make your posts more engaging. Continue reading

Living Icons: Keeping with the “Archival Liveness” of the University’s Iconic Items

Jami’ al-Tawarikh, f.14v detail

As the other blog posts that I have written for the DIU will attest to, I repeatedly find myself drawn to archival artefacts and stories that show the always “in-process” nature of archives[1]. While the word archive might initially bring to mind shelves full of preserved books and artefacts, collections kind of frozen in time and stoically telling a particular story, those working in archives will attest instead to the truly dynamic nature of archives. In fact, Tom Schofield et al. have introduced the term “archival liveness” as a concept that “promotes a view of the archive as a set of on-going professional, institutional and technical processes and precipitates a focus on the different kinds of temporality embodied within these” (“Archival Liveness”, 2015). What the idea of archival liveness gets at is that as our socio-technological, historical, and cultural moments change, so too does our ability to engage with archives. Cataloguing must be done to make an archive discoverable and searchable, but this costs time and money, and so archives exist at different stages of complete or incomplete cataloguing. Moreover, as time passes, archives typically grow, or sometimes shrink if things are lost, and they are remediated through various preservation, restoration, and, in our current digital world, digitization processes, all of which requires new forms of discovery and engagement with the archived collections. Archives are therefore always embedded within shifting networks of mediation and distribution. Continue reading

Zhouyi zhuanyi Daquan: a piece of early-Ming tradition

Just in time for the Chinese New Year we can announce that our copy of the Zhouyi zhuanyi Daquan is now available to view on our collections website – here. This is the earliest printed book in our collections, printed in 1440 in the Chinese province of Fujian. Zhouyi zhuanyi Daquan has become known in English as the Complete Commentaries on the Book of Changes. The Book of Changes itself is a seminal work on the subject of Confucianism.

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Musica Getutscht

Portative Organ, Anvil and Hammers, Chime Bells and Clapper Bells.

Musica Getutscht (Basel, 1511) is the earliest printed treatise on musical instruments in the west. Written by Sebastian Virdung who was a priest and a chapel singer, it provides rudimentary instruction on playing the clavichord, lute and recorder. It was also the first of its kind to be written in a vernacular language, making it a widely accessible text. Both Virdung and his printer, Michael Furter, were no doubt aware that this would be an important document to offer the German-speaking world, changing the way music education was delivered and creating a new culture of amateur musicians and performers in the sixteenth century. Continue reading

Robert Burns Manuscripts – gie us a job!

It’s the time of year for all things Robert Burns. Here in the DIU I have recently finished digitising a collection of Robert Burns Manuscripts. These are highly treasured manuscripts which make up part of our Iconics Collection. A fitting status for the bard himself. So, time raise a glass! The manuscripts comprise of letters of correspondence and poems such as Holy Willie’s Prayer, Love and Liberty: A Cantata and Address to Edinburgh. Continue reading