Category Archives: Art Collections

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.

Continue reading

2nd C. Sculpture to Star Wars Props: 3D, a Force Awakens?

During a photogrammetry training session with Clara Molina Sanchez, we were recommended to choose objects with a matt surface, small to medium in size, and which didn’t have many holes or occlusions. We settled on a Gandharan Buddha from the Art Collection, a Paolozzi maquette from the Edinburgh College of Art collection and, just to test what would happen, a thigh bone trumpet wrapped in shiny metal filigree from the Musical Instruments collection.

Continue reading

Paolozzi: mosaics to maquettes.

Recently Art Collections Curator, Neil Lebeter, and I made a short video interview with Professor Bob Fisher and Phd student Alex Davies of the Informatics Department. Bob and Alex have been working with the images I produced of the Eduardo Paolozzi mosaics within the DIU (for an introduction to the project click here). This cross departmental work seems particularly fitting as Paolozzi had close ties to the Informatics department. This relationship is visible in the form of several Paolozzi sculptures dotted about the Informatics building.

Using their combined expertise, Bob and Alex have been employing a number of image processing techniques on the images of the individual mosaic fragments in line with images of the original mural design, in situ at Tottenham Court Road Tube Station, London. This is to assess what percentage of the original mural we possess and how accurately it could potentially be pieced back together. The interview provides an insight into their work processes, the challenges, and uniqueness, of this particular project and the results they have found to date. It is an interesting watch!

Continue reading

Lord Elgin Records 19th Century China

0055640d

One of the works in the ECA Rare Book Collection that places us firmly in a place and time in history is a book of photographs taken around the time of the notable expedition of Lord Elgin, James Bruce, to China on a diplomatic mission and military campaign. If one does not know much about Chinese history, which I must admit I know little of, you might view this image at first glance as simply another beautiful view of Chinese landscape and architecture. Upon further reading into the life of the 8th Earl of Elgin and the Old Summer Palace, as well as the photographers whose works are featured in the album, it becomes a much different story. One of these photographers was the talented Felice Beato who was known for photography that created images of war as a continuous process. He documented each stage of his subjects, including gruesome scenes of the aftermath of battles and seizes. This method provides great insight into the progression of Lord Elgin’s presence in China as many images fit into his timeline. Although the above photograph taken in 1860 seems to show a sturdy structure overlooking a stunning mountain range, it does depict a cultural landscape that was near the end of its time and one that was extremely vulnerable at the time. The caption for the image tells a snapshot of the gruesome story. The caption reads “View of the Summer Palace, Yuen-Min-Yuen, showing the Pagoda before the burning, Pekin. Octr 1860.” This could easily be one of the last photographs of the site before its infamous looting and burning on October 18, 1860. Many of the items taken from this event are still held today in the UK and other prestigious museums in Europe, although there is an ongoing conversation of where these works of great art and cultural importance belong.

Continue reading

Digitisation: Eduardo Paolozzi Mosaics

I have spent the past 6 weeks digitising mosaic fragments here in the DIU. Recently removed from Tottenham Court Road Tube Station, London, these mosaics were once part of a mural by the Scottish artist Eduardo Paolozzi that was first installed in 1984. The mosaics, now part of the University of Edinburgh Art Collection, make up about 5% of all the Tottenham Court Road murals by the artist, with the mosaics I am working on coming from the station archways more specifically. In an article for the Guardian Newspaper, London Underground’s design and heritage manager, Mike Ashworth, called this “one of the UK’s largest art conservation projects of the last decade” so I am very pleased to be involved.

Paolozzi 2

There are approximately 600 fragments of various shapes, sizes and colours spread over 42 boxes and 4 pallets. Unfortunately, the mural was not removed with conservation in mind so it is not exactly in great condition. It will be challenging to piece it all back together, first digitally and then physically. The long-term plan is to reconstruct the mural and install it within the university campus therefore giving it new life. So watch this space…!

I have been tasked with digitising each fragment. On completion, the aim is then to use the images in conjunction with image recognition software and an image of the original design, to digitally re-assemble the mural. This should provide a new digital image of the mural which will assist with the proposed physical reconstruction. The process will inform us whether areas of the mural are missing, and would need to be remade in some form.

paolozzi

On a technical level, I have been using a high-spec digital Hasselblad-H4 camera and professional, Bowens studio lights in my digitisation process. To begin with, I capture several mosaic fragments in one shot and then go on to crop, and edit, each piece individually before saving as a separate, new file. The tricky part comes in ensuring that the scale of each fragment is represented correctly with every image produced. This is why placing a ruler within each raw image capture is crucial so to allow for the mosaics to be scaled to a 1:1 ratio by resizing them in Adobe Photoshop. If the size of the fragments were to be incorrect then this could cause problems later down the line when trying to complete this digital jigsaw (see image below!). Further, the faces/upside of the mosaics must be perpendicular to the focal plane of the camera and, collectively, the mosaics must be of equal distance to focal plane. The same principles apply for the positioning of the ruler itself. This confirms that perspectives are not distorted and that the relative size of the mosaics remains consistent throughout the project.

Montage-mosaic

0069107m0069143c

Currently, I am awaiting the arrival of the pallets as I have digitised all the fragments from the boxes. The majority of what is still to come are much larger mosaics fragments. I may be required to digitally stitch multiple images together in order to produce a single image. This is because some mosaics may be too large to photograph in their entirety on the copy stand. No doubt this will raise some new challenges to overcome!

John

Project Photographer (Paolozzi Project)

Dating a Book

For the last couple of months I have had the pleasure of both volunteering with the DIU and now working a bit more seriously through my work placement as part of the MSc in Book History and Material Culture. My undergraduate degree is in Creative Writing and I primarily focus on Children’s Literature in my current studies, so the Digital Imaging Unit might seem like a strange fit for me at first glance. The exact opposite is true though. In the world of Children’s Literature, illustrations and images in general are essential to the construction and survival of texts. During my time here I have been working on compiling the metadata for our ECA Rare Books Image Collection. This project is dear to my heart for two reasons. 1) I am exposed to images and illustrations of every variety, both artistically and mechanically. 2) I learn something new every day. There are many books in this collection that are far out of my expertise and for that reason I am forced to research all sorts of things I have never even heard of. Because of this I have become a huge fan of nature lithography, Italian architecture and handmade books. The latter is what I would like to discuss today.

As I was researching the ECA Rare Book Collection, I found that many of the materials I was working with had no author and no date. Because of the nature of these type of handmade scrapbook-like works, there is no imprint or page of information on the piece. In this way, dating a work becomes a bit of a guessing game. If there is an attributed author or illustrator one can narrow down the production date to the lifetime of this person. If it is known to be made in a certain region by this person, for example, that can also narrow down the search for the date. It becomes a Sherlock Holmes kind of exploration to put all the pieces together and decide on a more narrow range of dates that a book could have been produced.

In this collection there are many examples of successful dating as well as some cases that have proved to be a bit trickier to pin down. I first noticed this when looking at a page from a hand created book titled by the cataloguer as ‘Album of printed initials, ornaments, illustrations and title pages, cut from books: collected as examples of typographical design, woodcut, engraving, illustration and ornament’. The particular page (see below) is of printed initials that have been cut from another book and then rearranged and adhered to the page as part of a collection of typographical designs, woodcuts, engravings, illustrations and ornaments. The book itself, or rather portfolio because the leaves are not bound together, has not been dated. The reason we know anything about the age of this book is from the age of the books in which were borrowed to create the new one. From some identified works, the collection of images comes from sometime around 1490 all the way to 1715. The pages themselves seem to have been compiled around 1880 to 1920.

 

Collection: ECA Rare Books; Persons: -; Event: N/A; Place: N/A; Category: Art; Design; Description: -

 

A second example of dating from context is a curious photo album from Lord Elgin’s diplomatic missions to China. Unlike with the printed initials, these images have names attributed at points and even dates in the case below. Because of these acknowledgements, it becomes much easier to place this piece in history. Oddly enough though, some photographs are heavily annotated and others sit alone without any clues to what exactly they represent. We cannot be entirely sure when these were taken and if found out to be earlier or later than the other images, it could skew the data on the item as a whole.

 

0055640d

 

A third very interesting undated book is that of calico samples that have been neatly cut and arranged, much like the printed initials from our earlier example. The manufacturers of these fabrics have been identified by the creator, which narrows down the date to the time in which these were all in business. The most helpful bit for this work though is a racehorse. One of the fabrics shows an image of ‘Gladiateur’, a racehorse who was accomplished from 1865-1866. This unsuspecting clue is mighty helpful when trying to confirm the time in which these fabrics would have been made and collected. If this particular horse had gone unnoticed, situated next to many other animal designs, we would know much less about this funny little collection.

 

0055610d

 

One thing I didn’t expect to gain out of my work placement at the DIU was detective skills but it seems that I now know a bit more about how to date a book than I did a month ago. Unfortunately, there is one book that has no date and also has no catalogue information. This unique piece is a book of shawl designs that have been labelled and neatly placed on paper. There are some clues on these pieces that help us date it to a certain point (most noticeably the stamp from the Trustees for Manufacturers) but even with this it seems to remain quite mysterious. If you feel like testing your skills, feel free to check out the images of ‘Shawl Design’ at http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/UoEwmm~3~3 and let me know if you find anything.

0024472d

0024475d

-Caitlin Holton, MSc Book History and Material Culture

Grand Tour Slide Show

Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, Italy.

Some time ago we digitised the hand coloured glass slides in the Cavaye collection, but we didn’t have time to do the much larger black and white part of the collection. So when our project photographer John Bryden, found a bit of spare time, we were delighted to have the remaining slides completed.

The whole collection is wonderful, apparently from a Grand Tour of Europe around the turn of the 20th century. I suspect that many of the slides were bought on the trip, much like we buy postcards today. Some of them were probably only lovingly hand tinted on return to Britain- in one of Palermo the tinting appears to be half finished. Continue reading

Roslin Slide Collection – Composition

Black Japanese Bull, 4 as 5 Years, 1090 lbs'. Photograph of a Black Japanese bull, 4 as 5 years old and weighing 1090 lbs standing in a lane with a man holding its rope lead in the early 20th century.

Over the course of digitising the Roslin Slide Collection, amongst all the slides of tables, charts and the like, it has been the images of people, and their animals, that have grabbed my attention most of all. I have noticed two particular styles of photographic composition that are common throughout; the group shot (still popular today of course!) and the ‘one man and his animal’ shot. These images provide a sort of typology where the composition often remains the same with the people and environment changing. Continue reading

A Traquair Treat

0057151dAs 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. Continue reading

Globe trekking with the Roslin Glass Slides Collection

'Step Cutting on Ice Face, Tasman Glacier, New Zealand'. Photograph of two men step cutting on the ice face of the Tasman Glacier, New Zealand in the late 19th or early 20th century.

Currently I am based in the Digital Imaging Unit where I am responsible for digitising a large number of glass plate positive slides (about 3500!) which make up part of the Towards Dolly Project within the Roslin Collection. The digitisation project itself – aptly named ‘Science on a Plate’ – is funded by the Wellcome Trust and is due for completion at the end of April 2015. Only this week, the first batch of 1000 images have been made publicly accessible via the University of Edinburgh Image Collections website.

Having worked through over 1300 images so far, it is difficult to know where to start when attempting to whittle down the numbers to a small selection of favourites to post here. I have, therefore, simply chosen a handful of images that seem to jump out at me for one reason or another. These images do something to represent the wide-reaching nature of the Roslin Glass Slides Collection; many document people and animals at a particular time and place, whilst others are more informative and study-based. The collection contains images that span the globe. I am constantly surprised as I move through them. One minute I will be looking at a photograph of a Clydesdale horse at a show in Brunstane Park, Edinburgh, and the next minute I will be looking at a sable in eastern Africa or an indigenous tribe in India. The collection is vast, diverse and engaging all at once. Continue reading