Category Archives: Projects

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.

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Panoramas and Portraits: 1860’s China

Following on from a visit from the Confucius Institute in September, it was agreed we should digitize our volume of photographs from Lord Elgin’s 1860 military campaign in China. Our former volunteer Caitlin Holton has already blogged about this album so you can read more about this fascinating set of photographs and their controversial history here

http://libraryblogs.is.ed.ac.uk/diu/2016/04/26/lord-elgin-records-19th-century-china/

We are very pleased to say that the complete set of photographs can now be found on LUNA, including the large fold-out panoramas. These proved quite challenging to capture, most needing to be photographed in 2 or 3 sections and stitched back together in Adobe Photoshop. Furthermore, the length of the fold-outs made it difficult to evenly light the photographs, while at the same time preventing shine. However, these old photographs show that panoramas are not a modern invention of smart phones and clever stitching software, they have been effectively produced since the earliest days of photography.

Below are some of my favourite images, and the full collection can be found here http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/3n0c83

Susan Pettigrew, Photographer

 

Wisdom is the Principal Thing

Last month I was asked to take some photos of the McEwan Hall which is currently undergoing a major redevelopment to bring it into the 21st century. Having previously photographed Rowand Anderson’s architectural drawings for the building, I have long been looking for excuse to see inside and was delighted to have this chance. This huge auditorium has a seating capacity of 2000 and was presented to the University in 1897 by the Brewer and Politician William McEwan.  We have a lovely illustration in the collections of a holly festooned McEwan giving the Graduation Hall to the University on a platter, with Old College’s golden boy in the background.

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Around the World in 90 years- the Story of Historic Leith Improvement Scheme Photographs

When Fraser Parkinson first contacted us about the collection of historic photographs of Leith that he had been entrusted with, my colleagues and I at the Centre for Research Collections were very excited. The photographs were taken to show the slums of Leith prior to the ‘Edinburgh (Leith) Improvement Scheme of 1924’, where large areas were to be cleared and rebuilt. Fraser tells us that:

‘The Town Council Minutes of 3rd April 1924 propose the demolition or reconstruction of ‘certain houses, courts, and alleys unfit for human habitation’.

The concerns of William Robertson, Medical Officer of health for the City and Royal Burgh of Edinburgh, were that the

‘narrowness, closeness and bad arrangement, or the bad condition of the streets and houses, or the want of light, air, ventilation or proper conveniences or other sanitary defects are dangerous or injurious to the health of the inhabitants of the buildings in the said Areas, or of the neighbouring buildings.’

The scheme involved large-scale demolition in this area of Leith, and the re-housing of most displaced residents out-with the areas covered by the scheme.

These photographs were taken as a record of the area at this time by the City Council.  They provided the photographic evidence of the conditions that presented significant risk to public health at this time.’

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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!

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A Lengthy Challenge: Photographing the Mahabharata


Recently I was asked to scope the digitisation of a beautiful scroll we have in our collection, Or.Ms 510, or better known as the Mahabharata. Gemma Scott, our former Digital Library intern, says that:

‘the Mahabharata tells the tale of a dynastic struggle between two sets of cousins for control of the Bharata kingdom in central India. One of the longest poems ever written, eclipsed only by the Gesar Epic of Tibet, it is said to have been composed between 900 and 400BCE by the sage Vyasa, although, in reality, it is likely to have been created by a number of individuals. To Hindus, it is important in terms of both dharma (moral law) and history (itihasa), as its themes are often didactic.’

Our scroll dates to 1795 and came to Edinburgh University in 1821 when it was donated by Colonel Walker of Bowland. It is 13.5cm wide and a staggering 72m long, housed in a wooden case, wound around rollers and turned by a key in the side. It has 78 miniatures of varying sizes and is elaborately decorated in gold, with floral patterning in the late Mughul or Kangra style. The text itself is dense, tiny, and underpinned with yet more gold leaf decorations.

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Al-Biruni live on LUNA

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We are thrilled to announce that we now have online the entire manuscript of Abu Rayhan Al-Biruni, his ‘Chronology of Ancient Nations’. Al- Biruni was a famous astronomer and polymath and he completed this compendium in the year 1000. It records a vast number of calendars and chronological systems from a variety of different cultural and religious groups in the late antique and medieval periods in the Hellenic world, Central Asia and the Near East, even detailing festivals and liturgical practices.

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Instrumental Challenges

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Last week saw the start of a new project- photographing many of the University’s Musical Instruments while they are in storage at the Library during the re-development of St. Cecilia’s Music Hall. These images are planned for use in the new museum space, in printed materials, for social media and interactive Apps. The only guidance we have been given is ‘coffee-table book’ which gives the DIU team huge scope for interpretation and creativity. As the project progresses we hope to bring 3D photography into the mix, but for starters, this week the musical instruments team brought me 3 items for some studio shots.

The first was a Triple-fretted clavichord, possibly Flemish and c1620 (ref. 4486). Although this piece was quite simple and unadorned, it did have a bright red ribbon woven through the strings and the keys made a beautiful pattern, so I decide on a detail shot to highlight the mechanism.

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The second item was a Rahab from Western Malaysia, c1977 (ref. 2101). This was a far more ornate and colourful piece. In fact, I was torn- both the front and back of the instrument presented interesting features to photograph, but how to get both sides at once? While at the Rijksmuseum conference Malcolm and I were impressed by their use of a black reflective surface in the photography of fashion accessories (see https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/formats/accessoires/index.jsp?lang=en). Malcolm suggested that we might be able to get a similar effect using a piece of black velvet and some glass, so I set up the studio to try it out. In the end I chose an angle looking down on the instrument that allowed details of both the strings and the red woollen back to be seen, however, the reflection adds further interest to the shot.

The final piece presented quite a different challenge. It is very rare that an object comes to us that leaves me scratching my head, but the ‘Jingling Johnny’ or Chapeau (ref. 6110) certainly did. A large, top heavy shiny brass instrument covered with dangling bells and fragile metalwork set atop a stick- how to keep it upright and perfectly still? The many shiny surfaces indicate that we will need to build a light tent to minimise reflections. This was clearly going to require some thought and planning, so we reluctantly decided to return this one to the store to reconvene another day!

In the coming months we will keep you posted on the projects progress.

Susan Pettigrew, Photographer

The Most Beautiful Book in Scotland and the Oldest Scottish Manuscript?

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The new Ms 39 Book of Hours available in LUNA Book Reader

We are delighted to announce that 2 manuscripts have been added to our growing collection of Book Readers in LUNA!

The first is Ms 39, an amazing early 15th century Book of Hours, with rich gold work, detailed miniatures and vibrant colours. See http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/d4wx22 for the Book Reader. A note in the front of the book claims this is the most beautiful book in Scotland, what do you think? What are the other contender’s? Continue reading

Iconic Photography

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Clement Litill’s 1580 bequest charter

Part of our remit in the DIU has been to work through a list of ‘Iconic’ Items from the collection in our spare time. Over the years we have completed the digitisation of some outstanding manuscripts and collections in this way, from the Hill and Adamson photographs (a personal favourite- see http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/jl5w63) to the wonderful Laing Album Amicorum (see http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/6oh338 ). Continue reading