The Centre for Research Collections is a remarkable resource for students at Edinburgh University, not only for research purposes, but also for experience working with collections. I am an MSc student studying Material Cultures and the History of the Book. As part of the course we were encouraged to volunteer within the CRC. My interests lie in the field of the visual arts and the materiality of books, specifically the in the world of digital media. Serena Fredrick at the CRC was able to match me up with the Digital Imaging Unit and within the DIU I have been researching and enhancing the metadata for one of the university’s photographic image collections: the Hill and Adamson Collection. Hill and Adamson are world-renowned pioneers of early photographic techniques. Building on the work of Englishman Henry Fox-Talbot, they created some iconic images of mid-nineteenth century Edinburgh from their studio on Calton Hill.
Hill and Adamson’s original creative remit was to capture portraits of leading members of the Free Church of Scotland who had been involved in the disruption of the established Church of Scotland in 1843, with the intent of using these portraits as study aids for a massive painting commemorating the disruption.
Soon word of this new means of portraiture spread and Hill and Adamson started creating images of and for Edinburgh society. The collection is full of images of friends and family of Hill and Adamson, as well as being a veritable who’s who in Edinburgh.
Hill and Adamson realised that this artform could also be used as a form of documentary reporting and began taking photographs of the Newhaven fishermen and women, as evidence of a strong, united and self-sufficient community.
Unfortunately Hill and Adamson’s collaboration was short-lived due to Adamson’s continually failing health and eventual death at the age of only 27 in 1848. However, during their prolific partnership they were responsible for the creation of thousands of incredible images. I have loved being a part of the team bringing this collection onto a digital platform and increasing access to such an important and exciting set of images. Here are a few of my favourite images, all of which can be found at: http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/UoEcar~4~4
Caroline Ramsay, MSc Material Cultures and the History of the Book