New to the Library: Slavery: supporters and abolitionists, 1675-1865

I’m happy to let you know that the Library now has access to Slavery: supporters and abolitionists, 1675-1865 from British Online Archives. This database contains a wide range of documents concerning the African slave trade during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The papers focus primarily on Jamaica and the West Indies but also cover the experience of other nations and regions.

You can access Slavery: supporters and abolitionists, 1675-1865 via the Databases A-Z list and the the Primary Sources database list. Access via DiscoverEd will also soon be possible.

Through a combination of statistics, correspondence, pamphlets, and memoirs, Slavery: supporters and abolitionists offer insights into the commercial and colonial dimensions of slavery and the views of its advocates and opponents. Read More

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New! Tanzania and Malawi in records from colonial missionaries, 1857-1965

I’m pleased to let you know that the Library now has access to Tanzania and Malawi in records from colonial missionaries, 1857-1965 from British Online Archives. This database gives you access to 54,550 digital pages from the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa (UMCA) archives including correspondence, journals, magazines, books, reports, etc.

You can access Tanzania and Malawi in records from colonial missionaries, 1857-1965 via the Databases A-Z list, the Primary Sources database list or the African Studies databases list. Access via DiscoverEd will also soon be possible.

The UMCA was founded in the late 1850s, after the return of Dr David Livingstone from the region in 1857. This high church Anglican society drew its missionaries initially from the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and Dublin. Under its motto “A servant of servants”, from its main centres of Zanzibar and Nyasaland (now Malawi), the UMCA began from an early date opposing the slave trade and promoting the education of the indigenous people and the training and ordination of African priests. Read More

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New to the Library: Picture Post Historical Archive

Did you know the Library now has access to the Picture Post Historical Archive? This databases comprises the complete archive of the Picture Post from its first issue in 1938 to its last in 1957 – all digitised from originals in full colour.

You can access the Picture Post Historical Archive via the Databases A-Z list or the Newspapers and Magazines database list. Access via DiscoverEd will also soon be possible.

Picture Post was a photojournalistic magazine, often seen as the UK equivalent of Life, that was considered a groundbreaking example of photojournalism and was hugely successful from its first issue and throughout the 1940s. At its peak it is estimated its readership was 80% of the British population. In the era before television, it became the window on the world for ordinary people, bringing the major social and political issues of the day into popular consciousness. Read More

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New to the Library: Stuart and Cumberland Papers

I’m really happy to let you know that the Library has recently been able to purchase the extensive Stuart and Cumberland Papers from the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle, digitised for the first time by Gale. This fascinating digital primary source database has been much requested by both students and staff in HCA, as well as ECA and LLC, and I hope it proves to be a useful and well-used resource for teaching, learning and research.

You can access the Stuart and Cumberland Papers via the Databases A-Z list or the Primary Sources database list. Access via DiscoverEd will also soon be possible.

This primary source database contains two remarkable collections, The Stuart Papers and The Cumberland Papers, available online in their entirety. Read More

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Edinburgh Research Explorer | ER-data: Jan. – June 2019

Edinburgh Research Explorer | ER-data: January 2019 - June 2019
Edinburgh Research Explorer • • ERdata: Jan. – June 2019

The first six-months of 2019, as now seems inevitable, have proved to be the busiest six-months in Edinburgh Research Explorer’s brief history, with 543,152 downloads. This is not only the first time that the half-a-million milestone has been breached within such a short period, but represents a 35% increase on the previous best. As the chart below indicates, this rate of growth is unprecedented following a full 6-months:

Edinburgh Research Explorer: downloads May 2017- June 2019, in six-monthly blocks
Fig i. Edinburgh Research Explorer: downloads May 2017- June 2019, in six-monthly blocks

This report aims to offer an overview of the last six-months of download activity on Edinburgh Research Explorer. The data generated through the IRUS-UK download statistics portal is somewhat limited, it won’t tell us much about the users, in terms of who is downloading what, but it will offer up a few broad clues. This report will investigate those clues under the following headings:

[Also available as a PDF]
Read More

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Resource Lists Framework

The Resource Lists Framework states that Resource Lists are the preferred route to manage library materials for teaching, summarises the service you can expect from the Library and outlines good practice.

The Resource List Framework has been developed by Library & University Collections in consultation with, and is supported by, Learning and Teaching Committee, Library Committee and the Vice Presidents of Education and Activities & Services from the Students’ Association.

Key features of the Framework:

  • States that Resource Lists are the preferred route to request Library resources for teaching;
  • Communicates key information to staff on use of the Resource Lists service;
  • Includes definitions of the priorities used for Resource List readings, ‘Essential, ‘Recommended’, and ‘Further reading’.
  • Encourages Course Organisers to make use of digital formats, when possible;
  • Sets out roles and responsibilities for Course Organisers and the Library.

Read the Resource Lists Framework in full

Suggested good practice

The Framework encourages Course Organisers to consider how students will access key materials and manage their course reading. Working in consultation with the Vice Presidents of Education and Activities & Services from the Students’ Association, seven principles of good practice have been suggested and are described in the Framework.

‘Resource Lists are most useful to students if they are…’

  1. Easy to access
  2. Clearly laid out
  3. Prioritised and annotated
  4. Up to date
  5. Realistic
  6. Collaborative
  7. Made available to the Library in good time.

Feedback and review

The Library will review the Resource Lists Framework and service in consultation with Course Organisers and Edinburgh University Students’ Association and update as required.

If you would like to comment or provide feedback on the Framework, please contact

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Edinburgh Research Archive Statistics: June 2019

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Connecting with Patrick Geddes and friends: the intern experience

Phew!  That was a fast 8 weeks! As our archive cataloguing project intern, Sorina Mihai, nears the end of her internship, we invited her to share the highs and lows of her experience.  Tasked with creating 640 new catalogue descriptions, cataloguing a discreet series of correspondence, creating social media content, presenting her work to peers (among other things) – Sorina certainly had her work cut out for her. Has working with Patrick Geddes and his archive collections changed her forever?  Let’s find out…  

Selection of correspondence from the Patrick Geddes papers (Ref:T-GED12/3)

It has been an exciting eight weeks which gave me tremendous satisfaction from the variety of tasks I was involved in, from handling 19th and 20th century correspondence to having access to the beautiful Patrick Geddes Collections. The internship enabled me to gain a deeper understanding and insight into the archives profession, and allowed me to think more broadly about archives cataloguing and its importance.  On a personal level, I have developed my organisational skills and gained more self-confidence. I can see how my work facilitates access and discovery to archive collections, enhancing the capacity of researchers to browse catalogue descriptions online to discover new correspondents and connections. My experience has helped me to understand that an archivist’s role is not just about preserving collections, but also about conserving, promoting and making information accessible to existing and new audiences. Archives not only provide evidence of activities and their context, they also increase our knowledge and understanding of individuals, history, ideas, theories and cultures. This was an immense opportunity to gather knowledge and experience to support my future career as an archive and information professional.

I have enjoyed cataloguing a series of correspondence which relates to Patrick Geddes’ educational projects and spans some 45 years, 1886-1931 (Ref: T-GED12/3). It reveals many of Geddes’ social and educational enterprises, such as providing comfortable and affordable lodging for students, making education more accessible for the working classes through the University Extension Scheme, and using historical theatrical performances to educate audiences through ‘Masques of Learning’. Other correspondence within this series discusses outdoor nature study, adult and teacher training, Summer Meetings and university work in Calcutta, India. Multiple locations are covered, from Scotland, England, India, and France, to the U.S.A. and Israel. The financial strains of the Town and Gown Association and Geddes’ University Student Halls in Edinburgh and London are also documented. In this series of letters, Geddes’ correspondents are mainly teachers, educators, social reformers, scientists, and academics. Discovering fascinating personalities such as Robert Smith (1874-1900), botanist; Jessie Mabel Dearmer (1872-1915), novelist, dramatist, children’s book author and illustrator; Helen Walton (1859-1945), artist; Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy (1877-1947), art historian; and Maurice Paterson (1836-1917), educationist (to name only a few) was such a pleasure.

This series of correspondence also reflects Geddes’ deep interest in educational reform as well as his capacity to work on many projects at the same time. His London ‘Masque of Learning’ in 1913 was so successful, that after the original representations to the general public, it was extended for the benefit of schools and historians taking part in an International Historical Congress. Afterwards, Geddes made tentative preparations for staging ‘The Masque of Learning’ at the International Exhibition in Ghent later that year, while at the same time planning his own contribution to the exhibition.

Marie Bonnet, first on the left, with Edith Hilliard, Norah, Arthur and Alasdair Geddes (Ref: T-GED 22/3/15/2)

Part of my internship required me to create two comprehensive name authorities which document individuals and their relationships with other people within the collection, in accordance with recognised international professional archival standards. Historically, women have often been underrepresented in archive catalogues.  There is a vast network of female correspondents and collaborators to be found within the Patrick Geddes archive collections and drawing out the identities, stories and contributions of these women was an area which I was keen to contribute to.  With the support of project archivist Elaine, I elected to create a name authority description for Anna Geddes (1857-1917), music teacher and Patrick Geddes’ wife and constant collaborator, and the other for Marie Bonnet (1874-1960), a social reformer and close family friend who belonged to the Montpellier Geddes circle. The research process presented its own challenges, because of limited biographical resources, inconsistent dates in Marie Bonnet’s case, and fragmented information on Anna Geddes which focused mainly on her domestic life.  This required investing more time and effort in the research process, which made me reflect on my time management practices and the need to factor in buffer time to deal with unexpected challenges.

Undertaking research in order to create name authorities has enabled me to discover and use biographical online resources, as well as relevant biographies on the life and time of Patrick Geddes. It has widened my background knowledge on Patrick Geddes’ interests and network of correspondents, as well as the culture and social movements of the second half of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. This has helped me better understand, interpret and contextualise the correspondence and articulate this clearly in the catalogue descriptions.

Sorina Mihai, archive cataloguing intern, presenting her work to professional peers.

Sorina Mihai, archive cataloguing intern, presenting her work to professional peers.

The internship allowed me to hone my social media and presentation skills. As my experience in these fields was previously limited, this was an important development area for me and I feel I have benefited enormously from the experience. Tweeting collection highlights, participating in Twitter campaigns on ‘International Archives Day’ and ‘What’s in the Archive Box’, allowed me to understand how social media can be used as an outreach tool for collection promotion and discovery. Using photograph collages and Movie Maker apps to create visual content which reflected the collection, allowed me to experiment with new and innovative engagement tools.  Being active on social media also made me aware of the complex challenges presented by copyright legislation and compliance. I gained more knowledge surrounding the copyright of visual materials in particular, which complemented my training from the ‘Information Law’ module of my Information and Library Studies MSc.

Sorina selected a range of items for display, such as correspondence, leaflets, books and photographs from the T-GED Collection, University of Strathclyde Archives and Special Collections.

Delivering presentations about my work within the project has given me more confidence in myself and my capacity to speak in front of an audience. It was a good opportunity to develop the capacity to plan, structure, curate and exhibit materials needed for my presentation. My previous experience in helping project archivist Elaine deliver a presentation at the beginning of the internship was very useful in terms of time-planning, structuring, selecting and presenting items from the collections in a coherent and comprehensive manner. It also made me realise that the way we articulate and share information about what we do can influence the audience’s perception of the collection, communicate its importance and gather wider support from people in the community, professionals, and funding organisations.

The process of writing about my internship was a great way to reflect on my experience and consolidate my learning, as well as thinking through how I may apply that to my professional development. Additionally, blog posts are a useful outreach tool which allow people to find out more about the project and its goals, by providing new information about the collection, the work undertaken and present progress. Like presentations, they are useful advocacy tools for increasing visibility and demonstrating the value of archival work and collections.

What I’ve enjoyed most about the internship was the variety it offered, the opportunities to develop and enhance skills across a broad range of activities that reflect current and future practice within the archives field. I am grateful for the opportunity to have covered cataloguing, professional international archival standards, and legislation that impacts on archives. Audience engagement and development, advocacy, reflective writing, research skills, and having contact with so many professionals in the field in such a short time has also been immensely beneficial. I now feel more confident in using international archival standards, giving presentations, managing my time and multitasking. The tasks assigned were realistic and could be completed within the 8 week time-frame.

I also feel deeply grateful and fortunate to have worked with a team of such dedicated, talented and amazing professionals, who gave me constant support and shared so much of their knowledge and passion for their work as archivists. I wish to thank project archivist Elaine most of all for her constant support, encouragement, guidance and for making the internship so interesting and rewarding. I wish to thank the teams at the Centre for Research Collections at the University of Edinburgh and the Strathclyde Archives and Special Collections for making the internship such a wonderful experience, it was a pleasure working with you all!

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IIIF Conference, Göttingen, June 2019

The Western European heatwave coincided perfectly with this year’s IIIF Conference in Göttingen, causing many a delegate to hastily clamour to the thrift stores to obtain more appropriate attire for 36° temperatures. As usual, it was a vibrant week of sharing and showcasing; indeed, the conference displays exactly the tenets IIIF holds true to its heart.

Edinburgh were heavily involved again: on the planning committee, moderating sessions and giving two presentations. The first of these was a lightning talk about the possibilities of IIIF V3 Presentation API (and AV): with duration and time as a co-ordinate on the canvas, we can bring video and audio into our manifests as well as images and text. The three examples shown were Rhinos (embellishment of art), Recitals (contextualisation of musical instruments) and World Cup Finals (storytelling- the most ‘fun’ of the three (well, it is if you like football, and Scotland’s men’s team’s ability to crumble as badly  as the women’s))- to watch any of these, press Load URL JSON to bring the manifest in, and then press Play. The second talk was delivered jointly with Dieter Van Hassel from the Royal Museum for Central Africa, on the subject of Digital Objects in Archives Space, and the possibilities of embedding the Universal Viewer in that application.

A number of interesting possibilities cemented themselves in our minds this week. These included:

  • (From a workshop) possibilities of overhauling our collections sites to use Mirador 3 as their content viewer now it is almost ready to use.
  • (From a workshop) making use of Goobi in the light of the digital library workflow overhaul, DLIB001 (some very useful offline conversations took place around this project in general).
  • Making use of Transkribus, the Handwriting Text Recognition tool, with its IIIF possibilities.
  • Now we are nearly at the stage of being able to publish Rare Books and Archives manifests through a firm endpoint, pushing the content out to the Biblissima aggregator at the BnF.
  • Making use of the great work with search and OCR that Mike Bennett has been doing on the Scottish Session Papers project to enhance manifests for Archives, Rare Books and Museums objects.
  • Building on with the work of the Coimbra Collections site in our ability to serve up multiple institutions’ IIIF content (here Göttingen and Durham have given us their manifests to allow this).

It was, of course, another hugely worthwhile conference: there’s plenty of interesting development to come in IIIF both within the community and our institution. We’ll keep you informed as things happen.

Scott Renton- Library Digital Development

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Movers and Shakers

Movers and Shakers by Madeleine Leisk CC BY-NC


Summer is the time when our day-to-day service at the University Collections Facility is at its quietest. The undergraduate cohort has flown the nest and are busy celebrating their well-earned graduations, so book requests are limited to the few postgraduates and external researchers enjoying the comparative tranquility of the library. However, this doesn’t mean we sit in idleness enjoying the view of the rolling stacks, since it is also the perfect time to undertake any re-distribution of collections and re-configuring of spaces. The opening of our shiny new Unit 3 facility housing the art and musical instrument collections has emptied out areas in the other two units. Subsequently, the last few weeks has seen a surge of staff presence at the UCF as we tackle several large collections moves.

First was the shifting of the Research Support Collection from Unit 1 to Unit 2. This was the least geographically challenging of all the moves since it remained within the same building, but still involved much re-arranging and re-labeling of shelves. It also allowed the opportunity of handling one of our most diverse collections – a run of bibliographies caught my eye in particular, including catalogues of Persian Manuscripts, Greek Papyri and the collections of the Bibliotheca Vaticana. One volume, intriguingly titled A Bibliography of Unfinished Books (RSC Ref. Z 1025 Cor.) was published in 1915 and declares in its preface: “No book of importance is considered complete now-a-days unless valuable aid is given to the student by the addition of a list of books closely connected with the subject he is studying. He is thus able to pursue his course of reading by reference to these authorities.” Such is succinctly summarised the importance of the Research Support Collection!

Next up was the temporary transfer of collections from the Art and Architecture library to the UCF to allow for renovation works happening to that building, which involved the coordination of teams on both ends as books were moved between sites. This move will be mirrored before the beginning of the autumn semester as the books head back to their rightful place in readiness for the next wave of art and architecture students.

The last and largest of the moves was that of the Semple collection. Originally homed at New College, it has spent several months in external storage before arriving at the UCF last week and is primarily made up of religious texts from the school of divinity. Comprising approximately 20,000 bound volumes or 800 linear metres of books it was a huge job to move in. Many of the items were in fragile condition with friable covers and so required extremely gentle handling. Supervisors were on hand to provide a first-line check of each box of books in order to identify any immediate conservation hazards. This is now being followed up by three project collections assistants who are undertaking a more thorough survey of individual volumes and assigning each a conservation priority level. As they work through the collection they will be bestowing the accolade of ‘Find of the Week’ to their most interesting discoveries – so watch this space!

Now that this hectic burst of activity has dissipated somewhat we are returning to ‘normal’ levels of activity out here at the UCF. Each move was meticulously planned and involved members of staff from all over information services travelling out to the Gyle to chip in and do their bit. It once again firmly impressed upon me the inherently collaborative nature of collections work and the dedication of this particular library team.

Daisy Stafford, UCF Library Assistant

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