Last week our Project Conservator, Nicole Devereux, wrote about how she had uncovered an unusual sticky situation among the Patrick Geddes Collection photographs. Rising to the conservation challenge, Nicole explored some fascinating and experimental conservation processes in order to resolve this particular problem. Read more about Nicole’s work here.
Our project archivist, Elaine MacGillivray, provides an update on cataloguing work.
One of the major aims of our Wellcome Research-Resource funded project is to catalogue the papers of Sir Patrick Geddes held at both the University of Edinburgh and the University of Strathclyde. The completion of the cataloguing work will allow the remaining project conservation work to be undertaken and will facilitate the eventual virtual reuniting of the two collections of papers held at both institutions.
I am delighted to report that, after a 6 month hiatus, the cataloguing work which was started in 2017, has re-commenced in earnest. I have been undertaking a stock-take of the Geddes family photographs that are held at the University of Edinburgh, along with creating descriptive content of these for the new collection catalogue.
The Geddes family photographs held at the University of Edinburgh are a fascinating series of approximately 175 photographs which range in size, format and content. Photographic processes discovered include ambrotypes, albumen prints, Carte de Visite through to black and white photographic prints. These illustrate not only Sir Patrick Geddes in formal portraits but also include informal compositions of his family and associates in a variety of locations including, but not exclusive to, their home in Perth, Scotland; the College des Ecossais at Montpellier, France; and also in Mumbai (then Bombay), India. The collection contains original items, duplicates and some related items or duplicates can be found within our own collections at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Strathclyde but also at other institutions, such as the National Library of Scotland.
To create a catalogue of a photographic collection, an incredible amount of descriptive content needs to be captured, not only in relation to the photograph subject matter but also in relation to the photographers; photograph formats; the photographic processes; and whether the items are original or duplicate (which is not always easy to establish!). I have also been looking to record the relationships with duplicate or related archive items held elsewhere in other institutions. Thankfully, much of this information had already been captured previously in the extensive work undertaken by our colleagues at the former Patrick Geddes Centre.
Containing a phenomenal amount of information these inherited lists and indexes were previously only available as hand-written lists and were each arranged in a different way; some numerical, some chronological and some alphabetical and sometimes with differing descriptive content relating to the same photographic item. A sometimes complex process, the descriptive information gleaned from the legacy catalogues and indexes, was however successfully captured and condensed into one electronic document. Creating an electronic and condensed version of these catalogues which combined all of their content has provided us with a fairly comprehensive interim catalogue of the Geddes family photographs. This is already a fantastic step forward in enabling access to this part of the Sir Patrick Geddes collection.
A stock-take of the physical photographs is now well underway. During the stock-take we will also assess the physical condition of the photographs to inform remaining conservation work (this will include re-housing the collection); and additional descriptive content and corrections will be added to the interim catalogue. Once thoroughly checked and edited the content from the interim catalogue will be transferred to the University of Edinburgh’s online archive and manuscript collections catalogue and made available to the public. In the mean-time, we look forward to sharing many of the highlights from the Sir Patrick Geddes photographic collections that we discover in the coming weeks.
Can you help?
I would be very interested to hear from any Geddes experts who may be able to help me identify the sculpture in the background of the photograph above of Sir Patrick Geddes sat in a window recess. If you can help, I would be delighted to hear from you, you can email your thoughts to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
In February we held a crowdsourcing event at Strathclyde University. The event took place over two days with the help of 23 volunteers. The aim of the two days was to rehouse the Geddes papers in archival four flap folders. The collection required new housing due to it being in non-archival folders that were too small and over filled. This was causing significant damage to the collection and making it difficult to access when an item was requested.
The part of the collection best suited for this event consists of 180 boxes of which 153 required rehousing. The rest of the collection has already been rehoused and is made up of journals and photographs. The damage found in the collection was tears, surface dirt, creasing and folds which were caused by unsuitable housing and poor handling before the collection arrived at the archives. Conservation work was carried out to stabalise the material before work could begin.
Each day began with a short presentation given by the University Archivist, Victoria Peters and Project Conservator Nicole Devereux. This involved introducing the work of Patrick Geddes, described the conservation work carried out and explaining why the collection needed rehousing. This was followed by a training session on how to rehouse the collection with the rest of the day to start the practical work. In the afternoon subject librarians joined us to chat to volunteers about their roles within the library which was a great way for everyone to network.
It was estimated it would take an individual conservator ten weeks to rehouse the material which we aimed to complete in two days. The event was also a great way to promote the collection and to make individuals aware of the Patrick Geddes collection held at Strathclyde University and the University of Edinburgh.
The two days were a great success with 143 out of 153 boxes rehoused! The event was well attended with a variety of people from different backgrounds. We would like to say a massive THANK YOU to everyone who was involved.