The Metamorphosis of Patrick Geddes

Work continues on re-cataloguing the Geddes family photographs.  Working in such close proximity with these photographic collections has provided a rare opportunity to follow intimately the changing face of Patrick Geddes throughout his lifespan. We hope you enjoy the visual journey as much as we did.

  • Carte de Visite, studio portrait of Patrick Geddes, aged 10. May 1864 (Ref: Coll-1167/GFP).
    Patrick Geddes, aged 10. May 1864

Sticky Situations

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.

Cataloguing the Sir Patrick Geddes papers

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.

Sample of photographic images held in the Sir Patrick Geddes collection at the Univesity of Edinburgh

Sample of images from the Sir Patrick Geddes family photographs held at the University of Edinburgh (Ref: Coll-1167/3/GFP).

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.

Sample of legacy catalogues and indexes created by colleagues at the former Patrick Geddes Centre.

Sample of legacy catalogues and indexes created by 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.

Illustration of new electronic interim catalogue

Illustration of new electronic interim catalogue

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.

Black and white photograph of Sir Patrick Geddes sat in a window recess with a sculpture (unidentified) to his right.

Sir Patrick Geddes sat in window recess with sculpture to his right. (Ref: Col1167/3/GFP/5).

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 elaine.macgillivray@ed.ac.uk

Hello!

Welcome to the first blog post from the ‘Evergreen: Patrick Geddes and the Environment in Equilibrium’ project.  The Project Archivist has now begun work on cataloguing the significant Patrick Geddes collections held by Edinburgh University’s Centre for Research Collections and Strathclyde University’s Archives and Special Collections.  Over the coming months we will keep you updated about project progress and will share some of the fascinating collections discoveries and highlights that are sure to be uncovered during the course of the project.

You can read more about the project in the About Us part of this blog.