Planning for Humanity: Patrick Geddes in India, 1914-1924

This October we celebrate the 165th anniversary of Patrick Geddes’ birth (2 October 1854).  We bring you news of a series of upcoming events which commemorate Patrick Geddes and his long-standing relationship with India. 

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We are popping up!  We are offering a unique opportunity to view material from the Patrick Geddes Archives held by both the Universities of Edinburgh and Strathclyde. Two small complementary displays are available to view at the University of Edinburgh Main Library and the University of Strathlcyde Andersonian Library (levels 3 and 5). Planning for Humanity: Patrick Geddes in India, 1914-1924, celebrates Geddes’ unique contribution to urban planning in India.

Both displays will run throughout October 2019 and are available to view by staff, students and members of the public, between 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday.  If you are a member of the public, simply let staff at the front desk of the library you are visiting know that you are interested in viewing the display and you will be issued with a temporary visitors pass. Please note that at the University of Edinburgh Library you will be required to provide photographic ID in order to gain access to the library and view the display.

University of Edinburgh's South Asia Week 2019 Website graphicCongratulations to colleagues at Edinburgh Global who have compiled a fantastically full and varied programme as part of the University of Edinburgh’s South Asia Week 2019. Do not miss the Ahmedabad Walls exhibition! This is a unique opportunity see the history of Ahmedabad through the eyes of Mumbai based architect and aerial photographer Robert Stephens. Stephens’ aerial photography references Patrick Geddes’ 1915 observations of the historic walled city, and features excerpts from archive material from the Patrick Geddes archives and from Stephens’ own collections.

Robert Stephens first visited Scotland to research the Patrick Geddes archives in June 2018. During his visit, a chance conversation with our project archivist, Elaine MacGillivray, led to the two collaborating on two events in March 2019, in India. Thanks to funding from generous University of Edinburgh alumni, Elaine travelled in the footsteps of Geddes, highlighting the Patrick Geddes archives and sharing project news with passionate and enthused audiences in both Ahmedebad and Mumbai. You can view Elaine’s CEPT University talk on YouTube.

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a selection of images from elaine and robert’s collaborative patrick geddes events with CEPT UNIVERSITY, Ahmedbad and artisan’s gallery, mumbai, which took place in March 2019.  Images Courtesy of ROBERT STEPHENS AND Tina Nandi.

 

The University of Edinburgh’s South Asia Regional Director Amrita Sadarangani aided the success of Elaine’s visit to India enormously. One afternoon, in the beautiful Ministry of New offices in Mumbai, Amrita and Elaine sat together discussing potential “Geddes inspired” collaborations. Amrita suggested that we connect Stephens with our very own School of Architecture colleague, Dr Dorian Wiszniewski.  Subsequently, and after a lot of hard work behind the scenes, we are thrilled that this October will see the opening of Ahmedebad Walls at the Matthew Architecture Gallery in Edinburgh. Thanks go to everyone who has helped to make it happen.

Ahmedabad Walls Exhibition Poster

“Ahmedabad Walls” Exhibition Poster

Robert Stephens and Professor Bashabi Fraser (Edinburgh Napier University) will be in conversation with Dr Dorian Wiscniewski on the evening of 2 October 2019. Set to be a fascinating discussion, which covers Geddes,Tagore and Gandhi, this event immediately precedes the official launch of Stephens’ Ahmedebad Walls exhibition. This special opening event will start at 6pm at the Adam House Lecture Theatre, followed at 7pm by a visit to the Ahmedabad Walls exhibition at the Matthew Architecture Gallery.  Ahmedabad Walls runs 2 – 25 October 2019 at the Matthew Architecture Gallery, Minto House, Chambers Street, Edinburgh.

There will be a futher opportunity to engage with Robert Stephens and Dorian Wiszniewski on Friday 4 October, when they host their ‘In Conversation’ event at the Ahmedabad Walls exhibition. You can find out about this event and all the other South Asia week events on the Edinburgh Global website.

Patrick Geddes Centre Autumn Programme Title PageLast but by no means least – as part of the Patrick Geddes Centre’s autumn programme, Elaine and Robert reunite on 2 October 2019. Together with Dorian Wiszniewski, and the Patrick Geddes Centre’s education officer, Russell Clegg, they will lead a public study day which includes presentations on Geddes and India, followed by archive and exhibition visits. For more information and to book a place visit the Patrick Geddes Centre website or Eventbrite. It’s going to be a busy month – we hope you can join us in the celebrations!

If you would like to know a little more about Patrick Geddes in India, visit our February 2019 blog post To the City, In the City, For the City

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!

Patrick Geddes Archives project extended until March 2020

Paris: bird's eye view from the north of the Isle de la Cite

Coll-1167/A/6/8: Paris: bird’s eye view from the north of the Isle de la Cite

With immediate effect our project archivist, Elaine MacGillivray, will be looking after two collaborative Wellcome Research Resource-funded archive projects.  Elaine will continue to work on our own ‘Evergreen: Patrick Geddes and the Environment in Equilibrium’ project, and has taken on responsibility for another fascinating archives project ‘Body Language: movement, dance and physical education in Scotland, 1890-1990′. Elaine will be splitting her time 50/50 between the two projects which will see her working (usually) Tues-Wed on the Evergreen project and Thurs-Fri on the Body Language project.  This means that our Evergreen project will now extend until March 2020.

The extended time affords an opportunity to create and enhance even more catalogue descriptions, and to engage with more volunteers, interns and student placements.  We will also be able to undertake public engagement activity up until March 2020.  We are very pleased that this extended window will allow us more time to shine a spotlight on Patrick Geddes and his ideas, and to share with you some of the collection highlights uncovered during the project.

Like the recently re-discovered beautiful pencil and wash drawing shown above. It shows a ‘Bird’s Eye View of Paris from the north of the Isle de la Cite’.  The eagle-eyed among you may notice Notre Dame Cathedral minus its steeple.  This particular item is undated and we have yet to investigate the possible author.  If any of you can shed any light as to the origin and date of this item please do get in touch.  We would be delighted to hear from you.

 

Archives Internship Opportunity

Sample bundle of letters from the Patrick Geddes Collections, University of Strathclyde Archives and Special Collections

We are delighted to be able to offer an 8-week, archive cataloguing project internship opportunity, working with the Wellcome Research Resource-funded archive project ‘Evergreen: Patrick Geddes and the Environment in Equilibrium’.  This is a fantastic opportunity for a student or new archive career professional to develop and demonstrate core archival skills. The internship will involve contributing to the enhancement of online archive catalogue descriptions relating to the fascinating correspondence of Patrick Geddes, helping to enhance and promote access to the collections. Closing date: 29 March 2019.  Interviews: 18 Arpil 2019.  Start date: 13 May 2019.

 

To the city, in the city, for the city: Patrick Geddes in India

Our project archivist, Elaine MacGillivray, travels to India later this week to deliver presentations at the CEPT Archives (Architecture, Planning and Design) in Ahmedabad, and at the ARTISANS’ gallery in Mumbai. In advance of touch-down in India, we take a brief look at Geddes’ experience there.

Patrick Geddes and class of 1919, University of Bombay Department of Sociology and Civics (Ref: Coll-1869/11)

Patrick Geddes and class of c1919, University of Bombay Department of Sociology and Civics (Ref: Coll-1869/11)

Patrick Geddes first travelled to India in the autumn of 1914. He was 60.  Prompted by the success of Geddes’ urban regeneration projects in the Edinburgh Old Town, Lord Pentland, (the then Governor of Madras), had invited Geddes to travel to India to advise on urban planning issues.  In that first of many seasons that Geddes was to spend in India he was accompanied by his eldest son Alasdair.  Together, they travelled thousands of miles across the vast country, all the time surveying each of the cities they visited.  After arriving at Bombay, they headed north to Ahmedabad, Ajmer, Jaipur, Agra and to New Delhi before travelling across India to Lucknow, Cawnpur, Allahabad, Benares, Calcutta and then southward to Madras.

Geddes had planned to show in India, his favoured tool of civic education, the Cities and Town Planning Exhibition. He faced an unfortunate setback when the ship transporting his exhibition to India, the Clan Grant, was sunk near Madras by the German ship, the Emden.  Aided by friends and colleagues at home, a committee, led by H.V. Lanchester, collected and forwarded a replacement exhibition. The first shipment made it to Madras by December 1914.  The exhibition, comprising over 3000 maps, prints and photographs and set out on a quarter-mile of wall and screen, opened at the Senate Hall of Madras University on 17 January 1915.  Geddes went on to tour his Cities and Town Planning Exhibition across India.  The exhibits make up much of the Patrick Geddes archive collections now held at the universities of Edinburgh and Strathclyde.

An example of the plethora of notes made by Patrick Geddes' on India, its' cities, institutions and culture (Ref:T-GED/12/1/191a)

An example of the plethora of notes made by Patrick Geddes’ on India, its cities, institutions and culture (Ref:T-GED/12/1/191a)

Geddes worked tirelessly to survey and compose reports on Indian cities and towns, 13 alone in Madras.  Lewis Mumford, in his introduction to Jaqueline Tyrwhitt’s Patrick Geddes in India (1947), wrote that throughout Geddes’ time in India he worked to promote his ‘broad humanistic outlook on the social aspects of civic improvement’.[1]  To quote Geddes himself ‘town-planning is not mere place-planning, nor even work-planning.  If it is to be successful, it must be folk-planning’.[2]

The measure of the success of a city survey depends on its appeal to the individuals that compose the city: upon its power to rouse each from his, often life-long, training of seeing himself as a self-interested economic man and therefore mere dust of the State – to realising himself as an effective citizen valuing…his contribution to his city, in his city and for his city.[3]

Cities and Town Planning Exhibition at University of Bombay (Ref: T-GED/1/7/21a)

Cities and Town Planning Exhibition at University of Bombay (Ref: T-GED/1/7/21a)

After a season of touring the Cities and Town Planning Exhibition, surveying and reporting on Indian cities, Geddes returned to Scotland in the summer of 1915 to fulfil his teaching responsibilities as Chair of Botany at the University College Dundee. Thereafter, he continued to travel to India each autumn.  In 1917 he was prevented from travelling home to Scotland due to the dangers of being attacked by German U-boats.  Geddes, at this point, was accompanied by his wife Anna and together they planned a summer school in Darjeeling.  They recruited renowned Bengali polymath, poet, musician and artist, Rabindranath Tagore.  The school opened on 21 May 1917, and marks the beginning of Geddes and Tagore’s friendship.

It was in India in 1917 that Geddes was dealt the harshest of blows. In April, he received a telegram to advise that his eldest son Alasdair had been killed in action in France.  He bore this news alone for four months, afraid that sharing the news with his dear wife Anna would accelerate her own illness.  Devastatingly, his dearly beloved and stalwart companion, Anna, died at Calcutta in the summer of 1917.  She was unaware that she had been predeceased by her son.

Bereft, Geddes continued to work tirelessly to survey and report on Indian Cities, advocating and adapting his ideas on ‘diagnosis before treatment’, ‘conservative surgery’, and ‘regional survey for regional service’ to Indian traditions and values.  His attempt to study and understand the interaction between humans and their environment utilised a range of disciplines including biology, sociology, geography, geology, and town planning.  Sometimes he would only spend one or two swift days surveying a city.  In others cases, as for Indore, he would spend months, culminating in a two-volume planning report, published in 1918.

Geddes returned to Scotland for a period in 1919.  In the summer of 1919, he was offered the Chair of Sociology and Civics at the University of Bombay, by the then vice-chancellor, Sir Chimanlal Setalvad.  Now at the age of 65, Geddes accepted the offer.  By 1924, Geddes’ health had deteriorated and his contract with the University of Bombay was to come to an end. The success or otherwise of Geddes’ terms at the University of Bombay are debated.  Certainly, there is evidence that the University Senate expressed dissatisfaction at Geddes’ periods of absence (in some part due to his town-planning commitments in Palestine). Geddes left India in 1924 and settled in Montpellier in the south of France.

For more in-depth accounts of Patrick Geddes in India you may find the following publications a useful starting point:

  • Boardman, P., The Worlds of Patrick Geddes, (1978)
  • Fraser, B., A meeting of two minds: Geddes Tagore letters, (2005)
  • Tyrwhitt, J., Patrick Geddes in India, (1947)
  • Munshi, I., Patrick Geddes: Sociologist, Environmentalist and Town Planner, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 35, No. 6 (5-11 Feb 2000), pp.485-491

Elaine will be delivering presentations at the CEPT Auditorium, Ahmedabad on 1 March 2019, and at ARTISANS’, Mumbai on 5 March 2019.  For further information please contact Elaine elaine.macgillivray@ed.ac.uk

[1] Tyrwhitt, J., Patrick Geddes in India, (1947), p.16.

[2] Ibid., p.22.

[3] Ibid., p.35.

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

Crowdsourcing at Strathclyde University

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.

 

Over filled folders

 

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.

Volunteers at work rehousing

 

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.

Box after rehousing

 

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.

Conservation Volunteer

In this blog post Staphany Cheng talks about her time volunteering at Strathclyde University on the Patrick Geddes collection……

Archives and Special Collections at the University of Strathclyde is home to the Patrick Geddes papers, an incredible collection of over 4000 maps, plans, photographs, prints and drawings and over 45 metres of textual records, pamphlets and books. Patrick Geddes (1854-1932) was a biologist, sociologist and pioneering town planner, and was one of the greatest social thinkers of his time. The collection vividly documents the development of all his theories and is of international significance.

A doodle found when conserving the archival boxes

Over the last year, thanks to funding from the Wellcome Trust, the Centre for Research and Collections, University of Edinburgh has been working in collaboration with the University of Strathclyde in conserving the collection. I was very fortunate to be able to volunteer with Project Conservator Nicole Devereux, who is carrying out the conservation work in the project. Though I am currently completing my second year of an MPhil in Textile Conservation at the University of Glasgow I was particularly interested in working with the Geddes papers so that I could gain an interdisciplinary insight into the intricacies of paper conservation and archives and special collections.

Whilst paper and textile conservation have always been distinct disciplines, similarities exist in the material composition of the objects, the way that they are treated and the approaches that are taken by conservators. Often objects in each discipline will also have elements of the other, papers and books may have fabric samples, or embroidered covers and textile objects such as embroideries often have paper backing or lining. Under Nicole’s guidance I was able to apply my conservation knowledge into a different medium. The majority of the collection that I worked on exhibited soot around the edges of the pages this was removed with conservation grade vulcanized rubber sponges. Severe folds that obstructed the text were unfolded with a heated spatula. Tears that were considered vulnerable and likely to worsen with handling were supported with a remoistenable tissue made from Japanese paper and gelatin.

An example of textile and paper in the collection

Working with the Geddes Collection allowed me to see first hand the treatment of a large paper archival collection. And how standardizing treatments and storage for a range of different objects can be the most efficient way to conserve an entire collection in a short amount of time. The opportunity to experience the basics of paper conservation has allowed me to further appreciate both the differences and similarities between the two specialisms. It was also a wonderful opportunity to glimpse into the mind of Patrick Geddes. Working through the different boxes I never knew what I was going to find, some days there would be several folders of detailed botanical drawings and on others there were architectural plans for a new university or vegetable gardens for preschools.

Cyanotype photograph and plant specimens

While my time working with paper is over for now I would like to thank Nicole and Victoria Peters from Strathclyde University for this wonderful opportunity.