This week the Centre for Research Collections is running its very first Summer School to provide an overview of different aspects of the heritage sector; with a focus on collections, exhibitions and engagement. We are participating in the Summer school ourselves, and will be taking over the CRC’s social media – so make sure to check out our Facebook and Twitter takeover.
The programme offers its participants hands on experience from a variety of professionals. Staff ranging from an Academic Support Librarian who showed us how much interaction and support the library provides to its users, to Rachel Hosker – the Archive Manager, who presented a powerful case for the relevance of archival material as a ‘memory of society’ as well as highlighting the challenges of managing a collection. Possibly one of the most interesting sections of her presentation was the range of material in the collections: from manuscripts and letters, to drawings and records it was clear that archives contain a broad range of fascinating material which we were lucky enough to handle.
A fascinating afternoon session included an introduction to the Lothian Health Services Archive, which allowed us to engage with some of their many records and gain a greater understanding of the volume and range of records that they held. Using records such as these we were able to trace the lives of individuals, giving us a window into the everyday work of LHSA.
The day left us reflecting on the extent of the collaboration required between departments and individuals, and we look forward to furthering this understanding throughout the week.
Kirsty Bailey – October 2013
Norman Dott Project Volunteer
From March 2013 I have been volunteering on the Norman Dott project, cataloguing patient case notes using Encoded Archival Description (EAD) in an XML editor (<oXygen/>). I have found my work with this material absolutely fascinating, as each case note is unique and is so full of captivating information. Some of the files which I encounter include letters and cards between Norman Dott and his patients. Other files include drawings by Norman Dott, or photographs, sometimes of the patient, other times of tumours which have been removed. Each file seems to unveil a new insight into Dott himself, or the medical era within which he practiced, enabling you to reconstruct some form of understanding to the way he treated and dealt with his patients. My knowledge and interest in medicine and especially neurosurgery has flourished from spending time with these files; I feel they are just bursting with fascinating information, and each case is just captivating to read. More information about the project is available here: http://www.lhsa.lib.ed.ac.uk/projects/Cataloguingcasenotes.htm
LHSA Archive Intern and LHSA Conservation Intern (Fiona and Charlotte have been working with us as the LHSA interns for the past 10 weeks).
Fiona: I have been working on part of the LHSA photograph collection. My role here has been to create a new finding aid and re-house the photos (4000 photographs out of 40,000). Many of the photographs I have come across have been very interesting. The experience here has been great fun and I will be returning as a volunteer to complete the project since I am determined to finish it.
Charlotte: During the 10 weeks I have been working on a project to conserve and re-house items from a collection of letters, legal documents and title deeds relating to the Royal Edinburgh Infirmary. The earliest item is a parchment title deed dated 1594 and material continues up to the early 20th Century. An important part of the project was to survey the collection (which has not been catalogued) and decide with the LHSA archivist and conservator on items to prioritise. The parchment title deeds were a focus, but safe handling was difficult at times due to the way they are folded, their size and the nature of parchment as a material. I did some research to find the most suitable method of flattening the title deeds (where appropriate), storage has been created and a special folder made to help with safe handling when opening the title deeds. Some of the paper documents contained iron gall ink which was a concern as iron gall ink can severely degrade paper. Treatment options were chosen that were sensitive to the nature of iron gall ink and that would help to stabilise the documents.
Other activities were included in the internship; I led a training day for volunteers to learn about the basic principles of conservation and I have helped with student seminars as well as attending visits.
I have had an amazing time here at the University and have learnt so much! I really feel like a part of the team, and I am really sad that this is our last week here.