Is that Vegan…? Conscious conservation changes during the One Health Project and beyond.

By Amanda Dodd, Projects Conservator, Heritage Collections

In this week’s blog, Amanda Dodd reviews the work she did on the One Health Project with a particular focus on this use of more sustainable materials when conserving collections.

In October 2023 I took over as Project conservator for The One Health initiative. A little bit of background: The project, generously funded by the Wellcome Trust, was a monumental effort to catalogue, preserve, and provide access to three distinct archival collections pertaining to the evolution of animal health and welfare in Scotland from the 1840s onwards.​ These collections include the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies (R(D)SVS), OneKind Animal Charity, and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS).

A ornate frame fashioned from a piece of wood in a grey box with a small photograph lay on a table to the left of the box.

Above: Rehoused R(D)SVS photograph and ornate frame of O.C. Bradley.

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A big welcome to our new Student Collections Care Assistants

We are delighted to welcome three new people to the Conservation and Collections Management Team this month. Abigail Miskin, Ella Joyce and Isabela Tapia Hernandez will be joining us as our first ever Student Collections Care Assistants.

Ella, Abigail and Isabela will be working with us until the end of July on a range of different projects and activities. Let’s hear them introduce themselves in their own words:

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Who Made the MIMEd 4477 Double Manual Flemish Harpsichord? (Part1)

In the first post of this two part series, our Musical Instrument Care Technician (and former conservation intern), Esteban Mariño Garza, discusses his Musical Instrument Research and Documentation Internship project to try and discover who made one of the harpsichords in the Musical Instrument Collections of the University. Continue reading

It’s Friday the 13th!

It’s that time of the year when the leaves start changing, the air gets cooler, and I get creeped out by works in the collection…

As the Art Collection is an ever-moving beast, on display across the University of Edinburgh’s entire campus and beyond, I am responsible for overseeing the transport of artwork in and out of storage and ensuring locations are kept up to date. However, occasionally I can get spooked out by works that I swear that I’ve never seen before – a fitting topic for today’s Friday the 13th blog!

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CRC: A Space Odyssey – Day in the Life of a Collections Management Technician 

My name is Jasmine, and I’ve been working here at the University for five and a bit months as the Collections Management Technician. I’m the other half to Robyn Rogers’ role as Collections Care Technician, whose fantastic blog post about her recent work you can read here, and I work directly with the Appraisal Archivist and Archives Collection Manager, Abigail Hartley, whose equally wonderful blog post was featured last month.  

Abigail did a great job of defining appraisal and the challenges to the archivist when it comes to choosing what material to preserve. The archivist is often put in the position of assessing the ‘value’ of the record, a thorny process which comes with a number of ethical challenges. Thinking through these problems, it might seem easier to suggest that we simply keep everything we receive. If we get to keep everything, we don’t have to think through complicated questions, like what is the purpose of the record? And what is the purpose of the archivist? After all, if something has found its way into the archive, isn’t that an implicit statement of its value? Why appraise at all? 

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Appraisal Made Easy (If Only…): A Day in the Life of an Appraisal Archivist

Welcome to our Day in the Life Series, where each of our new team members will give you an insight into life behind the scenes at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Research Collections. In this post, our new Appraisal Archivist and Archive Collections Manager, Abigail Hartley, discusses what she has been up to since joining the Heritage Collections team in March. Expect one more post in this series, as we introduce our Collection Management Technician, Jasmine Hide.


You may have seen the other week my colleague Robyn upload a new blog regarding her role as Collections Care Technician. If you haven’t… Go go go! Take a look at the fantastic work she has undertaken thus far. Once you have returned, it is my turn to introduce myself and the work I’ll be tackling for the foreseeable future.

Let’s start from the beginning, shall we? My name is Abbie and I have been working at the University of Edinburgh as its Appraisal Archivist since April 2023. These past three months I have been creating an appraisal process and enacting some practice runs on smaller collections in preparation of being let loose amongst the backlog of records held at the assorted Heritage Collections sites across campus.

But what even is appraisal?

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Books, Boxes and Bugs! A day in the life of a Collections Care Technician at the Centre for Research Collections

Welcome to our new Day in the Life Series! The Conservation and Collections Management team recently recruited three new members of staff. In this series each of our new team members will give you an insight into life behind the scenes at The University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Research Collections. In this post, our new Collections Care Technician Robyn Rogers discusses what she has been up to since joining the team in March. Expect two more posts in this series, as we introduce our Appraisal Archivist and Archives Collection Manager, Abbie Hartley, and our Collections Management Technician, Jasmine Hide.


My first three months at the Centre for Research Collections have been jam packed – I have installed an exhibition, couriered a loan to the V&A Dundee, cleaned one hundred linear metres of rare books, and rehoused over seventy collection items – and that’s just a small selection of what I’ve been up to! On an average day you might find me jet setting across campus to move a harpsichord at St Cecilia’s Hall, or vising our offsite repository, the University Collections Facility, to clean some especially dirty books, before finishing the day in the Conservation Studio making some phase boxes. I feel fortunate to have worked with many fascinating collection items so far, from a Bible that had been rescued after falling down a well, to 60s pop stars’ microphone of choice. This demonstrates what I love about being a Technician working in cultural heritage – our work focuses on preventative collections care, as opposed to interventive treatment, allowing us to work with an exciting breadth of collections material.

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The Book Surgery Part 2: Bringing Everything Together

In this blog, Project Conservator Mhairi Boyle her second day of in-situ book conservation training she has undertaken with Book Conservator Caroline Scharfenberg (ACR). Mhairi previously undertook a Maternity Cover contract at the CRC within the Conservation Department.


In the previous blog, the examination and initial steps in spine repair and board reattachment of two volumes from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies (R(D)SVS) were described. The first blog in this series can be found here.

After my first session with Caroline, I sat down and pored over all my notes and the millions of photos I had taken. The amount of thought, precision and care that goes into book spine linings and repairs that will eventually be hidden and concealed shows how complex even in-situ book conservation steps can be. After jotting down my notes into a coherent order and cross-referencing everything with Caroline, I came back to the studio a few weeks later refreshed and ready for a full day of training and collaboration.

In this session, Caroline and I focused on making spine pieces and hollows, and examined how to reattach cracked book boards in different ways. One of the things I like most about working in Conservation is that we are constantly adapting and evolving techniques, tailoring them to the objects we are currently working on. This is exactly what Caroline demonstrated to me: informed by our initial examinations of both volumes, we tailored the treatment steps for each book based on its size, weight, and particular areas of weakness.

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Recovering Silent Sounds

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In this blog, Veronica Wilson discusses her project working with musical instruments in storage. Veronica started this project as a Thompson-Dunlop Intern and then joined the Conservation & Collections Management team as a Library Assistant (funded by Thompson-Dunlop endowment and the Nagler bequest).


Wolfson gallery at St Cecilia’s Hall

The University of Edinburgh holds a rare and unique collection of musical instruments. Many stand proudly on display in St Cecilia’s Hall, the music museum of the University, visible to the public and played by musicians from around the world. The rest are in storage, available only by request for research, study, or viewing. The collection at the University Collections Facility (UCF) consists of instruments too large to be stored in any of the other locations. Though the time since they were last played can span lifetimes, the collection is anything but silent.

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The Book Surgery is Open: Learning the Art of Book Spine Repairs

In this blog Project Conservator Mhairi Boyle discusses her new role within the One Health project at the CRC, and the training she has undertaken with Book Conservator Caroline Scharfenberg (ACR). 


In August, I started a new role as the Project Conservator for the One Health project within the Heritage Collections team. One Health brings together three archival collections which chart the development of animal health and welfare in Scotland. The collections in question are from OneKind, an animal welfare charity; the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RSZZ); and the University of Edinburgh’s Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies (R(D)SVS).

One of the challenges of this project is the variety of material I am working with. Whilst most of the material is loose leaf archival papers and photographs, we also have many bound volumes. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have chicken skeletons, animal medicines, vet tools, and graduation robes. In these cases, I will stick to preventive measures such as handling instructions and appropriate rehousing to enable ease of access and prevent any further damage.

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