Cultural Heritage Digitisation Service Posts

Title page of the "Complete Pocketbook or Gentleman's and Tradesman's daily journal for the year of our Lord 1830"

Last month I started working at the Cultural Heritage and Digitisation Service (CHDS) as a Digitisation Operator. Before joining the team, I was working on a large digitisation project at the National Collection of Aerial Photography (NCAP) where some of my colleagues were of the robotic variety, known as ‘Cobots’. Coincidentally, some of the team at the CHDS had met the Cobots as part of the Association for Historical and Fine Art Photography (AHFAP) conference last year.

News Projects

Row of books, bound in old, cracked brown leather resting on a black background with spines facing outwards.Since April I have been an intern with the University of Edinburgh’s Cultural Heritage Digitisation Service (CHDS) and the Centre for Data, Culture and Society (CDCS), looking into text extraction processes at the University, both in library practice and thinking about how this is taught within digital scholarship. Throughout the internship I have had the opportunity to do both independent research and discussions with staff across the Library and University Collections (L&UC) to get a more in-depth understanding of text recognition processes.  

Cultural Heritage Digitisation School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences

Shelves containing old books from University of Edinburgh Library's Special Collections. Shelves are behind glass which has the phrase 'Thair to Remain' and the dates 1878, 1962 & 1967 stencilled onto the glass.

Over the past 6 months, I have had the pleasure of working with the Cultural Heritage Digitisation Service team as a DAMS (Digital Asset Management System: software used to manage digital heritage collections)  Assistant, working to build the foundations for the migration of these collections from the current DAMS (LUNA) to the new Digital Collections Platform (Archipelago).

Archive Collections Art Collections Cultural Heritage Digitisation Library Museum Collections

Detail of a dove detailed with red tartan from Edinburgh Women's Liberation Newsletter
Edinburgh Women’s Liberation Newsletter. detail of Tartan dove.

For the first few months of 2023, I have been using medium format photography to document a collection of zines, posters, photographs and booklets from the Lothian Health Service Archive. The material all relates to the epic struggle to educate on the topic of gay lives and HIV at a time in Edinburgh when bigotry and fear of contracting HIV were prominent, which led to Edinburgh being described in the popular media as the “Aids Capital of Europe.”

Cultural Heritage Digitisation Exhibitions LHSA

Over the last few months, our team has been working on digitising the Lothian Health Service Archive’s collection of Annual Public Health Reports for the City of Edinburgh. Comprising of 74 bound volumes of reports recording the public health of Edinburgh’s residents from 1865 to 1973, these documents are an absolute goldmine of information just waiting to be utilised by academics and researchers, covering everything from birth, death and disease rates to specific aspects of public health that were overseen by the City authorities, like infectious diseases or sanitation.

Cultural Heritage Digitisation LHSA Projects

The Cultural Heritage Digitisation Service (CHDS) has managed the Main Library’s Digital Wall since it was installed in late 2019.1 The Wall is made up of two sets of nine 4k screens which are operated by touch screens: users can navigate high resolution images of the library’s cultural heritage collections as well as watch videos that feature specific collection items, projects and pieces of work undertaken by library staff. When the Wall is not in use, it displays massive “Attractor” videos which run across all 18 screens, designed to draw users in. 

Cultural Heritage Digitisation Exhibitions Library

Black and white composite image of the death mask of William Burke, overlayed with the image of his skull, matching up eyes to eye sockets, teeth to mouth etc.

Last summer, I spent five days photographing the skeleton of William Burke to document recent conservation as a record for future collection care. The remains had been conserved and cleaned for the first time since the 1800s and the skeleton was going on display at the National Museum of Scotland for their 2022 exhibition “A Matter Of Death and Life“. I also photographed the life and death masks of Burke, Hare and Robert Knox (“the man who buys the beef”).

Cultural Heritage Digitisation Edinburgh Medical School

 

Recently I have had the joy of photographing a range of instruments from the collections at St Cecilia’s Hall .

Over the last few years, staff at St Cecilia’s have been identifying instruments currently displayed that need new photographs taken. In the end, approximately forty instruments were identified as needing re-photographed as the existing images were either black and white, of poor quality (typically scans of slides) or were taken before conservation treatment was carried out on the instruments and it was deemed necessary to update these images to better reflect the current state of these parts of the collection.

The aim of this project is to incorporate more sound into the visitor experience at St Cecilia’s Hall, through stand-alone interactives in each of the galleries as well as individual hand-held devices. A more dynamic website will replace the current app and can be used both in the stand-alone kiosk and on a smartphone/tablet.  These new images will be incorporated into the dynamic website/app and represent the collections both online and in-gallery, as well as replace the existing images on Musical Instrument Museums Online (MIMO) – a site dedicated to acting as a single access point for information on public musical instrument collections from around the world.

Cultural Heritage Digitisation Museum Collections Projects

The top section of the front page of an issue of the newspaper "the witness", yellowed with age, the title is centre top and the rest of the image is filled with articles in very small writing.

We have started digitising The Witness newspaper!

This twice weekly newspaper was created by the Church of Scotland in 1840 and edited by Hugh Miller (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Miller ), an influential writer, geologist and stone mason. The Church of Scotland wanted a newspaper that reflected a Christian outlook, as well as news and comment from across Scotland. In 1843 The Church of Scotland was faced with 200 ministers walking out citing political interference, an event which came to be known as the Disruption, and led to the Free Church being established. Presbyterianism is founded on the basis that the people make the decisions, not an elite hierarchy, and the only head of the church, is God. This makes The Witness newspaper a fantastic primary source covering a significant event in Scotland’s social and religious history, and as such, a prime candidate for digitisation.  

Archive Collections Library New College Projects School of Divinity

 

The Association for Historical and Fine Art Photogapher’s (AHFAP) conference is always a highlight of the year and, alongside 2and3D Photography at the Rijksmuseum and Archiving, it has become one of the must-attend events for any cultural heritage imaging professional. This year we were fortunate that AHFAP took place at the National Museum of Scotland here in Edinburgh, meaning for the first time ever the entire Cultural Heritage Digitisation team could attend! 

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