Globe trekking with the Roslin Glass Slides Collection

'Step Cutting on Ice Face, Tasman Glacier, New Zealand'. Photograph of two men step cutting on the ice face of the Tasman Glacier, New Zealand in the late 19th or early 20th century.

Currently I am based in the Digital Imaging Unit where I am responsible for digitising a large number of glass plate positive slides (about 3500!) which make up part of the Towards Dolly Project within the Roslin Collection. The digitisation project itself – aptly named ‘Science on a Plate’ – is funded by the Wellcome Trust and is due for completion at the end of April 2015. Only this week, the first batch of 1000 images have been made publicly accessible via the University of Edinburgh Image Collections website.

Having worked through over 1300 images so far, it is difficult to know where to start when attempting to whittle down the numbers to a small selection of favourites to post here. I have, therefore, simply chosen a handful of images that seem to jump out at me for one reason or another. These images do something to represent the wide-reaching nature of the Roslin Glass Slides Collection; many document people and animals at a particular time and place, whilst others are more informative and study-based. The collection contains images that span the globe. I am constantly surprised as I move through them. One minute I will be looking at a photograph of a Clydesdale horse at a show in Brunstane Park, Edinburgh, and the next minute I will be looking at a sable in eastern Africa or an indigenous tribe in India. The collection is vast, diverse and engaging all at once.

The descriptions of the slides within the collection’s metadata (as can be seen in the photo captions below) often go as follows; ‘…in the late 19th or early 20th century’. Specific dates are rare. The majority of the people photographed are unidentified, with the photographer, or author, also largely being unknown. With this in mind, it is understandable that some of the stories, and histories, surrounding the images are slightly thin on details. By having the slides digitised, and viewable online, this will hopefully encourage some of these gaps in information to be filled. Already, Grant Buttars, the Deputy University Archivist, has picked up on a distant family tie as one of the images depicts a ‘Mr Buttar’ (see in images below) at the Highland Show in 1913. With the entire collection soon to be made publicly available online, l can only hope that similar connections and discoveries continue.

'A Leper'. Photograph of a leper being carried by two boys with a pole and hanging bench 'for alms' in Keonjhar, Orissa, India in the late 19th or early 20th century.

‘A Leper’. Photograph of a leper being carried by two boys with a pole and hanging bench ‘for alms’ in Keonjhar, Orissa, India in the late 19th or early 20th century.

'Steamer, Suez Canal'. Photograph of a steam ship on the Suez Canal in the late 19th or early 20th century.

‘Steamer, Suez Canal’. Photograph of a steam ship on the Suez Canal in the late 19th or early 20th century.

'Ruins'. Photograph of ruins of a church or other building with two people dressed as British policemen hold hands as they stand on a platform and two men stand to the side with a horse and cart in the early 20th century.

‘Ruins’. Photograph of ruins of a church or other building with two people dressed as British policemen hold hands as they stand on a platform and two men stand to the side with a horse and cart in the early 20th century.

'Street Hawker in Buenos Aires'. Photograph of a street hawker selling strainers, pots and pans in Buenos Aires, Argentina in the late 19th or early 20th century.

‘Street Hawker in Buenos Aires’. Photograph of a street hawker selling strainers, pots and pans in Buenos Aires, Argentina in the late 19th or early 20th century.

Photograph of a group of men: Runciman, Wilson, Buttar, R[obert] Wallace, Lord Lucas, H Wallace and McLaren standing together in a show ring at the Highland Show in 1913.

Photograph of a group of men: Runciman, Wilson, Buttar, R[obert] Wallace, Lord Lucas, H Wallace and McLaren standing together in a show ring at the Highland Show in 1913.

'Donkeys Waiting for Custom'. Two donkeys standing together on a beach waiting to be ridden in Wishaw, Lanarkshire, Scotland in 1974.

‘Donkeys Waiting for Custom’. Two donkeys standing together on a beach waiting to be ridden in Wishaw, Lanarkshire, Scotland in 1974.

'Large White [Boar], "Wandsworth Lion'.

‘Large White [Boar], “Wandsworth Lion”‘. Photograph of the Large White [boar], “Wandsworth Lion”, in a pen with a man standing behind it in the late 19th or early 20th century.

 

Photograph of men using a machine to press hay in [South Africa] in the early 20th century.

‘Hay Pressing’. Photograph of men using a machine to press hay in [South Africa] in the early 20th century.

'American Method of Cutting Up a Carcass of Beef Illustrated'.

‘American Method of Cutting Up a Carcass of Beef Illustrated’.

Copy stand setup.

Copy stand setup.

Above is an image of the technical setup I am using to digitise the slides. I shall give more details on the ins and outs of the process in my next blog post…

John
‘Science on a Plate’ Project Photographer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *