Stories beget stories – it’s one of my favourite things about them – and archives are built on precisely this strength. Archival collections, like those at the University of Edinburgh, do not simply store and preserve artefacts, but actually become a medium through which stories, both existing and those yet to be told, can find a voice. As these musings might already indicate, I’ve been recently reminded of the centrality of stories to archives through my time as a volunteer in the Digital Imaging Unit working on various papers related to Rachel Erskine, née Chiesley (bap.1679-1745), or, as she is more infamously known, Lady Grange.
Category: <span>School of Social and Political Science</span>
This year’s conference was hosted by The Imperial War Museum London. Diane Lees Director-General of the Imperial War Museums opened this year’s conference with the idea that “Photography delivers the…
When Fraser Parkinson first contacted us about the collection of historic photographs of Leith that he had been entrusted with, my colleagues and I at the Centre for Research Collections were very excited. The photographs were taken to show the slums of Leith prior to the ‘Edinburgh (Leith) Improvement Scheme of 1924’, where large areas were to be cleared and rebuilt. Fraser tells us that:
‘The Town Council Minutes of 3rd April 1924 propose the demolition or reconstruction of ‘certain houses, courts, and alleys unfit for human habitation’.
The concerns of William Robertson, Medical Officer of health for the City and Royal Burgh of Edinburgh, were that the
‘narrowness, closeness and bad arrangement, or the bad condition of the streets and houses, or the want of light, air, ventilation or proper conveniences or other sanitary defects are dangerous or injurious to the health of the inhabitants of the buildings in the said Areas, or of the neighbouring buildings.’
The scheme involved large-scale demolition in this area of Leith, and the re-housing of most displaced residents out-with the areas covered by the scheme.
These photographs were taken as a record of the area at this time by the City Council. They provided the photographic evidence of the conditions that presented significant risk to public health at this time.’
Over the course of digitising the Roslin Slide Collection, amongst all the slides of tables, charts and the like, it has been the images of people, and their animals, that have grabbed my attention most of all. I have noticed two particular styles of photographic composition that are common throughout; the group shot (still popular today of course!) and the ‘one man and his animal’ shot. These images provide a sort of typology where the composition often remains the same with the people and environment changing.
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.
An exciting new exhibition on the 6th floor of the main library in the Centre for Research Collections opens on the 13th November 2014 and runs until 27th of February 2015. The exhibition will include a selection of Edinburgh Universities collection of Paolozzi plaster maquettes which are wonderful three dimensional drawings of his ideas. The Digital Imaging Unit was tasked to photograph the Josephine Baker Bronze to coincide with this exhibition. We have produced a short day in the life film of the Digital Imaging Unit at work on the Paolozzi Bronze which you can see below. A larger better quality version is available by clicking the vimeo link below the film.
I first became aware of Paolozzi through an exhibition held at the Royal Scottish Academy for the Edinburgh 1984 International Festival called "Recurring Themes” , I still own the catalogue. His work and life made a lasting impression on me as a young man. The early collage work blew my mind and the way he fed pop culture back to ourselves dismantled and rearranged raising questions about pop culture itself was remarkable.
Last year the Salvesen Collection, which has been in the possession of the University since 1969, was given permission to make the images publically available online for the first time.…
Last week I was sent a wonderful book, Deletrix – a collaboration between the artist Joan Fontcuberta, Catalan PEN and Arts Santa Mònica and it explores censorship and violence done…