I am a recent addition to the Cultural Heritage Digitisation Service team. I was previously a studio photographer, with an additional specialism in biological and microscopic photography. My scientific artwork has been exhibited in Edinburgh and was recently shortlisted for the Royal Photographic Society’s International Open Call. My previous digitisation and archival experience stems from my master’s degree in biological photography, where we had an extensive selection of taxidermy animals, skeletons and pinned insects. Some moths were over 200 years old!
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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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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”).
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.
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.