Category Archives: Archive Collections

Explore the Geology with LUNA


Last week we were very excited to see a new LUNA collection go live- ‘Geology & Geologists’. This brings together images from the CRC’s Lyell collection (a wonderful mixture of correspondence and drawings), Arthur Holmes Geology medals, as well as recent images from The Cockburn Museum, School of GeoSciences. The Cockburn collection contains photographs of past Professors, and historic photos of the department as well as plates of fossilised fish.

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The National Monument of Scotland

Playfair, William Henry (b.1789, d.1857)  Return of Western Portico, 1826

Playfair, William Henry (b.1789, d.1857) Return of Western Portico, 1826

The Digital Imaging Unit has digitised many architectural drawings held in University of Edinburgh special collections over the years. They always present a challenge because of thier scale. They offer a fascinating glimpse of history in relation to many of the buildings in Edinburgh that we are familiar with on a daily basis. I think many of us have a positive relationship with the National Monument more commonly known as the Acropolis on Calton Hill. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

A lot of scanning and a little context

I am now coming to the end of my internship here in the Digital Imaging Unit. Over the past twelve weeks I have been responsible for digitising a large number of documents as part of the Godfrey Thomson Project. Collecting the project documents from Neasa, the Godfrey Thomson Archives Intern, I would then be required to capture every document individually using the Bookeye 4 Scanner (a machine that I have got to know very well lately, and one that behaves rather well, all told!).

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Photographists and the Grand Tour


One of my daily problems in this job is being drawn into the objects we are digitising- it is always too tempting to start reading, and yesterday was one of the toughest challenges I have faced! A reader had requested a book-scan copy of a transcript from a Diary of John Shaw Smith and his wife Mary as they did the Grand Tour of the Mediterranean and Middle East between 1849-1852 (see ). Perhaps it was that John Shaw Smith was one of the earliest photographers to visit these regions (see, or perhaps it was because I have visited many of the places they travelled to, however once I started I became fascinated by the lively, sharp witted pair and their adventures. Continue reading

Photo Bombed


A large order from the Lothian Health Services Archive came our way recently, which included postcards from the hospital & group portraits of staff and patients. In amongst them I discovered an early example of photo bombing- look between the shoulders of the 2 chaps in the centre of the back row- I love combination of serious faces of the people posing and the incongruous jaunty feet in the air behind them. Was this intentional? Or did he simply happen to be doing a handstand at the time…?

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Discovering the Orient

Detail of portrait showing a group of women washing clothes in a river. This miniature comes from a collection of portraits (Tasawir), which originate from India and date to the mid-19th century. Although many of the images in the oriental manuscripts collection tend to relate to religion or mythology, this portrait is interesting as it provides a fascinating insight into the life of ordinary people, during the rule of the British Raj.



On the 2nd June, I was lucky enough to begin employment as the Employ.ed Digital Collections intern for the CRC. Although I begin with a little trepidation – like most people when they start a new job, I spent the night before worrying that I’d be really bad at it or that no one would like me – I am now in my fifth week and enjoying it immensely: I don’t really want to leave! Continue reading

Penguins and Social Life

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. The collection description tells us that ‘the history of the firm of Christian Salvesen goes back to 1851 when Christian Salvesen arrived in Leith and set up in business as a ship owner and broker. Two years later he joined the Edinburgh merchant George Vair Turnbull, continuing in partnership with him until he went solo in 1872. Three of his sons, Thomas, Frederick and Theodor ( 0007295djoined him in the business; the fourth, Edward, preferred a legal career which began with a law degree from the University of Edinburgh, and which culminated in his elevation to the College of Justice and the Bench as The Hon. Lord Salvesen (1857-1942)’.

Our collection of photographs and papers is largely about the company’s whaling concerns in South Georgia. So far only a small proportion of the photographs have been digitised- around 192, however they cover a wide range from landscapes and wildlife to the people and life at the Leith Harbour base in South Georgia .

Many of the images were digitised as an order for climatologists interested in comparing glaciers at the beginning of the 20th Century with their current state, 0007714dAlthough some are faded and damaged, they still convey the awe inspiring nature of the Islands

Box 4. No. 3.Cumberland Bay Glacier, South Georgia, 8th June 1917.

Perhaps the most touching images are of the hardy people who worked in this cold and remote outpost

Box. 2. No. 1.

South Georgia? 10/12/18 Envelope entittled 'Penguins and Social Life', South Georgia -football game.

From the light hearted shots of sledging and football  (I love that this photo came from an envelope entitled ‘Penguins and Social Life’), to coping with the extreme weather encountered only a little to the north of Antarctica. While some of the snow fall photos have an element of humour to them, like “The Old Powerhouse surrounded in 6″ of snow, had to be removed to fire the chimney, Dec 10/12/18” – remember that December is summer for South Georgia .


Others are far more shocking. The season of 1929-30 appears to have been one of the worst- an old news clipping shows the damage to one of the giant vats in the harbour, a note with the photo reads “Power of the Wind. Oil tank in Leith Harbour pressed together by the wind. I saw it happen” . 0024988dIn the same season an avalanche hit the base with devastating consequences. This blurred and grainy photograph shows the wreckage of the Foundry and the next reveals the human cost 0024990d

For more than 50 years the Leith Station battled both the elements and tough working conditions (see ) surviving avalanches and fires . 'Horatio, 12/03/16 '. On fire with whale oil loaded on board. South Georgia

Throughout it all they documented their lives, challenges and environment. Although whaling has thankfully had its day, I’m glad they have left this wonderful resource for us all'Sea Elephant, 20/6/15'. South Georgia

Susan Pettigrew, Photographer

New Images & New Collection Publically Available

Last week we were very pleased to make 864 new images available to the public. In the DIU we had recently completed a batch of nearly 1000 high quality images from Readers Orders and Staff requests, so we handed these over to Library Digital Development Team to upload into LUNA . Of the images that could be made available to the public…

372 Images were added to the Western Medieval Manuscripts Collection

0055682d196 Images were added to the CRC Gallimaufry Collection


162 Images were added to the New College Collection

54 Images were added to the Roslin Institute Collection


11 Images were added to the Architectural Drawings Collection

10 Images were added to the Salvesen Collection

10 Images were added to the University of Edinburgh Collection and

8 Images were added to the Incunabula Collection

0055707dHowever, we are perhaps most excited to announce the new collection of ECA Rare Books . Elizabeth Quarmby Lawrence has been very busy cataloguing these books (see our earlier post ) and tells us that the “Rare Books Collection of Edinburgh College of Art, includes about 1,500 items, which date from before 1489 to the twentieth century. Most of them are printed books; many of them are illustrated. It is particularly strong in books of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries on architecture, design and ornament. There are also nineteenth-century photographs, examples of textile design, and early nineteenth-century hand-painted designs for Edinburgh Shawls. Many of the books originated in the collections of the institutions which preceded ECA: the drawing academy of the Board of Trustees for Manufactures in Scotland, and the School of Applied Art. This collection is now housed in the Centre for Research Collections in the Main Library”.

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Making new images available requires a real team effort, and I’d like to say a special thanks to Deputy Photographer Malcolm Brown, Scott Renton & all the Library Digital Development Team, and of course Elizabeth Quarmby Lawrence for all the metadata!

Susan Pettigrew, Photographer

Volunteering in the DIU

I have been volunteering with the Digital Imaging Unit for about a year, during which time I have been researching and adding metadata to their digital collection, as well as selecting images for a recent postcard project. It has been a wonderful opportunity to get to know the breadth of the University’s Collections and contribute to its online visibility.

As a student of the (MA) Fine Art degree  looking to start a career in the archive and museum sector, volunteering with the DIU has not only provided me with relevant work experience, but also enriched my visual and art historical knowledge by exposing me to an incredible variety of pictorial material.

The collection has a number of beautiful images of old Edinburgh and it is remarkable to see how, in some ways, so little has changed in the city landscape.


Glass-plate slides are such wonderful objects and these have incredibly vibrant colours. This particular image seems to be a photograph of the Bois de Boulogne, a park close to where my grandmother lived in Paris.

Bois du Boulogne.

The Capybaras, or Capivaras, are a type of giant rodents indigenous to the region I grew up in Brazil. It was a lovely surprise to discover this image in the University’s collection of Zoological Illustrations.


One of the many fascinating items I’ve had the pleasure to research for the DIU, a 17th century book detailing comet sightings throughout history, accompanied by intricate illustrations.


Pigs, pumpkins and ostriches… what more could you want?


Alice Tod