Category Archives: Art Collections

Photographing the Josephine Baker Bronze by Eduardo Paolozzi

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. Continue reading

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Iconic Photography

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Clement Litill’s 1580 bequest charter

Part of our remit in the DIU has been to work through a list of ‘Iconic’ Items from the collection in our spare time. Over the years we have completed the digitisation of some outstanding manuscripts and collections in this way, from the Hill and Adamson photographs (a personal favourite- see http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/jl5w63) to the wonderful Laing Album Amicorum (see http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/6oh338 ). Continue reading

RANDOMS

I wanted to share some fantastic images that have come through the Digital Imaging Unit via general random digitization requests. This material is bound for individual researchers and would normally pass under the radar. We have enough amazing material passing through DIU to make this a monthly blog feature. First up is from “Zoology of Egypt, Reptilia and Batrachia” by John Anderson Shelfmark : L*.17.93. The whole book is packed with outstanding images and worthy of digitisation in its entirety.

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RASHID AL-DIN 1314 Library Exhibition Time Lapse Film

For the past month or so the DIU have been capturing our first ever time lapse footage of the installation of the current library festival exhibition RASHID AL-DIN 1314. We filmed over several weeks trying to capture the main installation events. This included the prep work by conservation, the delivery of objects from the National Museum, swathes of discussion over the exhibition, hard core carpentry skills and an insane press pack in full flight all leading up to the opening night. What we captured is only part of the story in that all the planning had been completed and work scheduled before shooting began including our own part of supplying the images for the display boards and background supports. It has been a huge revelation to see and document the level of application that goes into creating a Library exhibition. The overriding impression is of a truly massive collaborative effort involving many departments across institutions. Definitely worth a watch if only for the wonderful music by our very own Art Collections Curator Neil Lebeter.

RASHID AL-DIN 1314 Library Exhibition Time Lapse Film from DIGITAL IMAGING UNIT FILM on Vimeo.

Malcolm Brown, Deputy Photographer.

Photographists and the Grand Tour

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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 http://www.archives.lib.ed.ac.uk/catalogue/cs/viewcat.pl?id=GB-237-Coll-20&view=basic ). Perhaps it was that John Shaw Smith was one of the earliest photographers to visit these regions (see http://www.luminous-lint.com/app/photographer/John_Shaw__Smith/A/), 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

Anon Art

Another visual essay from me this week. I thought it would be interesting to share a closer look at the amazing work of the invisible artists who populate the title pages of many books in our collections. I am constantly astonished at the graphic accomplishment present in these works from anonymous artists. I have spent some time highlighting details that are inspiring works in their own right. These works stand on their own feet and in their own space. All images this week are details from ” The Faerie Queene “. Shelfmark JY 1096. Points of note are the best snake tongue ever drawn (see below) and a fantastic phoenix rising from flames. More images from the book can be found within our image collections at http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/

Deputy Photographer, Malcolm Brown.

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A Rocky Start to the Week

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This week saw the start of a small project to digitise some papers that recently came to the CRC from the The Cockburn Museum, School of GeoSciences. The collection contains an interesting mixture of lecture notes, photos, etchings, scrolls, correspondence and large format drawings. What is more, many of these papers come from some of the biggest names in the field. Today I scanned 112 pages of Charles Lyell’s handwritten notes on mountain ranges in Madeira, including pen and ink geological sketches. These delicate and precise drawings of geological details show what fine draughtsman this influential geologist was (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Lyell).

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The correspondence of Sir Archiblad Geikie also figures largely, along with a portrait photograph. Geikie was appointed the first Director of the Scottish branch of the Geological Survey in 1867, as well as holding the geology and mineralogy professorship here at the University (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archibald_Geikie).

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Also included are some photo’s of the old Geology Museum, and perhaps my favourite – 6 plates of fossilised fishes. We hope to be able to deliver these all online in the not too distant future!

Susan Pettigrew, Photographer

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The Pencil of Nature

Two of my favourite photographs in the Centre for Research Collections come from The University of Edinburghs copy of William Henry Fox Talbot’s “The Pencil of Nature“. Shelfmark Df.3.85 .The book also contains an exceptional capital letter T complete with small dragon like creature with a vine like tongue. As can be seen below.

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The two images that impress from the book are minimal images that to me feel very modern but have a profound sense of the time they were created through the use of the calotype technique. However i think these images create a wonderful time portal and makes us think of now as well as one hundred and seventy years ago when they were created. I have included whole and detailed views of both of the photographs. Further images from the book can be found here.

Malcolm Brown, Deputy photographer.

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It’s Not All Books…

As photographers for the Special Collections in the University of Edinburgh Main Library, we’ve seen a fair amount of beautiful books and manuscripts, but the diversity of the collections, both here at the Library and from other locations around the University always surprises me. Many of these have been bought to us for photography over the years, and on occasion, we have had to decamp from the studio and go out to the collection. In 2012 we were asked to go to St Cecilia’s Hall to take photographs for a Calendar to promote the redevelopment project, then in its infancy. We had a fantastic week photographing harpsichords, guitars and lutes in the 18th Century Hall to place them within their context. The instruments provided us with many challenges: harpsichords are not the easiest to light to bring out the gold details and elaborate painting – particularly not in a room with mixed light sources and green walls. In one shot taken by my colleague, Malcolm Brown, we were asked to show the whole object as if looking from above. Thankfully, the curator allowed us to turn the instrument on its side, although we sometimes tell people who ask us how it was done that we had Malcolm suspended from the ceiling Mission Impossible style to take the photo. Further information about St Cecilia’s can be found at http://www.stcecilias.ed.ac.uk/about.html

 

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Another highlight for us was the visit to the Anatomy museum to photograph the murderer William Burke’s Skeleton (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burke_and_Hare_murders). On arrival at the museum we discovered that there was major building work going on outside and the drilling was causing vibrations through the floor. At the time we were working with a Hasselblad multishot which took 16 shots to build up a very high resolution image so the slightest movement would ruin the shot. We had to try to shoot in the lulls between drilling- the challenges of location photography!

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We were also lucky enough to photograph the magnificent Renaissance Giambologna bronze Ecorche horse. Having decided that we wanted the photographs to be low key, dark images to bring out every muscle ripple and vein, we had to carefully light the cast so that it was distinct from the background. This required reflectors to be suspended from the ceiling to run a highlight up the neck and others to be held in place during the shots, a real team effort.

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3 dimensional objects always require more thought to the lighting to bring out subtle textures and details as you can see in this image of a Gandharan Sculpture, whereas the challenge of metallic surfaces is to hide unwanted reflections.

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It is always exciting to photograph these wonderful objects that have made their way into the University collections, and recently we have even seen some ‘Book Sculptures’ too.

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Susan Pettigrew, Photographer

The Universal Herbal

Fascinating book of the month requested for digitisation in the DIU goes to Thomas Greens “The Universal Herbal; or, botanical, medical, and agricultural dictionary. Containing an account of all the known plants in the world, arranged according to the Linnean system. With the best methods of propagation, and the most recent agricultural improvements.”  The book is lyrically illustrated with basic but pragmatic hand colouring befitting it’s dictionary status. However it is a visually delicious looking two volume set with some unusual and intriguing entries as can be seen below. Broad-leaved Bastard Parsley is certainly a new one to me.

Malcolm Brown, Deputy Photographer

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