Category: <span>Cultural Heritage Digitisation</span>


How often do you walk past a 1000 year old rune stone?  The answer is every day, if you work or study near the Main Library!

Earlier this year I completed a project photographing  James Skene’s Album of Sketches in greater detail. When I came across his runestone illustration again I was intrigued and did some research, making the surreal discovery that the subject was a 3 minute walk away.  At 50 George Square behind the Scandinavian Studies Department, stands a Swedish runestone with a curious history. This 1.3 tonne granite stone found its new home here at the university in 2019, having been moved several times prior.

Cultural Heritage Digitisation

A photograph of a highly decorative manuscript with art of flowers, insects, and birds
Esther Inglis Manuscript – Photo by Anna Pike, Project Curator

I began working with the Cultural Heritage Digitisation Services team last November, as a Digitisation Operator. Before joining the team, I was digitising plant specimens in the Herbarium of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. I am also a photographer, with my work most recently appearing in the Accidentally Wes Anderson exhibition which opened in London December 2023.  

2024 is shaping up to be an exciting year, with several projects in the works. Some of these have been in the planning stages for a long time, and we really couldn’t be more eager to finally get started. With that in mind, we thought it might be fun to provide a ‘movie trailer’ of sorts, with a short preview of each project we plan to tackle in 2024: 

Cultural Heritage Digitisation News Projects

Image taken in a lecture theatre in the Barbican Centre. Taken from the perspective of the audience looking towards a screen with the AHFAP logo projected on it.
Getting ready for the conference to start

At the beginning of November, I was given the opportunity to attend the Association of Historical and Fine Art Photography (AHFAP) Conference 2023 at the Barbican Centre in London. The keynote speech by Catherine Croft from The Twentieth Century Society gave an overview of the history of the development of the Barbican, and its relationship with the photographers who have attempted to capture it – each approaching it from a unique perspective. I found all the talks fascinating, but I wanted to highlight a few in this blog that I felt captured some of the main themes I noticed in the conference this year.  

Cultural Heritage Digitisation News

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!

Cultural Heritage Digitisation

Row of books, bound in old, cracked brown leather resting on a black background with spines facing outwards.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.  

Cultural Heritage Digitisation School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences

Shelves containing old books from University of Edinburgh Library's Special Collections. Shelves are behind glass which has the phrase 'Thair to Remain' and the dates 1878, 1962 & 1967 stencilled onto the glass.

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).

Archive Collections Art Collections Cultural Heritage Digitisation Library Museum Collections

Detail of a dove detailed with red tartan from Edinburgh Women's Liberation Newsletter
Edinburgh Women’s Liberation Newsletter. detail of Tartan dove.

For the first few months of 2023, I have been using medium format photography to document a collection of zines, posters, photographs and booklets from the Lothian Health Service Archive. The material all relates to the epic struggle to educate on the topic of gay lives and HIV at a time in Edinburgh when bigotry and fear of contracting HIV were prominent, which led to Edinburgh being described in the popular media as the “Aids Capital of Europe.”

Cultural Heritage Digitisation Exhibitions LHSA

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.

Cultural Heritage Digitisation LHSA Projects

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. 

Cultural Heritage Digitisation Exhibitions Library

Black and white composite image of the death mask of William Burke, overlayed with the image of his skull, matching up eyes to eye sockets, teeth to mouth etc.

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”).

Cultural Heritage Digitisation Edinburgh Medical School