Category Archives: Library

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.

Making the Most of the Intern(et)

Our wonderful Intern Gemma is leaving us today, but she has managed to squeeze in one more post before she goes. Gemma has done some really amazing work for us, after completing her cataloguing project of Oriental Manuscripts (her work can be seen here ) in record time, she has helped out with Flickr, Walter Scott and a new project about not yet officially started too. I’d like to say a very big thank you to Gemma for all her hard work- we’re going to miss her! Over to Gemma…


Since I finished my project with the Oriental Manuscripts Collection a few weeks ago (see my blog below for more info ), I’ve been working on a few other projects to make the most of my remaining time here at the CRC. Of these, one of my main tasks has been to update the department’s Flickr account (

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The Staff Portrait V’s the Selfie

Over the years the Digital Imaging Unit have grown into the role of photographing official Library staff portraits. These images are used by the Library online to identify teams and in publications like the Piper when there is a focus on a department. In general terms the prospect of a staged portrait sends most staff fleeing for the Pentland hills. Some staff point blank refuse using colorful metaphors to explain why they will not do it and certainly most staff are guaranteed to be unhappy with the resulting image. It is without a doubt the least popular aspect of the the work we do in DIU. However most staff accept the formal portrait as a necessary evil a bit like going to the dentist. There are also a minority who are comfortable with the concept. What I have come to realise in this role is that I almost always only have about three shots right at the beginning of the session to capture a reasonable portrait. After those first three clicks the sitters brain goes of to an unusual place and we end up with overly self conscious faces that are beginning to do weird things with their facial muscles resulting in contorted bizarre expressions ending with an uncomfortable grimace. In this dominant age of the selfie I feel there is still a role for an official staged portrait and we don’t need to look any farther than the University of Edinburgh’s historic collection of staff portraits to see why they are an important record of individuals at work. Maybe the staff selfie should replace the staff portrait? Lets discuss………..

Malcolm Brown, Deputy Photographer.




Building History

Snow at Edinburgh University Library, January 2010.

As part of our role here, Malcolm and I have taken many photographs of the Main Library. Over the years this has built up an archive of born digital images that show the life of the Library. Before and after shots of the Main Library Redevelopment Project, seasonal shots of the building and campus environs, students using the facilities and CRC events- such as exhibition openings, have all been documented.

Occasionally, one of us has to play a cameo role in the photo’s on those days we just can’t seem to get a student in the right spot, Malcolm stars in this one…

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The Piper Magazine Photography

For many years the Digital Imaging Unit have been the primary photographers for The Piper Magazine. The Piper is The Friends of Edinburgh University Library twice-yearly illustrated newsletter. The DIU enjoy the challenge of photographing a diverse range of fascinating material that comes our way for the magazine. This has included the friends purchase of  Holinshed’s Chronicles on one occasion and this new edition demonstrates particularly good marriage between the layout design of Mark Blackadder and the photography of DIU photographer Susan Pettigrew.

It would be a terrific resource to have the previous issues of The Piper made available as pdf downloads from The Friends website. The current exhibition in the Main Library celebrates Fifty Years, Fifty Books: purchases by the Friends of Edinburgh University Library, 1962-2012 Exhibition Gallery, Main Library, George Square 28 March to 14 June 2014. The exhibition is well worth a look and illuminating as usual. The DIU also photograph all exhibition openings in the Library. Below are some images from the 50/50 opening night.

Malcolm Brown, Deputy Photographer.


Outdoor Exhibition Bristo Square

Images created by the Digital Imaging Unit feature in a new exhibit outside the Dugald Stewart Building in Bristo square. It is fantastic to see how well our images respond to being enlarged many times beyond the original object size. It justifies our workflow of capture once at high quality re-purpose many times. Indeed these images were created at various times and were pulled together from our online resource for this exhibit. This exhibit also makes us keenly aware of the importance of our colour management workflow. We use hardware to colour calibrate our monitors after every 200 hours of use and it pays off when you see the images in an unusual format greatly enlarged and in broad daylight.

Malcolm Brown, Deputy Photographer


Volunteer work at the Digital Imaging Unit

The Centre for Research Collections is a remarkable resource for students at Edinburgh University, not only for research purposes, but also for experience working with collections.  I am an MSc student studying Material Cultures and the History of the Book.  As part of the course we were encouraged to volunteer within the CRC.  My interests lie in the field of the visual arts and the materiality of books, specifically the in the world of digital media.  Serena Fredrick at the CRC was able to match me up with the Digital Imaging Unit and within the DIU I have been researching and enhancing the metadata for one of the university’s photographic image collections: the Hill and Adamson Collection.  Hill and Adamson are world-renowned pioneers of early photographic techniques.  Building on the work of Englishman Henry Fox-Talbot, they created some iconic images of mid-nineteenth century Edinburgh from their studio on Calton Hill.0011901d
Hill and Adamson’s original creative remit was to capture portraits of leading members of the Free Church of Scotland who had been involved in the disruption of the established Church of Scotland in 1843, with the intent of using these portraits as study aids for a massive painting commemorating the disruption.
Soon word of this new means of portraiture spread and Hill and Adamson started creating images of and for Edinburgh society. The collection is full of images of friends and family of Hill and Adamson, as well as being a veritable who’s who in Edinburgh.
Hill and Adamson realised that this artform could also be used as a form of documentary reporting and began taking photographs of the Newhaven fishermen and women, as evidence of a strong, united and self-sufficient community.
Unfortunately Hill and Adamson’s collaboration was short-lived due to Adamson’s continually failing health and eventual death at the age of only 27 in 1848. However, during their prolific partnership they were responsible for the creation of thousands of incredible images. I have loved being a part of the team bringing this collection onto a digital platform and increasing access to such an important and exciting set of images. Here are a few of my favourite images, all of which can be found at:
1 calotype, print size 4.
Newhaven 1. 5 calotypes, print size 4.  Unbound images.
Caroline Ramsay, MSc Material Cultures and the History of the Book

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Innovative Learning Week at University of Edinburgh

The Digital Imaging Unit filmed various Pecha Kucha as part of Innovative Learning Week February 2014. A few of the talks are available on the CRC Facebook page at :

Malcolm Brown

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Photographing The Apocalypse Circa 1483

Recently the Digital Imaging Unit were asked to photograph all 8 illustrations from the book of the Apocalypse in Anton Koberger’s German Bible of 1483.  Shelf-mark Inc.45.2.  I have selected a few details from the illustrations here to demonstrate the quality of the line and its powerful descriptive impact. ” Koberger was the godfather of Albrecht Dürer, whose family lived on the same street. In the year before Dürer’s birth in 1471.”   Giulia Bartrum, Albrecht Dürer and his Legacy, British Museum Press, 2002, pp 94-96, ISBN 0-7141-2633-0  

Malcolm Brown


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Library and University 2014 calendar

The new Library and University 2014 calendar is now on sale. This year’s theme is Bygone Edinburgh, with all images coming from the mid-19th to early 20th centuries. Highlights include some of the work of Scottish pioneers of photography, Hill and Adamson, and this image taken by an unknown photographer around 1887.


The three gentlemen shown demonstrating the cantilever principle for the Forth Bridge are engineers Sir John Fowler, Kaichi Watanabe and Sir Benjamin Baker.

The calendar is on sale in the Library at the front desk and at the CRC reception on the 6th Floor, priced £8.

Further information on the calendar is available at