Category Archives: Museum Collections

2 and 3D Reflections

IMG_0334-2It is hard to believe that more than a month has passed since the fantastic “2 and 3D: Practice and Prophecies” Conference at the Rijksmuseum in April. So much was packed into those 2 short days: standardisation in colour and targets (who knew standards were so non-standard?), mass-digitisation and bespoke object specific photography techniques, panoramas, multispectral and 3D imaging, digital asset management and the role of photography in heritage institutions. This was a heritage photography event not to be missed, which is why I was delighted when the Association for Historical and Fine Art Photographers (AHFAP) offered me their competition bursary to attend. I gathered so much information in Amsterdam that I am still sifting through the notes and links and chasing up my post –conference ‘to do’ list! However, I would like to share a few of my highlights from the conference. Continue reading

Explore the Geology with LUNA

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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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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.

Interior Challenge

Reid Concert Hall Museum of Instruments before re-developement, June 2014.

In the last couple of weeks I have been out to visit both the Reid Musical Instrument Museum and St. Cecilia’s Music Hall to document the buildings prior to a makeover.

The Reid is a particularly challenging location for a photographer: tight spaces with mixed lighting and tall glass cabinets lining the walls and centre of the room. Reflections everywhere. It turns out that this was not a good day to wear my new white top! Continue reading

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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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

Facit Calculator Photography

0055792dThe Digital Imaging Unit recently had the mechanical calculating machine from the Godfrey Thomson Project to photograph. The calculator has this beautifully resolved logo which struck me as a little unusual for such an early and niche product. However discovering the company was Swedish explains such attention to design. The swift rise and decline of the company is a stark warning about ignoring research, development and competition http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facit

The calculator was photographed using the DIU infinity table lit from below with key and fill lighting arranged carefully to maximize all the detail and information present in the calculator. This was a challenge given the black colour and metallic reflective nature of the material. In addition multiple exposures were taken and the final set of images were assembled in Adobe Photoshop.

Malcolm Brown

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Photographing Geology Specimens

This image of Quartz crystals was commissioned for exhibition at University of Edinburgh Main Library but has also found a home at the School of Geo Science website http://www.geos.ed.ac.uk/facilities/ionprobe/TiQuartzStandards/ The image was created using 9 separate exposures each focusing on a different part of the crystal. Those were then imported into Photoshop as separate layers and a layer mask was added to each layer. Using the mask on each layer its was possible to hide or reveal parts of each individual exposure. This technique was used to create an image where many areas are in sharp focus to highlight the rich details of the crystal. The studio set up for this type of work consumes a lot of physical working space as demonstrated in the studio shots which can be seen below.

Malcolm Brown

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Meteorites and Fossilised Rain Drops

This week the Digital Imaging Unit have been photographing the Gibeon nickel iron meteorite EUCM.110.759.  This fell in prehistoric times in Namibia, named after the nearest town.  Made into tools by the Nama people. Analysed and confirmed as a meteorite in 1836. The wonderful pattern is called a Widmanstätten pattern. We have also been photographing the Imilac stony iron pallasite meteorite EUCM.0647.2008 found in the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile in 1822. The meteorites along with some amazing fossilized rain drops and various crystals will all feature in an exhibition opening in the Main Library exhibition space on December the 5th called Collect.ed.

Malcolm Brown

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New Photography for Main Library Exhibition – Collect.ed

The Digital Imaging Unit have been working on an amazingly diverse range of material recently thanks to a new exhibition being prepared for the Main Library by exhibitions intern Emma Smith. Collect.ed is the title of the exhibition described as “Curiosities from the University’s collections”. This work has presented the challenge of photographing a cast of the serial killer Burke’s brain, seven prehistoric shark’s teeth and a fabulous box of shells collected by Charles Darwin himself. Collect.ed will open on 5th December 2013 and run until  1 st March 2014, Monday to Friday 10.00am – 5.00pm, Saturday 10.00am – 1.00pm, Free Admission!

Malcolm Brown

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