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”).
I was delighted to take on the challenge of helping photograph the University’s collection of notebooks of geologist Sir Charles Lyell, and there’s a bit more to photographing 300 notebooks than one might imagine. The Cultural Heritage Digitisation Service is a fantastic team of people, and quickly welcomed me onboard. Prior to this posting, I’ve enjoyed a varied background, including photographing the contents of National Trust for Scotland castles as part of a major digitisation project Reveal, plus Polar and Northern Lights photography aboard expedition cruise ships.
James Skene was a close friend of one of Scotland’s greatest and most influential writers. By profession he was a lawyer, but he was also a keen amateur artist. Skene and Scott first met as fellow Advocates at the Scottish Bar and were brought together by their common love of German literature. They were subsequently joint co-founders of the Light Horse Regiment and the pair formed a close friendship.
This particular album appears to have fallen into obscurity over the years, as it had been in private collections and out of public view. Skene made these sketches for Scott to use as a reference or aide-memoire when writing his novels. Knowledge of its existence does not appear in any research or exhibitions relating to Scott or Skene. We were very fortunate to have this new acquisition and it was a pleasure to personally handle this beautiful album and see every drawing up close.