In today’s blog we hear from our new Project Conservator, Mhairi Boyle. Mhairi recently finished a maternity cover post conserving the CRC’s Special Collections and is very excited to be part of the One Health team.
In October 2021, in my previous conservator role within the CRC, I received a very strange message. It read:
“Hi Mhairi, do you have time this afternoon for me to pop by conservation and ask you for some advice? I’ve found what I think might be a bit of frog muscle.”
The message was from Fiona Menzies, the One Health Project Archivist. At the time, Fiona was sorting through the Royal Dick Vet School archive and had come across some a frog specimen adhered to a page of a notebook. As a paper conservator, I do not often get messages regarding animal specimens. Little did I know that this frog muscle would, in August 2022, be mine.
That is, ‘mine’ in the sense that it is now my job to conserve and rehouse the three collections which fall under the One Health umbrella. Starting this project has been a little daunting – spanning three sizeable collections, we have everything from pig trotters in jars and graduation robes to animal sketches and photographs of farms. Not only this, but the content of the collections is sometimes confronting and unsettling to take in. This project is not for the faint of heart!
On my first day on the job, Fiona gave me a tour of where some of the collections are housed. Although the R(D)VS and OneKind archives are now stored at the CRC and at our offsite storage facility, the RZSS archive is still stored at multiple sites across Edinburgh Zoo. Thankfully this was not a great shock or surprise to me: in my previous role, I went out to visit the Zoo with Fiona and our University Archivist & Research Collections Manager Rachel Hosker.
I’d like to think that running alongside the One Health project is Project MhairiHealth. Although paper conservation work is very practical in its nature, I never imagined that in my role I’d be moving crates of archives and heavy books around a zoo! I’ll definitely be fitter by the end of this project.
As I mentioned, the RZSS archive is dotted about different locations throughout Edinburgh Zoo. It is the task of Fiona and myself to consolidate everything firstly into one central location at the Zoo, to enable us to see exactly how much material we have and how to move forwards.
At the CRC, we can put most things we are working on onto a trolley, and zip up and down using the library lift to wherever we like with little effort. However, at the Zoo, our moving operation has required us to work with the wonderful staff at the RVSS to move one big chunk of their archive from an office cupboard to what is now our appraisal office. There were quite a few stairs involved, and with impending rainclouds threating our operation, we had to be speedy moving the boxes from one part of the building to another. The last thing we want is a soggy archive.
After filling half of our office with boxes, we decided it was a good place to stop for the day. There are still parts of the archive in several other locations, but we will have to work in batches to process everything.
Stay tuned for the next blog post!