Edinburgh Open Research Conference Proceedings

EOR logoOne of the ambitions for the EOR conference held in March, 2022, when we first started planning it was to make it as open and accessible as possible. To achieve this we made the whole event hybrid so that plenary talks, posters, and workshops were all accessible on the day to both in person and remote attendees. While this generally worked very well for both remote and in-person attendees, we also wanted to make it available to people who couldn’t attend on the day – so we recorded everything, and the recordings of the talks and posters can now be openly accessed through our Edinburgh Open Research journal at http://journals.ed.ac.uk/eor.

Kerry Miller
Research Data Support Officer & Open Research Co-Ordinator
Library Research Support

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My Experience as a DAMS Metadata Intern

My name is Muminah and I’m about to enter my final year of studying Computer Science and Maths. For the past couple of months I’ve worked as a Digital Asset Management System (DAMS) Metadata Intern for the Uni’s Cultural Heritage Digitisation Service (CHDS) under the Library and Uni Collections (L&UC) department of ISG. 

Read More

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An Interesting Introduction to One Health

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.

A tiny piece of dried frog muscle on some Litmus Paper.

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!

You have to be brave to join the One Health team!

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.

Making friends with the locals.

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.

Part of the RZSS archive before moving.

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!

After moving!


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Bearing Witness: The Pre-Digitisation Conservation Treatment of The Witness, Part 2

Today we have the second instalment of a two-part series by Projects Conservator Mhairi Boyle. Mhairi spent April 2022 working on The Witness, a collection of Edinburgh-based newspapers held by New College Library. You can read the first part of the series here.

The first instalment of this series focused on the contextual background and the condition of The Witness newspapers. In this final instalment, I will be discussing the ethical challenges of digitisation conservation work and reveal some highlight findings from the collection.

Weak and damaged areas.

In the Conservation team we often use the terms ‘pre-digitisation treatment’ and ‘post-digitisation treatment’. When assessing objects for digitisation, it is important to consider the condition of each object and how it will be digitised. If the pressing or scanning of an object will worsen its condition, pre-digitisation conservation treatment is often recommended. If there is damage to an object that will not be made worse during the digitisation process, then it can be flagged for post-digitisation treatment. In the case of The Witness, each newspaper will be laid flat, and each page scanned. This could worsen the split areas and areas of weakness when each page is turned for scanning. When each page is pressed, the tension from the old adhesive and thread holding each volume together could also create new splits and damage. This presented a new dilemma: we had to decide whether to keep the newspapers bound, or disbind each volume.

There are pros and cons to each approach. As previously mentioned, the binding of the newspapers was two-fold: there were residual fragments of binding and adhesive from the original larger bound volume, as well as a single thread binding which was added later. Removing the original adhesive would be very time-consuming, and potentially further damage the fragile and damaged edges of each page.  After discussing this with the curators and the Senior Collections Manager, we agreed on a partial pre-digitisation disbinding. I removed the additional single-thread binding, which we agreed was adding unnecessary stress and tension to each newspaper. By removing some of the tension from each page, less damage is likely to occur when each volume is pressed flat under a scanner.

The text block was repaired with a thin Japanese tissue, which is strong but also preserves legibility.

I also made the decision to leave the previous repairs in place. Although they have cracked in places, removing them could result in further damage and render` parts of the newspapers illegible. Instead, I repaired vulnerable areas and large losses. I focused on any tears and cracks, which threatened the text block and legibility of each volume. I also repaired areas of weakness which could potentially catch at a wrong angle and worsen when the pages are turned. I used a thin Japanese tissue, which is thinner than the newspapers – this means that if these repairs fail in the future, they should bear the brunt of the damage rather than the original items.

10% w/v carboxyl methylcellulose.

I consulted Projects Conservator Claire Hutchison, who has previously worked on a sizeable newspaper project for the National Library of Scotland, on the best adhesive to use. Claire cited carboxyl methylcellulose (CMC) as her adhesive of choice, because of its viscosity, water content, and drying time. CMC is a ‘cellulose ether’. It is a dry, powdery substance made from purified cellulose commonly derived from wood or cotton. This undergoes a reaction with chloroacetic acid to create CMC, whose structure is more amorphous than pure cellulose. It is commonly used in the food and cosmetic industries as a thickener. In conservation it has three main uses: as an adhesive; to soften and remove historic adhesive; and to strengthen flaky/powdery media. Once it is added to water and vigorously stirred, it magically transforms into a gel overnight.

Because of its gel-like form, it is less likely to further damage fragile paper by way of oversaturating it with water. It dries in a fairly quick time to a clear, flexible film, which is advantageous when working with newspapers, whose pages are turned and flattened.

Areas of weakness have been reinforced with Japanese tissue.

During this project, I became a repair administering machine. Each page of each Journal was re-examined for areas of weakness and repaired.

I did stop a few times to check out the local news from 1800. One of the differences between digital news outlets and physical newspapers is that online there is no need for ‘gap-filler’ articles. These happen to be some of my favourite ‘gap-fillers’.

From rum and ice to extreme teetotalism!

It is also interesting to examine the differences between the language used in the 1800 versus today. I think I could take a few tips from The Witness on how to craft concise-yet-sophisticated prose!

A stern reminder of the newspaper’s publishing days.

The newspapers are now ready for digitisation.

Now that the pre-digitisation conservation treatment is complete, the newspapers will be digitised and accessible online. However, the work doesn’t stop there. Once they return to the CRC, I will examine them for any further damage and discuss further treatment options with the curators. Options include archival rehousing; testing out removal of the historic repairs; and removing the aged adhesive and historic bindings. Although The Witness will be available online, some users will still prefer to come and interact with the material objects themselves.

One of the reasons I enjoy being a conservator is getting hands-on with collections. With so many workflows now taking place entirely through a computer screen, I find the physicality of remedial treatment work very mindful and refreshing. Working closely with The Witness has reminded me of a slightly slower way of life, when consuming the daily news involved physically engaging with an object rather than scrolling through apps and ads fighting for your attention.

Further reading:

Feller, RL., & Wilt, M. 1990, Evaluation of Cellulose Ethers for Conservation, J. Paul Getty Trust, USA.

Tobey, D.A., ‘Preserving history: Here’s how to keep that historic newspaper for years to come’, NYT Regional Newspapers, https://www.mnhs.org/preserve/conservation/reports/nytimes_preserving.pdf

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New to the Library: The Telegraph Historical Archive

I’m very pleased to let you know that the Library has recently purchased The Telegraph Historical Archive, 1855-2016 from Gale, the fully searchable digital archive of what was once the world’s largest-selling newspaper.

You can access The Telegraph Historical Archive, 1855-2016 via the Databases A-Z list, Newspapers, Magazines and Other News Sources guide and DiscoverEd. Read More

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On trial: Manchuria Daily News Online

Thanks to a request from a HCA student the Library currently has trial access Manchuria Daily News Online from Brill. This resource offers scholars of the modern history of Japan in China a multifaceted view of competing Japanese agendas in the China theatre.

You can access Manchuria Daily News Online via the E-resources trials page.
Access is available on and off-campus.

Trial access ends 30th August 2022. Read More

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New! Colonial Law in Africa, 1946-1966

I’m pleased to let you know that the Library has recently purchased Colonial Law in Africa, 1946-1966 from British Online Archives. This database provides access to the African Government Gazettes from 1946 to 1966.

You can access Colonial Law in Africa via the Primary Sources guide, the Databases A-Z list or the African Studies guide. And it will be accessible via DiscoverEd in the near future. Read More

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Using modules in LexisPSL

This summer we’ve increased the number of modules we have access to in LexisPSL due to student demand! Students and staff can now view all the practitioner advice and notes in each of the following areas:

  • Banking & Finance
  • Commercial
  • Corporate
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Employment
  • Private Client
  • Property
  • Restructuring & Insolvency

We find that the materials on PSL are particularly helpful for our Diploma students, but all staff and students can view what’s included by following these simple steps:

  1. Visit the Law Databases page, and scroll down to find the link for LexisPSL.
  2. If prompted, log in using the link that says ‘use academic sign in’ and then select UK Access Management Federation. Select University of Edinburgh from the list, accept the terms and conditions, and if necessary log in using your UUN.
  3. You will arrive at the LexisPSL homepage in the Banking & Finance module. Use the dropdown arrows next to the title of the module to select which module you would like to view. This is highlighted in green in the image below. NOTE: we have access to all the modules with a grey tick next to them.

The Lexis platforms for PSL and Lexis Library will be changing as of September; we will provide further instructions and demo videos on how to access these resources in the first weeks of the 2022-2023 academic year. Look out for information on training and induction sessions from the UG and PG offices in September, or contact us if you have questions in the mean time.

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Recordings of Lunchtime Seminars: Decolonising and Diversifying the Library

Our recent post on Decolonising and Diversifying the Library introduced the short seminar series the ASL team ran during lunchtimes in July. We’re delighted to be able to follow up that post with the news that recordings of all three sessions have now been added to Media Hopper. Please use the links below to access the videos:

Diversity in First Year Scots Law Reading ListsOpening slide from Diversity in First Year Scots Law Reading Lists presentationSupporting Diversity using the ECA Artists Book and Zine CollectionsTitle slide from session on 'supporting diversity with the ECA library artists books & zines collections'

Diversifying your Reading List from a Student PerspectiveTitle slide for session on Diversifying your Reading from a Student Perspective.

For more information on these sessions or if you have ideas for what you’d like to see in future lunchtime seminars, please contact us by email or leave us a comment.

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American Prison Newspapers, 1800-2020: Voices from the Inside

The library has access to a new collection from JSTOR.

Image of books stacked on a small table in the foreground on the mezzanine of the Law Library, looking out across a room full of students studying in the Senate Room (out of focus).

Books stacked on a table on the Law Library mezzanine. Photo by Sam Stills, copyright University of Edinburgh.

American Prison Newspapers, 1800-2020: Voices from the Inside.

The first newspaper published within a prison by an incarcerated person was Forlorn Hope, in 1800. Since then more than 450 newspapers from U.S. prisons have been published. Some are still in publication today such as Angolite and the San Quentin News. 

This collection brings together hundreds of these periodicals from across the US into one collection. Representing various institutions there is special attention on women-only institutions.

The collection is open access and can be accessed via the A-Z list of databases.



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