Cemeteries in the 60’s


Iron Age burial excavated at Châlons-sur-Marne, France (Ritchie: 1968)

Highlights from the PhD digitisation project

Exploring the theme of cemeteries and memorials showcases some of the most visually rich and striking theses that we have seen thus far in our digitisation project. This selection of works date from the 1960’s a period throughout which we see an increase in topics drawn from the Humanities and Social Sciences. The images collated here come from theses discussing subjects raging from martyred saints to housing development and time periods from the Iron Age to 1967.


Discovery of the relics of St. Luke the evangelist in the church of the Holy Apostles (Vat. Grec. 1613, p.121; Powell: 1963)


One such fascinating subject is the depiction of the treatment and burial of martyred saints in the Byzantine era. These images are drawn from the thesis by Ann Powell (1963) entitled “Byzantine landscape painting, with special reference to the Illustrations of the Monologian of Basil II, Vat. Grec. 1613”.

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Funeral of St Matthew (Symeon), (Vat Grec. 1613 p186; Powell: 1963)

The history and culture of Scotland also features prominently. Another gem discusses the period of the 14th to 17th centuries including images of the cemeteries and tombs found in Ayrshire (Largs, Skelmorlie Aisle) and Perthshire (Grantully). As part of this work (MR Apted’s, 1964, “painting in Scotland from the 14th to the 17th centuries with particular reference to painted domestic decoration 1550-1650) the interior design of this period is recorded with painstaking detail.

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St Mary’s, Grandtully (Apted: 1963)                                

Skelmorlie Aisle, Largs (Apted: 1964)

The Montgomerie tomb, Skelmorlie Aisle (Apted: 1964)



chapel tomb

A thesis on Celtic weaponry delivers stunning images of burials and funerary stele, from Iron Age France (depicted above) to Roman Britain (below): G Ritchie, 1968, “Celtic defensive weaponry in Britain and its continental background”.

tombstone 1

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Wroxeter (Shropshire) Roman grave stele (Ritchie: 1968)  

Colchester Essex, Roman grave stele (Ritchie 1968)

Finally moving all the way from the 1st century AD we reach Edinburgh’s rural fringe development between 1850-1967, in: AJ Strachan, 1969, “The rural-urban fringe of Edinburgh 1850-1967”. In this case we see cemeteries rather oddly paired with recreational areas such as parks, golf course and sports grounds. The darker areas reflect housing developments over time.

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The development of cemeteries and recreational spaces between 1850 and 1967.(Strachan: 1969)

The theses selected here have been scanned and are currently being processed to be made available online soon. They take us on a journey through the development of research in the Humanities and Social Sciences from 1963 to 1969, but what will the 70’s bring us?

Make sure to follow our next adventure…


Blood Cells and Blizzards in Antarctica

When I picked up a thesis entitled ‘Eosinphils and Stress’ I did not expect to read Simpson19590040sentences like the following; ‘The word “Antarctic” has always been associated with cold, death marches, crushed ships, crevasses and so on’.  This demurely bound 1959 thesis by HW Simpson is a fascinating gem. It is part medical thesis, part travel journal,
describing the stresses and daily routines of people living at an Antarctic research base in 1958. Simpson’s aim was to study how the stress of living and working in Antarctica effects eosinophils, a type of white blood cell.

The thesis contains fascinating images of him taking blood samples in a tent, sledge journeys across snowy landscapes, and the living quarters of the researchers. Simpson Simpson19590130notes certain events that caused a peak in stress, including how one man was lost in a blizzard for eight hours and another drifted out to sea when his boat ran out of petrol, only to be saved by a ship’s helicopter 25 miles off shore. Simpson also studies stress caused by more mundane activities. The men took turns cooking and he describes how ‘It will be readily understood that to be cook for 8-10 men and do one’s main job can be a consideSimpson19590041rable strain. Not only must the cook bake bread but he must also help with the washing up and at the end of his week scrub out the kitchen’. This observation is accompanied by a graph entitled ‘The stress of cooking’, which surprisingly seems to rival the stress of the prospect of a cold and icy death in the midst of a blizzard.

Simpson’s theses encompasses the excitement and adventure of living in Antarctica, but also the mundane realities of what that life necessarily entailed; living in cramped conditions, cooking and cleaning, boredom and lack of society at large. It is a good example of how diverse the theses collection is. A medical thesis such as this one could also be useful to a historian, a sociologist, a scientist or someone interested in travel writing, and there are examples like this one throughout the collection.   The thesis will be uploaded with the first batch later this month, accessible through Edinburgh Research Archive and also via a link from this page.

Aoife O’Leary McNeice, Project Digitisation Assistant


Meet the Project Digitisation team!

We’re now almost two month’s into the PhD thesis digitisation project. Find out a bit more about the project digitisation team below!

The Project Digitisation team: Michael Logan, Paul Choi, Fiona Mowat, Aoife O'Leary McNeice, Giulia Giganti

The Project Digitisation team: Michael, Paul, Fiona, Aoife , Giulia


I am Fiona Mowat and I have worked at Edinburgh University since 2009 in various different capacities, including as a Shelving Assistant and as a Rare Books Cataloguing intern. Having recently completed my PhD in Roman Art and Archaeology, I am keen to expand my knowledge in the fields of Library and Museum Collections and in particular Digitisation – this connects to my archaeological fieldwork experience and speciality in finds processing and imaging.

I love to catalogue and really enjoy enabling library users to discover material that they had no idea existed. It is great, in this role, to preserve other people’s PhD theses in an electronic form so that their research is discoverable and will continue to make a scholarly impact many years or decades on!


I studied English and History in University College Cork and later pursued a Master’s degree in Eighteenth-Century Literature and Society at the University of Edinburgh, from which I graduated last year. Throughout my studies I benefited hugely from digital collections, be it an eighteenth-century travel guide or a student magazine from the early twentieth century. During my studies I worked in different roles in different libraries, handling material as diverse as ephemera from the recent independence referendum to musical instrument mouthpieces.

The theses we are working with are equally diverse, ranging from polar exploration to potato tubers (a surprisingly popular topic), I am excited to be part of the team digitising this diverse and fascinating collection.


I have always (academically and professionally) worked closely with heritage and library collections. Before starting this post at here at the University, I worked at the National Galleries of Scotland as a digitisation assistant, seconded at the National Library of Scotland and volunteered for a variety of cultural organisations.

Digitisation gives you the unique opportunity to work with both the physical and digital items; it exposes you to the breadth, uniqueness and heterogeneity of the collection. I am looking forward to understanding what collections and artefacts, such as PhD theses, can tell us about, not only academic subjects, but also practices of the university, topic-trends and gender.

So far we have digitised all sorts of work, from thesis on the chemical qualities of potatoes to ones on the evolution of foot-binding in China. A particular favourite of mine is Raymond Mills’s ‘The Effect of Urbanisation on Health in Sierra Leone’ from 1962, as it contains maps and rare photographs of Sierra Leone’s landscape.


My name is Paul and this is my first post for the University of Edinburgh. Being a graduate from the University of Glasgow, my MSc was in Information Management and Preservation, which makes a snappy abbreviation of IMP. IMP is actually an Archives and Records Managements qualification, HATTI at the School of Humanities had the foresight a few years ago to include digital preservation into the course. This naturally involves many aspects of digitisation. Particularly relevant to this project was the 2D digitisation module.

Considering the move towards digitisation replacing traditional cataloguing work, or absorbing it, what is interesting is how Edinburgh University will utilise these digitisation workflows developed in this project for future work.


I’ve arrived at the Digitisation Project having spent six years within the University Library, working in various teams and on different projects in the Main Library and other sites. The project is different as rather than working with what’s already there, we’re seeing new technologies arrive and the job start to build around them.

PhD thesis digitisation project begins!

Stock take completed, equipment purchased and staff in place: the digitisation of the Library’s PhD thesis collection has begun!

In January 2016 we secured funding to complete the digitisation of the Library’s PhD thesis collection. 10,000 PhDs are already accessible through ERA, our online institutional repository, and this project will digitise the remaining 15,000, thereby making unique Edinburgh research available to all.

Since January we have undertaken a full inventory of the collection (a big thank you to Paul, Aaron, Laura, Aoife, Ruby, Michael, Gillian, Joanne, Marco, Christina, Lorna, Ralph and Danielle), bought scanning equipment, PCs and furniture, and transformed one side of the Library Annexe work room into a fully functioning mass digitisation workshop.


Stock take underway at the Main Library and Library Annexe

Perhaps most importantly, this Monday we welcomed Paul Choi, Fiona Mowat, Giulia Giganti, Aoife O’Leary McNeice and Michael Logan to the Projects & Innovations team as Project Digitisation Assistants. This new team will spend the next two years digitising the collection by scanning theses and performing a number of pre and post scan processes.

The collection dates from the early 1600s to the present day and includes theses of varying sizes, styles and formats. Duplicate theses will have their spines removed using an IDEAL 4705 Guillotine and will then be fed through the 100-page-per minute Kodak i4250 document scanner. These copies will be recycled, freeing up around 500 linear metres of storage space in the Main Library building.

Kodak i4250

Kodak i4250 document scanner

Unique theses will be scanned manually using a Copibook Cobalt flatbed scanner and any items in poor condition will receive conservation treatment.


Copibook Cobalt book scanners

Following scanning, digital images will undergo several post-processing procedures, such as de-skewing, cropping and de-blurring,and will also be OCR-ed to enable keyword searching. Fully processed files will be uploaded to ERA as searchable multipage PDFs.

We’ll be setting up a project blog and aim to provide regular updates – in the meantime, please contact Gavin.Willshaw@ed.ac.uk if you have any further questions.