Monthly Archives: March 2014

CRC Cataloguing Interns

Beth and Fiona have recently started as cataloguing interns in the CRC, and tell us about their first experiences…

Thesis cataloguing comes with its perils, for a start, until the beginning of February we were both blissfully unaware of the horror of the unnumbered page.  Few sights can strike fear into the heart of the intrepid rare books cataloguer quite like erratic pagination!

However, we are glad to report that this internship is not exclusively page counting, and every now and again something, or someone, truly exceptional comes along.

Among the hidden gems of the past couple of weeks, we found a 1930’s PhD thesis in physics that was submitted by a woman named Gladys Isabel Harper.  A woman submitting a thesis in 1930 may not be particularly unusual, especially thanks to the progressive thinking in Edinburgh at that time, but this woman’s career certainly took an exceptional trajectory and one that even by today’s standards would appear highly impressive.

Born Gladys MacKenzie, she was the daughter of an iron founder and teacher from Edinburgh and was educated at Craigmount School in the city.  She graduated with an MA in 1924, with a first in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy (now known as the physics department).  As part of her PhD on J-phenomenon in x-radiation, Gladys submitted an article co-written with E. Salaman during her time at Newnham College in Cambridge where she was appointed a lectureship in 1926.  In 1929 she resigned her post at Cambridge and married Wallace Russell Harper (PhD) who was a fellow physicist and published two books in the subject in 1961 and 1966.

Gladys’ PhD was granted in 1930, after she was married and while she was working in the natural philosophy department at Edinburgh University with Charles Glover Barkla, who won a Nobel prize for his work in a the field of x-radiation.  Together, they wrote two articles published in Philosophical Magazine in 1926.  The final leaf of Gladys’ PhD is a letter from her to the librarian at Edinburgh University stating her address in Bristol University where she was a lecturer in the department of Physics until 1947.

As we continue our quest to organize the intellectual heritage of EU, we may get shudder at the thought of chemistry PhD students who apparently had only a loose idea of how page numbers work (hint: they generally go up, one at a time), but it’s all worth it to make the work of people like Gladys Isabel Harper visible to more students today.

Volunteer of the Month – February 2014

Claire Rochet, Musical Instrument Museum Edinburgh Volunteer

I have been working with the Musical Instrument Collection since October and I had the chance as a volunteer to explore different areas of their two museums, St Cecilia’s Hall and the Reid Concert Hall.  During the first 3 months, I was a guide at St Cecilia’s Hall, which was great as it permitted me to familiarise myself with the collection.  During my Bachelor’s Degree and first Master’s Degree, I specialised in museology but never came across musicology which means that I was a complete beginner when I first started.  Needless to say that I learnt a lot!

 Reid - Claire 2 WP_20140228_009

Since last month, I have been working in collaboration with Colette Bush, the Museums Galleries Scotland Intern based with the CRC and Museums, at the Reid Concert Hall, where we are in charge of reviewing the display of the collection.  I am very excited about this project, even more so when I learnt that the Reid is actually the first purpose built establishment as an instrument museum in the world.


This project is connected to the redevelopment plan at St Cecilia’s Hall which will lead to its temporary closure next September for about a year or two.  Until now, the musical instrument collection was equally spread out between both museums.  During St Cecilia’s Hall’s closure, the collection will be only visible at the Reid which means the museum will become the collection’s main venue.  One other aim of this project is to expand the museum’s engagement with the general public by making the content more accessible.  In order to do that, we are planning a display based on thematics but we also intend to make the content of the cases more comprehensible by putting more explanatory labels and less instruments on display.  Even if the Reid itself is quite small, the collection on display is actually quite extensive which can be quite disconcerting for the visitor (around 1000 items are on display!).


Although, the collection being first of all a teaching collection, it should still be complete enough so the music school can use the collection as a point of reference for their classes, which is a big challenge as we need to find the right balance between accessibility and educational purposes.