Category Archives: Collections

What can your library do for you?

Did you know that reading is one of the best ways to relax? Even as little as six minutes of quiet reading can be enough to make a difference! The type of reading that people do in this library is usually more geared towards study than relaxation, but taking some time to have a break is really important.

That’s why we’re going to be popping up in the Main Library foyer in the next few weeks and months, running short activities to inspire, relax, distract, and motivate anyone that is using the library. We know how hard and stressful it can be to be a student, and we want you to know that the library is here for you!

One of the things we’ll be starting with is a little distraction activity – we’ve made a few examples already:


Want to come and have a go? You can make some friends like these in the Main Library foyer on Wednesday, February 10th. Keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter for other fun distractions!

Google Scholar – who is referencing us?

This is a guest blog post from Laura Keizer, one of our volunteers working in the Centre for Research Collections.

Archives are delightful places. Working in such a place regularly puts you in touch with a motley crew of visiting researchers who merrily toil away to complete diverse portfolios of original research. We help out where we can, provide documents, answer queries, and generally solve all sorts of interesting little mysteries. But despite our best efforts, we don’t often get to see where their local research takes the visitors afterwards, making the precise impact of the archive sometimes difficult to gauge.

This is where I came in. Having volunteered at the CRC for the past couple of months, I have attempted to trace the outcomes of research undertaken within these walls through reference analysis in Google Scholar. By examining and cataloguing every single digitised publication mentioning our university library for 2013, a handy account of authors, articles and associated archival sources appears (although itself absent of alliteration). Continue reading

A Famous Economist and His Library Collection

Jamie, our Marketing and Outreach Intern, gives an update on his progress.

Blog photo

I have passed the halfway point of my internship here at CRC; I feel like time is flying by too quickly but at the same time feel like I have been here and part of the team much longer than four weeks. I’ve started to get really stuck into my work as the Marketing and Outreach Intern preparing presentations, writing reports, doing research amongst other things. Although busy the majority of time with those things I still enjoy the pleasure of dipping my toes into some of the collections and discovering some very interesting pieces on my way. As part of my university degree I study Economics (yes students do actually study sometimes), and I am sure many of you are aware of Adam Smith; for those of you who are not there’s no need to worry as I’ll give you a little background information.

Adam Smith (1723-1790) is often referred to as ‘the father of modern economics’. He was the author of ‘The Wealth of Nations’ which is one of his most well-known works and is one of the first books regarding modern economics. He studied at the University of Glasgow and Balliol College, Oxford before giving lectures at the University of Edinburgh. Continue reading

My first week as an intern and how it led to the destruction of a city

Jamie started as an intern at the Centre for Research Collections last week, here he tells us about his first few days.

I have just finished my first of eight weeks as a Marketing and Outreach Intern with the CRC, and what a week it has been.  After a quick induction the first week has been filled with a mixture of meeting all of the fascinating people working in the department as well as gathering and researching ideas for some of the projects I am going to be working on.

Since I have started, my mind has been blown at least once a day by the interesting things that everyone is working on, and the more this happens the more eager I have been to make my internship successful so we can share some of the stories I have heard with everyone else!

On that subject, here is a little bit more about what I’m doing.  As a marketing and outreach intern I’m looking over some of the existing strategies as well as researching, and possibly creating, new ones.  Basically I’m looking at ways in which to reach out to more people and let them know about the department and give them a better understanding about what everyone does.  I am finding it quite exciting because I get to meet and discuss with everyone all about their roles so I can have a better idea of how to promote everything.  By this point you are probably wondering how this led to the destruction of a city.                        [Just one of many scenes of devastation included in the photo album of Caen]

Well, it started with all the news surrounding the D-Day Anniversary, I started asking around to see if anyone had information about a collection relating to this that we could post to our Facebook and Twitter pages.  I was directed to a photo album in the collection showing pictures and postcards of the city of Caen in Normandy.  The city of Caen was first attacked on D-Day by the allies, but initial assaults were unsuccessful and the battle for Caen ended up waging on for most of June and July.  During this battle Caen suffered from heavy bombing and destruction of a lot of its buildings.  The photo album I looked through was mostly before and after pictures and it was sad to see many beautiful buildings on postcards and then next to it a photo of the same spot but with nothing more than a pile of rubble.  The album had been presented by a Professor John Orr, who was a professor of French here.  In the catalogue book there was another entry that was a collection of telegrams and newspaper clippings from John Orr, so I decided look for more information behind the Professor’s link with Caen.  Going through this collection I found out that Professor Orr was the Chairman of the Edinburgh-Caen Fellowship, and worked hard on getting the people of Edinburgh to donate food, money and emergency items to Caen following the destruction of their homes.



[Two images showing before and after the assaults]

I could go into a lot more detail on what I found out about the Professor and Caen but I think that I’ve given enough for a taster.  If you want to find out more you could pop to the Centre for Research Collections’ Reading Room in the Main Library and take out the album yourself and read all about these important events in our history.

I am sorry to disappoint those of you looking to find out how I caused the destruction of a city! If you haven’t realised, it was about how my internship led on to finding out about Caen. I am a little clumsy but have never done anything like destroying an entire city… yet.  I hope you’ve enjoyed my first blog – hopefully they’ll let me do another one…

Thank you for reading, and thank you to DIU for supplying the images.


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.


Innovative Learning Week – Online Quiz

Poster_ART_060114We’ve been running an online quiz during Innovative Learning Week with questions based on many of our different online resources.  The first nine questions have already been posted on the CRC Facebook page, the 10th and final question will be posted at 3pm this afternoon ( ).  For anyone who has missed the questions so far, here is a quick recap:

Question 1:  Looking at our image collections here:  In the Roslin Institute Collection, what is Mr Anthony H Wingfield riding?

Question 2: Using the English Short Title Catalogue ( ), search for “Perverting divine truth”.  What is the title of the book you find, and where is the nearest copy located?

Question 3: In 1915, father and son William Henry and William Lawrence Bragg won the Nobel Prize for Physics for their foundational work published in the book “X-rays and crystal structure”.  Using the library catalogue, where is the 1915 edition of this book held?

Question 4: Reputedly, we have the first drawing of a Native American in the Laing Collection in .  What is his name?

Question 5: Using the Archives and Manuscripts catalogue (, which post would Arthur Darbishire have filled had he not died in the First World War?

Question 6: Browse through the UoEArtandArchives blog (  Who was Monster Hunting in 1934?

Question 7: Bugles are instruments that have been used as signalling devises in the military for generations.  MIMEd has a bugle in its collection that is said to have been taken off of a German soldier at the battle of the Somme.  Using the MIMEd website , can you find the name of the maker and the German town in which it was made in c 1914?

Question 8: What was title of the article/paper that was prepared for the University Court by a Rector who went on to become Prime Minister?  The date the paper was laid before the Court was 26th May 1975. Again look in the archive resources here:

Question 9: Which collections held by Lothian Health Services Archive ( were inscribed into the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 2011?

To submit your answers at the end of the week, use the form here:

Volunteer of the Month – January 2014

Beth Dumas, CRC Taster Day Volunteer

Since October, I have been volunteering with the CRC, doing one or two day sessions with each department and discovering how every job contributes to the task of running the University of Edinburgh’s Special Collections. Just by volunteering one day a week, I was able to jump right into assisting with book collections, responding to queries for information or digital images, and the beginnings of rare books and archive cataloguing. Among other highlights, I discovered a fascinating drawing in a late 19th century casebook from the Lothian Health Services Archive, encountered more books in Icelandic than I’d ever imagined would be in Edinburgh, and spent a rather poignant day sorting materials associated with alumni who fought in WWI.


As a student in the MSc Material Cultures and History of the Book programme, the experience has proved invaluable in my understanding of how the modern library handles rare books, manuscripts, and archives, and the varied professions associated with an institution such as the CRC. This practical information has dove-tailed nicely with my academic interest in book history, and rounded out my studies in a way that simply completing my course-work never would. When I started volunteering, I knew I wanted to work in a library but wasn’t sure where I would be the best fit, but by learning about every department, I was able to determine that my strongest interest is in rare books, which led directly into my new position as one of two cataloguing interns in the rare books and manuscripts division of the CRC, which I am eagerly looking forward to as the next step on my career path. I would strongly suggest that anyone with an interest in literature, art, history, or, obviously, book history, take the time to volunteer at the CRC, because it’s a rewarding way to see how your academic interests can be applied to managing and preserving the wealth of material culture available at the University.

Volunteer of the Month – November 2013


Emma Smith

Exhibitions Intern and Volunteer

I was the Exhibitions Intern based in the CRC during the summer and I was tasked with the planning, design and curation of an exhibition which would be on display in the Main Library Exhibition Room over the winter.  I used this opportunity to design an exhibition which is based on the theme of “cabinets of curiosity” and highlights the breadth of the University’s Collections.  I have had a chance to work with a number of the collection curators and other staff within the CRC to help create the Collect.Ed exhibition.


As an undergraduate keen to develop a career in the museums and heritage sector, this has been a fantastic opportunity for me to gain valuable skills and experience in this highly competitive field.  I hope that this exhibition will give other students, staff and visitors an opportunity to see some of the amazing items in the University’s collection and will be enjoyed as much as I enjoyed its creation and realisation.


Collect.Ed will be open in the Main Library Exhibition Room until 1 March.

Kirsty Bailey – October 2013

Norman Dott Project Volunteer

PR1-1269 folder

From March 2013 I have been volunteering on the Norman Dott project, cataloguing patient case notes using Encoded Archival Description (EAD) in an XML editor (<oXygen/>).  I have found my work with this material absolutely fascinating, as each case note is unique and is so full of captivating information. Some of the files which I encounter include letters and cards between Norman Dott and his patients. Other files include drawings by Norman Dott, or photographs, sometimes of the patient, other times of tumours which have been removed. Each file seems to unveil a new insight into Dott himself, or the medical era within which he practiced, enabling you to reconstruct some form of understanding to the way he treated and dealt with his patients. My knowledge and interest in medicine and especially neurosurgery has flourished from spending time with these files; I feel they are just bursting with fascinating information, and each case is just captivating to read.  More information about the project is available here:

Dott web image 19-10-2012