Category Archives: Interns

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.


Maori Moko – Capturing the New Zealand Collection

An update from the CRC Cataloguing Interns Beth and Fiona

Moko or tatooing is a crucial part of Maori culture, reflected in many of their carvings and art work, and early examples of this practise are amazingly well preserved in some photographs and drawings in Major-General Robley’s 1896 work:  Moko, or Maori tattooing, one of the many fascinating books in the New Zealand Collection.


The draughtsman of Captain Cook, Sydney Parkinson, was first to draw the Maori tattoos in 1769, capturing their intricate designs and an art which was to decline rapidly with the arrival of the European missionaries and settlers who disapproved of the practise. In recent years, however, it is making a comeback using modern tattooing methods, and in this work we can see how these tattoos were made from the earliest times. NZ4

The Moko process was extremely painful, and would produce a raised scarring with charcoal black staining, as can be seen in some of the photos of the Chiefs. The tools used were a chisel called the Uhi, made from bone, tooth, or later iron, dipped in charcoal, and driven into the skin with the tap of a mallet called He Mahoe. On occasion the Uhi would pierce the skin and Robley describes seeing a Chief’s pipe smoke coming out of such a wound in the cheek.

NZ5  NZ6

The most exhaustive description in English of a Maori tattooing, was that of John Rutherford, who was captured in 1816, along with several of the crew of his ship, the Agnes. He was one of the first westerners to be tattooed and gives a detailed description of this painful 4 hour process: we can see his extensive tattoos in his portrait. Facial tattoos were particularly important, and not just confined to the men: women often had at least some decoration around their mouth and such tattoos, in men and women, were designed to highlight and enhance their natural features as well as to display their status.


Within Maori culture, at that time, a person was so defined by their tattoos that these came to represent who they were and there are several examples of Maori chiefs signatures which consisted of drawing of their own facial tattoos, as can be seen in several facsimiles of treaties reproduced in this work.

NZ9 NZ10


Library Placement Student

Stefanie has been working with us for a few weeks on a placement as part of her PG course in Library and Information Studies at Robert Gordon University.  Here she tells us about her experience of working with the Scholarly Communications Team.

I arrived for my placement with the Scholarly Communications Team filled with elements of isolated theoretical knowledge and the notion that the library profession was undergoing drastic changes. In the course of the placement learned much about the applicability of my course modules, the profession and my future professional goals.

The opportunity to work with PURE from the very first day gave me the impression that I could positively contribute to the team’s daily work rather than being a distraction. The correction and updating of metadata may not be the most exciting duty but I enjoy detail-oriented work and it is a very vital part of information management and library work. It was a task that allowed me to work largely independently following the initial introduction. Additionally, the digitization project provided a nice counterpoint to the PURE task. Much library work seems to be centred on comparable projects with staff often working on several such projects at any given time.

At the start of the project, its purpose and goal were clearly explained, I was introduced to the relevant staff members and given an introduction to the equipment. This was quite useful as it provided the necessary information for a successful start but left me free to test my project management skills. Guidance and support in my PURE tasks and the digitization project were also just one question away giving me the confidence to apply the theoretical skills acquired throughout the course modules in a practical manner.

Dominic did a fantastic job arranging personal interviews with numerous staff from Research & Learning Services as well as Library & University Collections. I learned so much through these interviews that I could feel an entire report with it. The information and knowledge that everyone so willingly shared with me (Thank you!) has contributed immensely to my newly constructed view of the expanding rather than changing role of the library profession. Every interview echoed different bits and pieces of the theoretical knowledge from my course modules. This truly stressed the fact that no one is just a cataloguer or a metadata specialist. For a large information/library department such as the University of Edinburgh’s IS to work effectively, everyone must make use of numerous different skills and be willing to work across departments on various projects whilst still accomplishing the routine day-to-day tasks of the official job title.

I want to thank everyone for their time and generosity throughout my placement. The placement has made it possible for me to realize that I do not have to choose one particular aspect of the information management and library profession. The knowledge acquired on the course joins well with my previous education and experience opening the doors to wide variety of possible positions in the profession with many more opportunities awaiting in the form of small and large projects.

I can only hope that I was able to return the favour in small part and contribute positively to the work of the Scholarly Communications team.

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 – 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.

Intern of the Month – July 2013

Snezhana Savova

CRC Marketing Intern

I have been the summer Marketing Intern at the Centre for Research Collections (CRC) for the past two months.  My task was to research and review the current marketing strategy of the department and to propose ways to improve it in order to further develop the CRC and to better promote the various impressive Collections it is home to.

I spent the initial two weeks of my internship to discovering the Collections and the hidden treasures, many of which I have never heard of before I came to the CRC.  Subsequently, I researched the printed promotional material, as well as the online and social media presence of the department and started work on their improvement.  My main aim was to raise the awareness for the existence and significance of the Collections; the target audience included all students and staff of the University, people who use the collections for their research purposes and the wider public.

After four weeks, I presented my suggestions to the department based my research of the current strategy of the CRC and the activities of other similar institutions.  My presentation covered a broad range of topics and areas to be worked on in order to present and promote the CRC and the Collections in a more inspiring, exciting and remarkable way.

For the remainder of these two months, I worked on the implementation of my suggestions and succeeded to actually make some real changes and improvements.  Many new and innovative ways to deliver our message to diverse groups are now utilised and there is significantly higher awareness of the department within the University.

My time at the CRC was very pleasant and fruitful and it contributed both to the growth of the department and my personal one.  I feel I have gained valuable skills which will be highly beneficial for my future career development.  Furthermore, I met great people and had the pleasure to work in a very positive and supportive environment.

Finally, I am more than happy to continue helping the CRC and am looking forward to coming back as a volunteer during term time.

Volunteer Event – June 2013


Some of our volunteers gave presentations at a special event yesterday to say thank you to our volunteers for the all hard work that they have been putting in over the past few months.  Eleven volunteers gave short presentations outlining the work they have been doing, what skills they have been learning and how their experiences have been helping them to develop.  We would like to say a big thank you to everyone who attended yesterday’s event in the CRC and especially to those who did presentations.


Intern of the Month – April 2013

Bagpipe Conservation

Abigail Chapman

Intern at St Cecilia’s Hall

For the past three months, I have been spending two days a week researching the social history of St Cecilia’s Hall and the Edinburgh Musical Society, who commissioned the building in the early eighteenth century. My first task was to find concert listings for St Cecilia’s Hall in Edinburgh newspapers, to ascertain the repertoire of the society between 1763 and 1798. That involved hours of reading the Caledonian Mercury and the Edinburgh Evening Courant, and a few days at the Central Library reading the EMS Minutes. Mari, whom I have been interning alongside, has worked on organising the Langwill-Waterhouse Archive, consisting of dozens of boxes of uncatalogued material.

Musical instrument moveWhat has made this internship most special, though, is all the odd jobs that I have ended up doing, whether that be sorting through the odd folder of the Langwill-Waterhouse Archive; conserving tarnished bagpipes for an upcoming symposium; or learning about the proper care of instruments as part of the relocation of EUCHMI’s collection to improved storage facilities. In the process, I have learned about instruments I never knew existed, gained archive management and conservation experience, and polished up my research skills into the bargain.

Interns of the Month – March 2013

Fiona Menzies and Charlotte Anstis

LHSA Archive Intern and LHSA Conservation Intern (Fiona and Charlotte have been working with us as the LHSA interns for the past 10 weeks).

IMG_2305 Fiona: I have been working on part of the LHSA photograph collection.  My role here has been to create a new finding aid and re-house the photos (4000 photographs out of 40,000).  Many of the photographs I have come across have been very interesting.  The experience here has been great fun and I will be returning as a volunteer to complete the project since I am determined to finish it.


Charlotte:  During the 10 weeks I have been working on a project to conserve and re-house items from a collection of letters, legal documents and title deeds relating to the Royal Edinburgh Infirmary.  The earliest item is a parchment title deed dated 1594 and material continues up to the early 20th Century.  An important part of the project was to survey the collection (which has not been catalogued) and decide with the LHSA archivist and conservator on items to prioritise.  The parchment title deeds were a focus, but safe handling was difficult at times due to the way they are folded, their size and the nature of parchment as a material.  I did some research to find the most suitable method of flattening the title deeds (where appropriate), storage has been created and a special folder made to help with safe handling when opening the title deeds.  Some of the paper documents contained iron gall ink which was a concern as iron gall ink can severely degrade paper.  Treatment options were chosen that were sensitive to the nature of iron gall ink and that would help to stabilise the documents.   Image

Other activities were included in the internship; I led a training day for volunteers to learn about the basic principles of conservation and I have helped with student seminars as well as attending visits.

I have had an amazing time here at the University and have learnt so much! I really feel like a part of the team, and I am really sad that this is our last week here.