Category Archives: Library

CRC Summer School: Day 3

IMG_0110After a morning spent with project conservator Emily Hick who introduced us to conservation theory, we had the chance to try out some of the techniques in practice. From surface cleaning to tear repair, we were able to take the first steps in learning how to conserve paper and understand the practical and ethical considerations involved in conservation.


Fin West and John Glass then led a session on the fascinating world of rare books. As IMG_0134cataloguers themselves, they picked out items in collection they had worked with personally. As well as seeing items dating back to the 16th century, we were surprised to learn that the department also features examples of graphic novels and comics. To give us a flavour of their roles at the university, we were each given a varied selection of donated books to assess by checking for duplicate records within the library catalogue.

The final session brought a complete change in tone with a visit to the Anatomy Museum, where we were greeted by two giant elephant skeletons. Ruth Pollitt then introduced us to the university’s extensive collection of specimens. We came face to face with the skeleton of William Burke, of the notorious murderers Burke and Hare. Once part of the teaching resources for Edinburgh’s medical school, the collections are still invaluable for visiting researchers and historians.

As part of the summer school, we were each assigned projects to complete over the week. Our role has been to investigate the significance of social media within the heritage sector. Other projects include designing events to promote the recently acquired Paolozzi mosaics; planning an exhibition using items from the collection around the theme ‘Green’; and learning about the different methods used in collections documentation. Each group will present their findings at the end of the week.


CRC Summer School: Day 2


Yesterday brought a slight shift in focus, from a general introduction to an in-depth look at specific departments and museum collections. Our morning was spent discussing both current and future projects and organisation of the library, followed by a more detailed session on Metadata and cataloguing.

Fun fact #1: On a tour of the library we discovered that the self-return machine is based on a potato sorter!

The afternoon introduced us to the University’s Musical Instruments and Art Collections. Sarah Deters, the Learning and Engagement Curator of the Musical Instrument Museums, talked us through both the exciting redevelopment of St Cecilia’s Hall and the extensive collections she works with (including 1000 clarinets!). Today’s hands-on session tasked us with assessing and investigating the provenance of some of the instruments. Due to the redevelopments the instruments are in storage, so we were able to see and learn about the conditions they need to be kept in.

clarinet w.s.


Fun fact #2: Some 19th-century gentlemen commissioned novelty instruments
concealed in walking sticks!



Our final session, led by Art Collections Curator Neil Lebeter, gave us a whistle-stop tour of the collection and its development. An early Picasso, signed by the artist later in life, brought home the uniqueness and extent of the art held by the university. One of their ongoing major projects involves rescuing and reconstructing Eduardo Paolozzi’s mosaics, which had previously adorned Tottenham Court Road tube station.

CRC Summer School: Day 1

This week the Centre for Researchimagej Collections is running its very first Summer School to provide an overview of different aspects of the heritage sector; with a focus on collections, exhibitions and engagement. We are participating in the Summer school ourselves, and will be taking over the CRC’s social media – so make sure to check out our Facebook and Twitter takeover.

The programme offers its participants hands on experience from a variety of professionals. Staff ranging from an Academic Support Librarian who showed us how much interaction and support the library provides to its users, to Rachel Hosker – the Archive Manager, who presented a powerful case for the relevance of archival material as a ‘memory of society’ as well as highlighting the challenges of managing a collection. Possibly one of the most interesting sections of her presentation was the range of material in the collections: from manuscripts and letters, to drawings and records it was clear that archives contain a broad range of fascinating material which we were lucky enough to handle.

A fascinating afternoon session included an introduction to the Lothian Health Services Archive, which allowed us to engage with some of their many records and gain a greater understanding of the volume and range of records that they held. Using records such as these we were able to trace the lives of individuals, giving us a window into the everyday work of LHSA.

The day left us reflecting on the extent of the collaboration required between departments and individuals, and we look forward to furthering this understanding throughout the week.


There are always flowers

There are always flowers for those who want to see them. 

Henri Matisse 

This week is British Flowers Week! This is a week-long celebration of British flowers and the UK cut flowers industry, and it has been making us think about all the flowers we have in our collections here. We have decided to feature some of our favourites below!

One of our most special items is this eighteenth-century harpsichord – the most famous harpsichord in the world! More copies have been made of this harpsichord than any other in the world, and it was used as the model for the first harpsichord built in the revival period. Look at the beautiful flower detailing on it:

Find more information here.

To turn to our manuscript collections, the flowers in the margins of MS 195, our fifteenth-century copy of Virgil’s Georgics camouflage a variety of interesting creatures:


© The University of Edinburgh. Find more information here.

We also have many modern fiction books that feature flowers. Why not borrow Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose (PQ4865.C6 Eco.) to read this summer?  Alternatively, we have The Black Tulip, by Alexandre Dumas (PQ2229 Dum.)! What is your favourite flower-related book?

Remember, the library has more than textbooks! Flowers are everywhere if you look for them!

Thus strangely are our souls constructed

We had a fantastic time participating in Festival of Museums at the weekend! From photography to pirates, there was something for everyone!

Collection: University of Edinburgh; Persons: Tayler, Jared; Event: Animation Workshop; 'Ani-Adventure'; Place: Reid Concert Hall; Category: University of Edinburgh; events; Description: 14/05/2016; Reid Concert Hall; Animation Workshop; 'Ani-Adventure'; Jared Tayler

Ani-Adventure: Animation Workshop led by ECA’s Jared Taylor

The finale of the weekend was a talk by Gavin Francis, an Edinburgh University alumnus, who took us on a tour of the human body. He was also signing copies of his excellent book, Adventures in Human Being, based on his experiences as a doctor. Informative and moving, this book has been incredibly well-received.

Collection: University of Edinburgh; Persons: Francis, Gavin; Event: Adventures in Human Being Lecture; Place: Anatomy Lecture Theatre; Category: University of Edinburgh; events; Description: 15/05/2016; Anatomy Lecture Theatre; Adventures in Human Being Lecture; Gavin Francis

Adventures in Human Being with Gavin Francis in the Anatomy Lecture Theatre

Today, we have two signed copies of the book to give away! All you have to do is identify this quote, which Gavin Francis includes in Chapter One:

‘Thus strangely are our souls constructed, and by such slight ligaments are we bound to prosperity or ruin’

To win, comment below, or contact us on Facebook or Twitter (#happylibrary) with the name of the book and the author! Need a hint? The library holds several copies of this 1818 book!

Remember, the library has more to offer than textbooks!

Collection: University of Edinburgh; Persons: N/A; Event: Mathematical jewellery workshop; 'Hidden Gems'; Place: Anatomy Seminar Room; Category: University of Edinburgh; events; Description: 13/05/2016; Anatomy Seminar Room; Mathematical jewellery workshop; 'Hidden Gems'

Hidden Gems: Mathematical jewellery workshop

Lions and snakes and penguins (oh my!)

As you may have seen in our earlier blog post, this weekend (May 13th-15th) is Festival of Museums! This year’s theme is adventure and we have lots of exciting events planned, from photography to pirates! For more information, see the website here.

To tie in with Festival of Museums, we have been having fun in the Foyer today, making some wild animals out of origami and colouring in pirate ships. If you missed out, you can find some origami patterns here, and the colouring pages here.


We have also been asking students to vote on their favourite adventure book! We have some great ones here in the Library:

Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe, PR3403 Def.

Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson, PR5486 Ste.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, PS1305 Twa.

Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott, PR5318 Sco

The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas, PQ2228 Dum.

The Odyssey, Homer, PA4025.A5 Hom.

Moby Dick, Herman Melville, PS2384.M6 Mel.

Gulliver’s Travels, Johnathan Swift, PR3724 Swi.

So far, The Odyssey is winning, with Treasure Island a close second. Disagree? Let us know what you think via Facebook or Twitter (#happylibrary)!

We will leave you this week with an engraving from one of the University’s holdings of another of these texts, but look out for us popping up again soon!


Steel engraving by R. Staines after a drawing by T. Allom of a scene from Sir Walter Scott’s  Ivanhoe. 1837. Corson P.3655. © The University of Edinburgh. See it here.

Frogs and foxes

Art does not reproduce what we see; rather, it makes us see 

Paul Klee

Our relaxation table in the Main Library Foyer has been helping students relax while they are revising for exams. One of the most popular activities has been origami, which is a great way to take a little break and re-focus your mind. So far, we have been making bookmark hearts, as well as roses and skulls to celebrate Shakespeare’s 400th birthday.

However, we have been getting requests for more patterns to try! There are some great websites that provide free origami patterns, such as and You can search there for whatever you want to make!

Otherwise, why not try some of our favourites? You could soon be the proud owner of a frog, fox, or penguin! Pick up some origami paper from our table today, and don’t forget to tweet us your creations (#happylibrary)!


That which we call a rose

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

Juliet, Romeo and Juliet

Today is the first day of the exam period, so it is a stressful time for students. We have been trying to help out with our relaxation table, located in the Main Library Foyer. It has some things to help students de-stress while they are studying, like tea and aromatherapy. However, we also want to encourage students to take regular breaks while studying. As little as six minutes of a quiet activity can help us to relax, so we have provided some activities that students can try, such as puzzles and colouring in.

Today, we have been doing something a little bit different. To celebrate Shakespeare’s 400th birthday, which has just passed on April 23rd, we have been encouraging students to make some Shakespeare-themed origami!

All you need is a square or rectangular piece of paper, so why not try a rose, a heart, or a skull? You could even make a paper model of the Globe!

If you are looking for an even more productive break, you could come up to the Centre for Research Collections on the sixth floor, where all students are welcome to look at our Special Collections material. We have a lot of early English drama, including many editions of Shakespeare plays published before 1660, such as this  lovely 1631 edition of The Taming of the Shrew:

taming of the shrew

William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew, 1631. JA3706. © The University of Edinburgh. See it here.

Remember, the library has more to offer than textbooks and study space! 

Time to relax

The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it

Sydney J. Harris

Revision week is well underway and the library is getting busier and busier. Libraries are great places to study, offering a quiet, calm space to work. The Main Library is even offering extra study spaces for students during this time.

However, we have more to offer than study spaces! As part of our ongoing campaign to help students, we have been offering free hand massages today!


We hope that everyone who received a massage really benefited from it, but if you missed out, never fear! We have set up a Relaxation Table in the Main Foyer, which will be around for the next few weeks, offering fun activities such as origami, puzzles, and colouring. Remember, it is important to take breaks to stay focussed! There will also be aromatherapy, bubble wrap, and relaxing herbal tea for students to take away, among other things.  Don’t miss out, and make sure to Tweet or Facebook us your thoughts and creations (#happylibrary)!


Also, watch out for us on Friday, when we will be celebrating Shakespeare’s 400th birthday and World Book Night! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more details.

To get you in the party mood, here’s an image of Shakespeare from our collections:


Title page of The Works of Mr William Shakespeare, Vol.1, 1709. S*.30.1. © The University of Edinburgh. See it here.

Remember, we have more than just textbooks and study spaces! Happy studying!

The Adventure Begins…

Science, freedom, beauty, adventure: what more could you ask of life? Aviation combined all the elements I loved.

Charles A. Lindbergh, The Spirit of St. Louis


A model, with some wings, in the Playfair Library…. No, it’s not a new version of Cluedo, it’s this year’s University of Edinburgh’s Festival of Museums photoshoot!

With only a month to go until our One Last Adventure Festival of Museums weekend (13th-15th May), the adventurous times have begun with an action-packed aviation-inspired photoshoot with the fantastic Laurence Winram!


Fuelled by tea and coffee and with the model, Graham, dressed as an early aviation pioneer (complete with goggles and a pipe!), Laurence and his team worked tirelessly to get the perfect ‘adventurous’ shot in the wonderful setting of the University’s Playfair Library.

We can’t wait to see the results but in the meantime, if you fancy an adventure of your own, registration for all our events is now open – pirates, treasure, anatomy and bugs (yes really!) await so…

Let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince