Volunteer of the Month – June 2013

Sophie Volker

CRC Archives Volunteer

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I have been working on the Quatercentenary Collection for more than 6 months. In 1983 the University celebrated its 400th anniversary and, as part of these celebrations, the University library put out a call to all alumni and ex-staff (this was before the archive existed), asking them for contributions to a collection which would be used to illustrate student life at Edinburgh. Hundreds of people responded, and the library was sent thousands of items including class cards, degree scrolls, lecture notes, tickets to dances, menus for club dinners and photographs. It’s not just documents, though – I have found two embroidered velvet caps and a box of 1930s cigarettes! I think my favourite thing in the whole collection is a dance card from the 1920s, which has a tiny pencil attached by a piece of ribbon. The collection ranges in date from the 1870s to the 1970s – more or less 100 years of student life at the University of Edinburgh.  Many people who sent items also included letters with their recollections of their time at university. This enormous, important collection was then split up according to type: photographs in a box with other photographs, boxes full of party invitations, boxes and boxes containing only class cards.

My job is to put each individual accession back together again – instead of items being catalogued by type, they will be catalogued in groups according to who deposited them. This has meant making a list of what is in every one of the 42 boxes, and then going through every box and taking out the separate items and rehousing them in proper archive folders and boxes. It is very satisfying bringing all the different items together to make a little picture of an individual’s time at the University of Edinburgh. I love knowing that these things will be catalogued in their proper place, and that one day someone will look at them and find out about an ancestor’s student days.

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