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!


Volunteer of the Month – June 2013

Sophie Volker

CRC Archives Volunteer


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.

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.

Volunteer of the Month – February 2013


Lynne Bulmer
Volunteer with The Carmichael Watson Project

I have been volunteering in Special Collections and Archives for a few hours each week since June 2011, with my work mainly focussed on the Carmichael Watson project. For those few hours, I usually find myself in the company of lowly crofters and paupers, scraping a living off the land in the more remote areas of mid-late 19th century Scotland. My work centres on researching and creating biographies of the people visited or mentioned by Alexander Carmichael in his many transcription and field notebooks. In these notebooks, Carmichael collected such things as spells, songs, charms, prayers and stories at the heart of the Gaelic culture of the time. Through studying their birth, marriage and death certificates together with census records, I construct a brief biography of the informants’ lives and ensure that significant dates are made ‘machine-readable’ for future researchers, as well as checking any reference made in the notebooks to each person; all these details are gradually being made available on the Carmichael Watson Project website. As well as my enjoyment of being a ‘detective’ in constructing the biographies, it also gives me great satisfaction to think that my work may be of use to those researching in the field of 19th century life in the Highlands and Islands, especially as I lived in the Highlands myself for around 15 years.