Monthly Favourite! Centre for Research Collections Summer School

4:00 PM

This week I was fortunate enough to participate in Edinburgh University's Centre for Research Collections summer school. This was an exciting opportunity to learn more about the CRC and the collections held by the University. Throughout the week we were given a series of talks geared towards providing our group with a better understanding of archives, curating an exhibition, alongside preventive and interventive conservation measures.

Monday focused on getting to know the Research Collections Centre and the rest of the group, we were taken on a tour of the library and the stores. During the afternoon we were given an insightful talk on Archives and University Collections by Rachel Hosker, which looked to give us an introduction to the University's holdings and the complexities of working with archive collections more generally.

This was followed by a practical session led by Louise Neilson, Lothian Health Services Archive Access Officer. This was a great session which introduced us to the LHSA, which holds historically important records of NHS hospitals among other health-related record material. We were able to gain an understanding of handling objects and the complexities of working with material which is sensitive in nature.

Tuesday focused on museums, speaking on curating exhibitions, Kirsty McNab the exhibitions officer we were introduced to the broad range of tasks undertaken when putting together an exhibition, ranging from interpretation guides to taking objects out on loan from other collections.

The remainder of Tuesday was spent at St. Cecilia's Hall where we were spoken to by Ruthanne Baxter, museum services manager, on heritage tourism and its importance within museums and galleries. During the afternoon we had a tour by Sarah Deters, the learning and engagement curator at St. Ceclia's. This was a fascinating tour and we were able to see (and hear!) the internationally important collection of historical instruments which included harpsichords and virginals. This session was also teamed with a practical task which got us thinking about various ways of engaging audiences and accommodating different types of audiences with these collections.

Wednesday was all about conservation, rare books, and public art! In the morning we were introduced to the theory behind the work of a conservator, led by Emily Hick, project conservator at the CRC. This was then followed by a practical introduction to the skills required to be a conservator and the day-to-day tasks conservators frequently undertake.

The afternoon sessions were then divided into rare book collections with Fin West, Rare Books and Manuscripts Cataloguer, where we were able to see a small selection of the collection of internationally important printed books and manuscripts. This was followed by an interesting talk on public art by Liv Laumenech, Public Art Officer, who spoke to us about the practical questions surrounding public art, in particular referencing the problematic mosaic fragments currently at Edinburgh University, from two archways designed by Paolozzi once housed at Tottenham Court Road tube station.

Thursday took us to the Anatomical Museum in the morning to visit the museum and skull room, not usually open to the public. In doing so, we were able to begin to consider questions of the ethics of exhibiting and in particular this prepared us for going to see 'Dead Images' exhibition at Edinburgh College of Art. We spent the afternoon with Susan Pettigrew a photographer with the Digital Imaging Unit at the CRC. Susan and her team are responsible for digitising the University's books, manuscripts, and objects. This session allowed us to get behind the scenes and see the huge amounts of work being carried out to enable the collections to be more accessible to a wide range of audiences.

Our last day, Friday, saw us present our project presentations. At the beginning of the week we had been split into groups and given a project to carry out and prepare a presentation for. Our team was focused on engagement project. Our aim was to come up with engagement events and activities in conjunction with 'Dawn of a New Era' exhibition from Lothian Health Services Archive documenting the development of the NHS to celebrate its 70th birthday.

The week was rounded off by a careers chat from Laura and then lunch at Paradise Palms! A lovely end to a great and informative week.

~ Jennifer Brunton,
   archives assistant

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