February art exhibition: Dispossession

An exhibition of paintings by Karen and Mel Shewan runs from 1st till 27th February in the Art and Design Library.
The artworks are a complex exploration of themes related to the Highland Clearances

Tales of One City

Dispossession, an exhibition of paintings by Karen and Mel Shewan runs from 1st  till 27th February in the Art and Design Library.

The artworks are a complex exploration of themes related to the Highland Clearances, and the artists describe the exhibition like this:

Our exhibition Dispossession, developed from our interest in the Highland Clearances, the mass eviction of tenants, by their Lairds, to make way for large scale sheep farming. We stay for much of the year at our house near Edderton in Easter Ross at the foot of Struie Hill, overlooking the Sutherland Hills and the Dornoch Firth. It is a beautiful setting and yet to remark on all that is striking and lovely around us seems sometimes almost a violation of the lives of those dispossessed of their homes and livelihoods by the Duke of Sutherland. His controversial statue, rising spike-like from the summit of…

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The people who helped shape Edinburgh Libraries: the tradesmen who built Central Library

“The contractors began operations on the 17 Nov [1887]…. excavating area of site and carting away stuff”.
So began the building of Central Library.

Tales of One City

When the doors of Edinburgh Central Library were formally opened on Monday 9 June 1890, it was the fulfilment of many years preparation.

Selected design for Edinburgh Public Library, elevation to George IV Bridge and plans for third and fourth floors, by George Washington Browne, 1887

In our collections, we have two volumes of handwritten ledgers kept by the then Clerk of Works, William Bruce, which record in detail the building works as they progressed.

Clerk of Works’ record books for Edinburgh Public Library

We know from the record books that preparation work had begun as early as 1879 when it was recorded that “Official tests of Pentland Cement” were being methodically undertaken. The pages are filled with neat notes with details such as the amount of cement used, how many days the cement had been set for, and the amount of shrinkage.

On the 18 November 1887, the…

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Event report – ELISA visit to Lloyds Banking Group Archives

On Thursday 8th November a small group of us ventured out to an unassuming building in Sighthill where we spent a surprising and interesting afternoon.

Words and pictures by Lesa Ng:

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this visit – maybe that it could have been a bit of a dry topic and looking at records management of modern records. Could not have been further from the reality. History of finance and of the bank really interesting – for instance learning the reason why Walter Scott is always printed on money.

I think people would be surprised they could apply to access to study the archives. Also hearing about the social history aspects – why and how the banks came about, who were the customers and who worked for them, and their advertising over the years. Of course was great we could handle the cloaks! Also sobering to hear that like everywhere library services and staff is always under threat, that they almost lost a staff member and that they were considering closing the Museum. The goody pack we got to take away was a bit different too. 🙂

The Ballad of Muriel Spark – Scottish Poetry Library event

Wrapped in this liquid turmoil who can say / Which is the mighty echo, which the spray? Muriel Spark’s poetry inspires a musical event at the SPL based on her poetry. Composer Jessica Danz has written a new piece for string quartet. Wed 14 Nov (£8/£6)

Tickets via Eventbrite

Historic Environment Scotland visit report – October 2018

Here’s another view of the excellent visit to HES last week (I am increasingly sorry I missed it!). Words by Morag Ferguson of the Advocates Library, pictures by Lesa Ng of Heriot-Watt University.

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On 8 October 2018 I visited John Sinclair House, at 16 Bernard Terrace Edinburgh for a tour of the Search Rooms and Library at Historic Environment Scotland (HES) organised by ELISA. Neil Fraser, the Public Services Manager kindly hosted our visit and welcomed us with tea, coffee and biscuits which is always a good start.

HES came into being in October 2015 following the amalgamation of Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments. As well as caring for historical buildings such as Edinburgh and Stirling Castle, HES also has responsibility for digital archives such as SCRANCANMORE and NCAP  (National Collection of Aerial Photography). I found this particularly interesting as BBC Scotland is currently showing ‘Scotland from the Sky’ which was produced and presented by one of the HES staff, James Crawford.

In its conservation role HES has responsibility for the Engine Shed in Stirling which is a central hub for building and conservation professionals with a visitor centre. I’m originally from Stirling so now plan to visit the Engine Shed on my next trip home. Neil took us on a tour of the Search Rooms and Library where Joe McAllister, the Access Officer had laid out some interesting drawings of Craigend house in Renfrewshire. The Search Rooms and Library are open to the Public Tuesday to Friday 9.30-4.30 where you can browse open access items such as books and photographs but it is best to give advance notice of your visit. They provide a range of copying facilities and permit self-copying (cameras or phones) of certain material. If you need to see original historic drawings and manuscripts, these can be ordered in advance.

Thereafter we were taken to the archives to view the collections stored where Architects firms can choose to deposit their drawings and materials. We also visited their conservation workshop where the archivist explained the delicate work required to repair older materials. Apparently there has been a shift back to using ancient Japanese techniques for conservation repairs as these have proved to be more durable and less harmful than some of the more modern methods.

Finally in the foyer we had a chance to view some of the newer publications produced by HES. I spotted a copy of “Bloody Scotland” a compilation of short stories by Crime writers at the Bloody Scotland Festival in Stirling. I thought it surprising that HES should be involved in the publication of this book but Neil explained that all the murders took place in Scottish built heritage, which explained the connection.  I thoroughly enjoyed this ELISA visit which enabled me to learn a great deal more about the work and responsibilities of Historic Environment Scotland so special thanks to Neil Fraser of HES and Jennifer Higgins from the National Library of Scotland for organising this.

Leith Miscellany goes online – part 1

Ooh, this is interesting! My people were Leithers so I’ll be investigating this for sure. Thanks @TalesOfOneCity

Tales of One City

We’ve recently undertaken a large project to digitise and make available online thirteen albums relating to Leith. We’ve named them the Leith Miscellany volumes I – XIII as the contents cover basically everything and anything to do with Leith. They provide an extraordinary and unique insight into the social history of the area.

Originally collected in shop-bought photograph albums, the sticky album pages and damp had caused minor damage to some of the contents, so as well as digitising the photographs, postcards, presscuttings and ephemera, we have remounted the items on archival cardboard and rehoused them in conservation boxes.

The Fish Quay, – looking up-river, c1830

This is the first in a series of three blog posts highlighting the material and covers volumes I – IV. Inside, you get a real feel of what it was like in the 19th and early 20th centuries, with photographs of cargo boats and…

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The Wallace Letter, November 1300

What a treasure! A 700 year old letter from King Philip IV of France introducing Sir William Wallace to the king’s agents at the Papal court in Rome. Displayed by the National Records of Scotland for Doors Open Day this year.

Open Book

Wallace letter scanLast Saturday, as part of Doors Open Day 2018, National Records of Scotland displayed the Wallace letter – a 700-year-old message from the King of France, one of only two surviving documents with a personal connection to Scottish historical icon William Wallace.

Discovered in the Tower of London in the mid-1800s and now part of the collection of The National Archives, this small and seemingly innocuous letter contains details that can tell us much about the people and politics of this turbulent era, and about one of the most famous figures in Scotland’s history.

Letter from King Philip IV of France to his agents at the Papal court, 7 November 1300

Translation of Latin text

Philip by the grace of God King of the French to our loved and faithful our agents appointed to the Roma Court, greetings and love. We command you to request the Supreme Pontiff to consider…

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