Posted on Tuesday July 7, 2015

A Wide Variety of Images from the Collections of Edinburgh University

Europeana has a wealth of content available to researchers, both through its portal and its APIs. Europeana Research highlights this content and its research potential.

By Stefan Ekman, Research Coordinator at the Swedish National Data Service (SND).

Collection Title: The rich history and collections of the University of Edinburgh in pictures, drawings and writings
Source: University of Edinburgh
Licence for metadata: CC0
Licence for Content: CC BY
Data Format: Image
Metadata Format: EDM (Europeana Data Model)
How Accessed: Europeana Portal, API console

”To Janet
with love and best wishes
from Isabel
11th Jan[uar]y. 1913”

This is the first note in the Album of Janet Murray, who seems to have studied at the Edinburgh Provincial Training College at the time. Over the course of six months, the album was filled with drawings, pictures, and snatches of verse, along with addresses and signatures of Janet’s friends and E.P.T.C. lecturers. It is a wonderful document which offers an insight into the world of a young woman studying to become a teacher in the 1910s, and a valuable source for scholars interested in anything from history of education to popular culture of the early twentieth century.

One of the entries in Janet Murray’s album, from Ella Stoddart, another student at E.P.T.C. The poem may have been originally composed by a student at Cornell University and first published in Cornell Verse in 1887 (ed. Henry Adelbert Lyon) under the title “Query”. In the early 1900s, it was fairly popular among students and also appears in various newspapers as light-hearted entertainment. University of Edinburgh, CC-BY.

Janet Murray’s Album is not the only gem to be found in the Europeana Collection 9200271: “The rich history and collections of the University of Edinburgh in pictures, drawings and writings”. The collection contains more than 3,600 scanned images of a variety of texts and images. The slant is historical, but almost any discipline is covered. This particular collection only holds images, however. All texts present are scans of handwritten text or text set with old-fashioned fonts (and not rendered machine-readable).

The images are high-resolution TIFF files, which makes it easy to see even minute details. This is particularly useful for handwritten material such as the Album and the many letters that can be found in the collection. The correspondence, often including scans of the envelopes, is between a variety of people among whom can be mentioned Peter Pan’s creator J. M. Barrie, the 18th century architect Robert Adam, and the composer Frederic Chopin. Also included in Chopin’s letters is some sheet music.

For scholars in musicology and musical history, there are also other interesting materials in the collection. The music compendium Instrumentalischer Bettlermantl contains over 300 scanned pages of text, instrument drawings, and sheet music. The Thistlewaite Manuscript contains almost 200 pages of sheet music. Both are from the 17th century.

Scans of complete works are also included in the collection, for example The Celtic Chair Galop, a musical score by F. W. Allwood (possibly to commemorate the establish a Celtic Chair at Edinburgh University in 1882). Another work is the 1581 The Image of Irelande by John Derricke, with its alluring woodcuts. Its verse narrative denigrates Irish culture and describes how Henry Sidney (father of the poet Philip Sidney) defeats Irish rebels. Edinburgh University holds the only extant copy of this work and the scans in the collection are a practical way for interested researchers to gain access to it.

The collection also includes illustrations from a wide variety of books on the natural sciences. Worth mentioning are the 14 colour plates from The Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, various works of anatomy, and the 88 illustrations from Gerolamo Cardano’s De Subtilitate (Cardano is an early founder of probability theory). There are also some 70 maps and charts of various types and ages, including four by Mercator.

This is a marvellous collection to browse for inspiration or search for specific material. The absence of machine-readable texts (and indeed of scans of much textual material) detracts somewhat from its usefulness but as the texts are mostly easily found elsewhere, that is only a slight drawback.

The final entry in Janet Murray’s album, University of Edinburgh, CC-BY.