Posted on Tuesday September 29, 2015

Images from the Centre for Research Collections at the University of Edinburgh

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.

Collection Title: Centre for Research Collections/Main Library
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

The University of Edinburgh library contributed 16 distinct datasets to the Europeana Cloud. These collections sit on our local imaging platform at, and using a Dublin Core crosswalk, we were able to serve them up to be harvested.

The items within the collections can be anything that our Centre for Research Collections holds, as digitization is often informed by orders made by readers of or vast quantity hold. This is not always the case, of course- we hold 35km worth of manuscripts, rare books archives and museum objects, and a good number of these have not needed readers’ requests to make it obvious they need to be digitized! It would take a lifetime to digitize everything, though, so whatever we give can only ever be a snapshot.

From a researcher’s point of view, those interested in the fields of Literature, Divinity, Theology, Islamic Studies and Art will find masses of interesting content within these collections. The datasets that we made available were:

The 19th century photography of Robert Adamson and David Octavius Hill, among the first users of the calotype technique. This is a fascinating collection for anyone with interests in early photography.

Oriental Manuscripts, including the C14 Rashid al-din’s World History, the rare Ragamala Paintings, and Al-Biruni’s C14 Chronicle of Ancient Nations.

Ragamala Paintings
University of Edinburgh, CC-BY

University of Edinburgh- People, Places and Events- a collection of images directly related to the University- old and new!
Engravings from Walter Scott’s novels- fascinating for literary enthusiasts and those keen on Scottish history.
Western mediaeval manuscripts including Scotland’s oldest book, the C.11 Celtic psalter
Incunabula images, i.e. images from books from the infancy of printing, prior to 1500.
Some images documenting life in St Kilda from the turn of the 20th century- these have come from the School of Scottish Studies.
Images from our genetics area at the Roslin Institute, where Dolly the Sheep was ‘born’!
Whaling scenes from the Christian Salvesen whaling company.
Architectural Drawings by Playfair and Anderson, showing the genesis of many buildings in Edinburgh (including the University).
Pages from pre-1660 versions of Shakespeare’s plays.
Images from the archive of the Victorian collector David Laing.
Images of theology related items, from New College.
Portraits of Medical Men collected by John William Thomson Walker.
Some highlights from one of our older exhibitions- Object Lessons- which gave a good idea of the holdings of the University’s museums collections, including Art and Musical Instruments. This last collection is also in Europeana, courtesy of the MIMO project, 2011.
The whole of our CRC Gallimaufry collection, which is basically just a repository of everything else, unthemed! There is a broad range in here including maps, zoological drawings, engravings and so forth.

Forth Bridge Works
University of Edinburgh, CC-BY

We wanted to make this material available to the wider world, and drive users back to us through Europeana because it is not always that easy to publicise our own repositories. We are conscious, of course, that Europeana is an ocean of content, and it is not easy to get noticed! To that end, we are trying to better describe our collections with more tags and subject fields so that they show up better in searches and facet lists. The fact that Europeana can reharvest our data as we improve it definitely makes life easier for us.

A lot of consideration was taken as to which collections we were comfortable putting out to Europeana. Copyright is particularly sensitive on a number of our collections- for example our Art collections, and collections of students’ work where the protagonists have moved on- but we feel fairly confident that everything we’ve given Europeana can safely carry the given licence.