Tuesday 22 December 2009

Happy Holidays!

We'd like to take a moment to to wish everyone a happy festive season and a safe and prosperous new year.

Our very best wishes,

All in Archive, Records Management and Museum Services and the Centre for Archive and Information Studies at the University of Dundee.

(University of Dundee e-card)

Friday 18 December 2009

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2010

We'll be returning to Who Do You Think You Are? Live for the fourth time early next year. This is the UK biggest annual family and local history conference and exhibition. Experts from CAIS will be there to meet people and chat to them about their experiences of doing research about their family or the area where they live, the sources they have used and the archival sources and research techniques that might help them go further.

We're really looking forward to the event at Olympia in February. We'll be at stand 708 and hope to meet you then. Meantime, the image to the left is a preview of our entry in the programme for the event, which we finalised today. To find out more about our courses in family and local history by online distance learning please take a look at our website (www.dundee.ac.uk/cais) or give us a call on +44(0)1382 385543. Remember to check back here from time to time too as we'll post updates on our plans for the event as they develop.

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Treading the boards: Theatre in Dundee

Theatre and dramatic productions have long held an important place in the city of Dundee and also in student life at the University.

This is borne out by the wealth of material now being displayed in an exhibition at the University of Dundee. The exhibition features items from the University’s Archive and Museum Collections and also from the Lamb Collection of Dundee Central Library.

Although there have been several theatres in Dundee, the story of theatre in Dundee for the last 70 years has been mainly about the Dundee Rep Theatre, now home to Scotland’s ‘only full time, multi-award winning acting company’ and also Scotland’s ‘principal contemporary dance company’.

There are programmes and previously unseen photographs from the Rep’s own collections which were recently deposited in the University Archives. They include familiar faces such as Joanna Lumley, Gregor Fisher, Duncan MacRae and Michael York. ‘The Tenth Doctor’ David Tennant appeared in several plays at the Rep during the 1990s beginning with his role as Curdie in The Princess and the Goblin. This photograph is of his 1996 performance as Tom Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie.

Also on show is material from the University’s own dramatic societies, the first of which was formed around 1911. The items on display highlight some of the activities during the past century of the Dramatic Society in its various incarnations, drama at the College of Education and the Operatic Society productions. In 1969 the University of Dundee’s new dramatic society – the Waifs – created history by being the first society to reach the finals of the National Union of Students drama festival on their first attempt. The image is from the College of Education's 1920s performance of A Midsummer's Night Dream.

Other items in the exhibition include 1960s photographs from the Michael Peto Photographic Collection that show famous figures connected with the world of theatre, such as the actors Ian McKellen, Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith and the playwright Samuel Beckett.

The exhibition runs in the Lamb Gallery, University of Dundee, until 13 February 2010 (closed for Christmas 24 December – 4 January) Mon-Fri 09.30-20.30 Sat 09.30-16.30. Admission is free.

Thursday 3 December 2009

Archive Staff Recommend: Scraps...

Within our archival collections are scrapbooks that contain mainly newspaper cuttings relating to the University and its predecessor institutions, and these are fairly complete from 1880 to about 1967, when the University of Dundee was established in its own right.

Apart from tracing the development of university education in Dundee and the various political struggles and manoeuvres between Dundee and St Andrews, the scrapbooks provide insights into the relationship between town and gown. The style of writing in the local newspapers sometimes suggests that the students were often a curious and sometimes exotic elite in a predominately working class city.

Many of the cuttings are reports on public lectures and talks given by the College professors and teachers. They sometimes provide verbatim accounts that even note where there was laughter or applause. Nineteenth century graduation ceremonies could be more rowdy than is generally believed – for example in March 1895 even the presiding officials were subject to constant good-natured banter from the students. One particularly poignant moment from this ceremony however was when 19 year old Dundonian Agnes Forbes Blackadder, the University’s first female graduate, was presented with her degree resulting in “particularly vigorous applause” and a spontaneous rendition of a rare verse from the “Gaudeamus” that refers to women.

There are other descriptions, often affectionate, of student events such as charities week. In 1923, for example, there was an article in the Courier about the “Woman Students’ Ambush,” in which it was reported that: "The fair Collegiates literally laid an ambush, and figures arrayed in flowing red gowns and becoming scholastic mortar-boards, darted hither and thither among the market crowd in the High Street...Many a stout and hearty farmer was held up by a gowned damsel, and the mute appeal of the collection box, together with the charms of the collector, were a combination which none could resist."

There was greater threat in the performance of some students who visited Dens Park on the final day of the appeal, and who "with flourishing revolvers reaped all that they could from the spectators." And, rather ominously, "That awesome assembly - the Ku Klux Klan - dressed in their robes of white, made a speciality throughout the day of raiding the tea rooms in the centre of town."

The change in attitudes, fashions and tastes over the decades can be traced in the volumes and in particular the struggle of women to be regarded as academic equals is well documented. This is in spite of the 1895 Agnes Blackadder graduation. A quarter of a century later and a Courier article was still wondering if women should be allowed to become doctors.

The scrapbooks are a rich historical resource that is yet to be full exploited, we find something new every time we look at them. Some are in poor condition and we are hoping to digitise them in the near future to ensure their survival. Readers are welcome to consult the others in our reading room.

Thursday 26 November 2009

Archive Staff Recommend: Minutes of the Dundee Power Loom Tenters Society

This is the first of our Archive Staff Recommend features which will showcase items from the collections that we find interesting or striking. We hope that you enjoy them too.

The Dundee Power Loom Tenters Society Minute Book (MS 65) is a very interesting item for many reasons. Firstly, the item provides very detailed records of a Dundee based textile trade union from a time when the textile industry was still at the centre of Dundee’s economic life. Many records of Dundee workers have not survived and the vast majority of the surviving records of the textile industry in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries relate to the running of the mills rather than to those who worked in them.

Secondly, the book has a beautiful, hand-drawn frontispiece giving the dates the book covers. The inside cover of the book also features an attractive design bordered by a flower which records the date of the establishment of the society. These must have taken someone hours to create and were clearly drawn by a talented individual.

Finally, this is an item with an interesting history. After the demise of the Society it is believed that for much of the twentieth century it remained in Dundee in private hands, but at some point it seems to have been disposed of, possibly after its owner died. The volume was eventually sold at an antiques fair in England where it was bought by a book dealer who had planned to sell it via an online auction. Thankfully it was noticed by a member of ARMMS staff and the seller was persuaded to withdraw it and entered negotiations which saw the item return to Dundee in 2006.

However, it is understood that at least one other minute book belonging to the society survived and left Dundee at the same time as its brother. If anyone knows the fate or whereabouts of this book, or any other records relating to the Dundee Power Loom Tenters Society, ARMMS would be very interested to hear from you.

Written by Kenneth Baxter

Monday 23 November 2009

Brian Cox's Jute Journey (reprise)

Last night BBC 2 showed the BBC Scotland programme, 'Brian Cox's Jute Journey', across the UK. The show looks at the jute industry in Dundee and the city's connections with India. Archive Services at the University of Dundee has the world's finest collection of records pertaining to the jute industry in the city and its relationship with the Indian subcontinent. Some of the key sections of our holdings relating to the textile industry in India are noted in this source list. More detailed information on our holdings is available via the online catalogue. The show is available again to view online via the BBC's iPlayer until Sunday 29 November.

When the programme first aired Michael wrote a post which discusses some of the links between the textile industries in Dundee and India and mentions an item from our collections used in the programme. As Michael points out in that post
Anyone is welcome to visit the archives to look these fascinating records. We are also interested in hearing from any Dundonians who spent time in India and who might have material relating to their time there. Please email archives@dundee.ac.uk.
We look forward to hearing from anyone interested in this important part of Dundee's history.

Monday 16 November 2009

ARMMS and CAIS online

One of the benefits of writing this blog has been that it has made us think about the online services we use and what information should be where. Most of the things we do online are aggregated via this blog, but we thought it might be useful to post a summary.

The traditional aspects of our roles within Archive, Records Management and Museum Services (ARMMS) are explained via our pages on the University Website. Here you can find information on our services and collections. Similarly, the first port of call for information on the Masters degrees in Archives and Records Management by distance learning offered by the Centre for Archive and Information Studies (CAIS) should be the CAIS web pages. In particular, you can find information on all the courses that make up our degrees (and that can be taken individually for Continuing Professional Development) here.

Our courses are delivered via a browser using the Univeristy's Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). All the courses are fully supported by CAIS' tutors during the semester and each tutor is a practising subject expert and a Honory member of the academic staff of the University of Dundee. Using the VLE means that we can offer a richer and more interactive learning experience than is possible with traditional workbook-based distance learning courses.

We're keen to make sure that anyone interested in our work, collections or courses can access information or connect with us in as many ways as possible, but we want to make sure that the services we use provide something worthwhile rather than just using the technology 'because it's there'. We have two twitter accounts set up to provide regular updates on what we're doing, where we are and to highlight upcoming events or interesting items from our collections. The account for Museum Services can be found here and the account for CAIS is available here. Matthew has also begun to upload images of some of the highhlights form the Museum collections to Flickr to give anyone who can't get to Dundee a chance to see some of the items. Similarly, the Archive Catalogue, as well as containing the catalogue information needed to understand and access our archival holdings, contains digital images of some of the items from the collections.

The CAIS community currently consists of a network of c.200 students, thrity or so tutors and all our alumni and professional mentors. The CAIS Facebook group was set up to provide a way for all those connected with CAIS to maintain friendships and links with each other in an informal environment, should they want to.

We're continuiung with our experiment in crowd-sourcing to develop a link library for recordkeepers on delicious. Thanks to all those who have contributed so far. To anyone who wants to suggest new links for the library, there's information on how to do so in this post and new contributions would be welcome.

Fiannly, we'll continue to post here and we hope that everyone who drops in from time to time finds what we post interesting. As usual, we'd love to hear comments on any of the above as we continue to develop our online services.

Thursday 12 November 2009


The academic term always sees an increase in the number of classes and talks that archive staff are involved in. As well as demonstrating how to access and use archives and giving classes on palaeography, we use our collections to teach general research skills to undergraduates and postgraduates. Finding, assimilating and summarising information, critical analysis, understanding context and provenance are all skills that can be taught through archives. We also make sure that we emphasis the power of the archive, the role that creators and keepers of archives play and the importance of archives for accountability, democracy and the protection of rights. We've found that using and talking about archives in this way encourages students to think about democracy and civil rights and how they are protected and maintained more deeply.

Different subject areas use the collections frequently. We accomodate town planners, architectural students, medics, and students of art and design as well as the humanities. Philosophers use the case books from our asylum records (such as this example here) to look at how the self and the 'other' are viewed and in the context of Foucault. A recent class involved postgraduate creative writing students using the asylum records as inspiration for their stories. We'd be interested to hear how others use archives in teaching.

Thursday 5 November 2009

New courses at CAIS

New distance learning courses start at CAIS on 18th January. Lasting 9 weeks or 15 weeks they are all delivered online in a fully supported virtual learning environment. The courses are aimed at archivists, records managers and other information professionals who wish to improve or update their knowledge and skills. These courses can be taken individually for CPD or as a module as part of a Masters in archives, records management, information compliance and digital preservation. See the website for more information. All courses can be taken by UK or international students.

CAIS also offers courses for those interested in family and local history which can be taken on their own or as part of a postgraduate certificate in family and local history. We also offer short 6 week introductory courses More information are on the family history pages of the CAIS website.

The courses that are running in January are:

Archive Theory and Management
Archive Administration, Access and Preservation
Ethics and International Perspectives
Principles and Practice of Records Management
Electronic Records Management
Sound and Vision - collecting, preserving and managing film, sound and oral history
English Palaeography and Diplomatic
Scots Palaeography and Diplomatic
Skills & Sources for Family & Local History in Scotland
Latin for Archivists and Researchers
Management and Preservation of Digital Records
Preservation and Disaster Management
Ecclesiastical Archives
Education Archives
Strategic Management for Information Professionals

The closing for applications is 13th November. For more information email armtraining@dundee.ac.uk

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Come and work for CAIS

As a result of increasing student numbers and expanding course availability, we're currently advertising for three new members of the CAIS administrative team who will support the functions of the department. Information on each of the positions is available below, but if you would like an informal discussion on any aspect of the work please contact Patricia Whatley, Director, Centre for Archive and Information Studies on +44 (0)1382 385597.

Further details and an application pack are available from the University website at www.jobs.dundee.ac.uk. Alternatively, please contact Human Resources, University of Dundee, Dundee, DD1 4HN, +44 (0)1382 384817 (answering machine). The closing date for all posts is 13 November 2009.

The Centre for Archive and Information Studies

CAIS, based in the School of Humanities, provides fully supported online distance learning in Archives, Records Management, Information Rights and Digital Preservation. Currently, over 170 students are enrolled on CAIS masters programmes, including a growing number of international students. CAIS also offers courses for Continuing Professional Development and postgraduate certificates and short courses in family and local history.

Modules on the CAIS programmes are written and tutored by CAIS staff and external subject experts, with the Centre providing the central hub and support framework for this devolved teaching arrangement. Each student has a professional mentor and the processes associated with mentor management are also managed centrally. CAIS also organises student and research focused events and attends external events to promote the programmes.

CAIS has a management team consisting of the Director and two Programme Leaders.



REF: CS/2988

Grade 7 (£28,839 – £35,469)

Purpose of the Post:

This post requires an experienced administrator to manage and develop the administrative functions necessary for the successful operation of the Centre for Archive and Information Studies at the University of Dundee. This post will require flexibility in working hours to accommodate Student Study Schools and other CAIS events.

Principal duties:

The oversight and management of all administrative processes under the direction of the Director and Programme Leaders to:

1. Co-ordinate the implementation of CAIS strategic direction and policy, as determined by the CAIS management team
2. Be responsible for co-ordinating contact between students, tutors and CAIS staff
3. Organise and attend student interviews and compile student offer documentation
4. Ensure the successful operation of CAIS programmes including the processes required for the management of student, tutor and mentor activities
5. Facilitate the organisation of conferences, study schools, tutor meetings, external examiners’ meetings and other events
6. Monitor the successful delivery of CAIS programmes via the University’s Virtual Learning Environment
7. Monitor CAIS budgets under the direction of the Director
8. Develop and maintain the CAIS website
9. Develop and maintain appropriate marketing materials
10. Liaise with the office of the School of Humanities and ensure that CAIS policies and procedures are maintained in line with the School of Humanities and University standards
11. Contribute to the identification of areas for change and development within the CAIS remit
12. Represent CAIS at the University’s Distance Learning Forum
13. Develop and manage any other administrative systems not listed above or conduct any other duties as required by the Director

Person specification:

The successful candidate should:

1. Have a good undergraduate degree
2. Be an excellent communicator at all levels
3. Be an experienced administrator, preferably in a Higher Education environment
4. Be willing to develop knowledge of the sector
5. Have experience of marketing and events management
6. Have knowledge and experience of monitoring budgets
7. Have or be prepared to develop a knowledge of web authoring and design
8. Be comfortable working under pressure and to tight deadlines
9. Be able to work independently and as part of a team
10. Be adaptable, flexible and pro-active in their approach to their duties



REF: CS/2989

Grade 6 (£23,449 - £28,839)

Purpose of the Post:

This post requires a proficient administrator to support the administrative functions necessary for the educational programmes offered by CAIS. This post will require flexibility in working hours to accommodate Student Study Schools and other CAIS events.

Principal duties:

The management of all administrative processes under the direction of the Director, Programme Leaders and CAIS Administrator to:

1. Provide overall technical support to students and tutors for the operation of the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)
2. Monitor and maintain all CAIS modules through the VLE
3. Provide administrative support for students and tutors, including the provision of study packs, the management and monitoring of assignment submissions and books on loan
4. Maintain student databases including the University student management system SITS and CAIS financial and student databases
5. Issue student invoice requests, process invoices from tutors and external bodies and deal with general course finance management using CODA, the electronic financial system
6. Update and research online resources
7. Process student enrolment and final completion paperwork
8. Liaise with other University departments, including Registry, ICS, Finance and VLE staff.
9. Assist in updating course guidelines for CAIS and ensuring that these are also made available electronically through the VLE
10. Assist with the organising of course events such as study schools, trade fairs, tutor meetings and external board meetings
11. Any other duties as specified by the CAIS Director, Programme Leaders and CAIS Administrator

Person specification:

The successful candidate should:

1. Have a good undergraduate degree or equivalent experience
2. Be an excellent communicator at all levels
3. Have experience in administration, preferably in a Higher Education environment
4. Be willing to develop a knowledge of the professional sector
5. Have a knowledge and experience of financial processes
6. Be comfortable working under pressure and to tight deadlines
7. Be able to work independently and as part of a team
8. Be adaptable, flexible and pro-active in their approach to their duties



REF: CS/2990

Grade 3 £14,477 - £17,026 (pro rata) (FTE 50%)

Purpose of the Post:

This post requires a competent and efficient clerical assistant to support the functions necessary for the successful operation of the Centre for Archive and Information Studies at the University of Dundee. A flexible approach to accommodate CAIS events is required for the post.

Principal duties:

To provide clerical support to the Administrative staff of CAIS to:
1. Assist in the processing of enquiries and applications
2. Assist in the maintenance of student records and databases (including the use of SITS system)
3. Maintain filing and other record keeping systems
4. Assist in processing financial vouchers
5. Support the organisation of CAIS events, including bi-annual study schools
6. Duplicate and distribute study packs, assignments and other associated materials
7. Any other duties as instructed by the CAIS management team or the Administrators

Person specification:

The successful candidate should:

1. Have five or more standard grades including English and Maths
2. Have demonstrable clerical experience, preferably in a Higher Education environment, including experience of maintaining filing and financial systems
3. Be willing to gain knowledge of the Archives/Records Management sector
4. Be comfortable working under pressure and to tight deadlines
5. Be comfortable working in a team and taking on different roles within any team, dependent on circumstances
6. Be adaptable and pro-active in their approach to their duties

Tuesday 27 October 2009

A Tasty Experiment

Since the establishment of CAIS we have built up a significant network of students, tutors and mentors, all of whom contribute to the success of the courses in archives and records management that we offer. Each of our thirty courses was written and is tutored by a subject expert or experts, the majority of whom are external to the University. Currently, we have two hundred or so registered students (both postgraduate students and people enrolled on courses for their continuing professional development) and every Masters student has a mentor who is an experienced record keeping professional local to them. Finally, we have a network of alumni who have completed their studies.

The size and diversity of the CAIS network means that we have an opportunity to develop some interesting and useful resources. One of things we have begun to develop is a link library of online materials relevant to CAIS’ students. Using a small sub-group of our tutors and the delicious social bookmarking site we have established a process that we think can ultimately create a rich resource. You can see the small number of links we've added so far as we've been refining our ideas at delicious.com/CAIS_Archives.

Clearly this resource won’t just be of use to our students. We’re hoping to develop something that contains links which should be of interest or relevance to any archivist, records manager or other information professional. To that end, we would like to invite contributions from anyone in the record keeping community who uses delicious and is interested in helping build the link library and making it as worthwhile as possible.

All we’re asking is that whenever you save a bookmark on a record keeping or related subject with your own delicious account (which is free) you tag it 'for:CAIS_Archives' (without the inverted commas). That sends the bookmark to our inbox and we can then save it for inclusion in the main list. The reason we've used this approach is so that we can keep a modicum of control over the vocabulary we use for tagging. As the list of links grows the tags will become crucial for discovery. However, we will take into consideration any tags you have already attached to the link.

As far as we’re aware no-one has tried to develop a link library in this way. Although we know of lots of very good online bibliographies, literature reviews and wikis on archival and records management subjects and we’ve seen sites by record keepers that aggregate blog posts, news items and tweets, we’re not aware of anyone who has tried to develop a resource like this by crowd-sourcing bookmarks. We think that there is a lot of potential here and hope that colleagues will support the development of the resource. Obviously, we'd love to get comments and suggestions for how this could evolve or hear from anyone who is involved in a similar project.

Friday 23 October 2009

Lumière in the Archives

The recent visit by the Scottish Society for the History of Photography to the Archives gave us a chance to showcase our photographic collections. As well as the 130,000 images in the Michael Peto collection described in the previous blog we have thousands of other prints, slides, negatives and plates.

One of the most significant of our holdings is a collection of autochrome stereoscopes taken by Andrew Burn-Murdoch. Burn-Murdoch insisted on using Lumière slides which, viewed through a stereoscopic machine, give a rich 3D effect. The autochrome process he used was unusual and the slide collection is probably the largest in Scotland. Watch out for later blogs describing the process in more detail.

Other items which caught the interest of the SSHoP were a box of beautiful ambrotypes of members of the wealthy Cox family, some 19th century photographs of Polynesia, and the photographic collection of Herbert Torrance a medical missionary in Palestine. Notable in the latter are a series of 7 albums of hand tinted early 20th century scenes from the Holy Land. The vivid nature of the colours can be seen from the reproduction on the right. If anyone has any information about these photographs or the processes used to produce them we would be interested to hear from you.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Arun Ghandi opens new photographic exhibition at Dundee

Arun Gandhi, activist and grandson of Mahatma Ghandi, visited the University recently to deliver the Margaret Harris Lecture on Religion, entitled '21st Century Peace-Making: The Gandhi Way'

Before the lecture, Dr Gandhi officially opened an exhibition titled 'India in Close Up' featuring rarely seen Indian photographs by Hungarian photo-journalist, Michael Peto. Taken during two tours of India with the Save the Children Fund in the exhibition features images of everyday life in India in the 1960s along with private portraits of Indira Gandhi and her father, Jawaharlal Nehru, two of India's most charismatic Prime Ministers.

Michael Peto was born in Bata, Hungary in 1908. Of Jewish origin, he moved to Budapest during the 1930s travelling to London at the outset of the Second World War. During the war he lived in London where he worked for the Ministry of Labour and backed the allied war effort. He was devoted to the establishment of a Socialist Hungary after the war and advocated an international exchange school of teachers and pupils once peace was established. He was concerned with the education of both adults and children and greatly favoured progressive education systems. Peto was a strong supporter of A S Neill and became involved with Summerhill School in 1944.

In the early post war years Peto took up photography as a career and was supported by fellow Hungarians Ervin Marton, artist and photographer, who provided technical instruction to develop his skills in photography and graphic art and his close friend the artist Josef Herman. He acquired a personal humanist style, seeking to record ‘the basic serenity of the human form’.

In 1949 he joined The Observer where he worked freelance for the Sunday Observer for 11 years, carrying out three Save the Children Fund assignments, including visits to India in 1951 and1967. His second month-long tour to India in 1967 was under the Cultural Activities Programme of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs. He covered the elections for The Times and The Observer newspapers and also took photographs related to family planning in India. Among his personal friends were Pandit Nehru, the late Indian Prime Minister.

His photographs of India, taken during his Save the Children tours in 1951 and 1967, reflect the breadth of his travels. They include the politicians Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, first Prime Minister of Independent India, his daughter, later also Prime Minister, Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi and Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed, Prime Minister of Kashmir. Others represented in the collection include fishermen of Kerala, Sikhs in Kashmir, villagers in Banares, and street salesmen in Delhi and Bombay and farmers in Kashmir and the Punjab. Many ordinary women and children, working men and the sacred cows of India are all included within this rich and varied collection.

The Michael Peto collection comprises 130,000 images including high-spirited slum children, tired ballet dancers at Covent Garden, a worn face in a street, proud miners, slender Indian peasants guiding their white oxen over a field in the blazing sun, Richard Burton, during the recording of Milk Wood and numerous other individuals, both well-known and nameless who caught his attention.

After his death on Christmas Day 1970 at the age of 62 his step-son, Michael Fodor, who was an accountancy student at the University of Dundee, and family donated his collection to the University. The collection is held by the University Archives in the Tower Building.

More information on Michael Peto and a wider selection of his photographs are available here.

Friday 16 October 2009

Scotland's Historians: the Development of Eighteenth Century Historical Studies

The next conference of the Economic and Social History Society of Scotland is supported by CAIS and following the recent announcement of the programme places have been filling up rapidly. Scotland's leading historians will gather in St Cecilia’s Hall, Cowgate, Edinburgh on Tuesday 8 December 2009 at 6pm to reflect on Scotland in the Eighteenth Century; the bridge between the old and the new Scotland and the era of the world famous Scottish Enlightenment, industrialisation and urbanisation and the revolutions in society in Lowland and Highland Scotland. The historians speaking at the conference are:

Chair, B.P. Lenman, Professor Emeritus of Modern History, University of St Andrews

T.M. Devine, Sir William Fraser Professor of Scottish History and Palaeography, University of Edinburgh, 'The Other Side of Enlightenment'

A.I. MacInnes, Professor of Early Modern History, University of Strathclyde, 'Securing the Union through Empire'

T.C. Smout, HM Historiographer in Scotland, 'The Improvers Ethic: the Impact of the Landed Classes on Rural Economy, Society and Environment'

C.A. Whatley, Professor of Scottish History, University of Dundee, ‘John Galt and provincial Scotland: recantation, revision, and enlightenment’

Admission is free but advance booking is necessary. Until 1 November contact Jennifer Johnstone at j.v.johnstone@dundee.ac.uk. After this date an ebooking system will be in operation via the website of the Scottish Centre for Diaspora Studies.

Thursday 8 October 2009

Brian Cox's Jute Journey

Some of the best used and most interesting records held by Archive Services are those that relate to India, in particular the area around Calcutta and in West Bengal. Dundee’s links with India are fairly well known – initially the city imported raw jute which was manufactured in factories in Dundee. Later production moved to India and managers from Dundee were employed to oversee the process. What is not so well known is that the records of these processes, of the trade between Dundee and India and of those employed in the factories in India are held by Archive Services. Details of living conditions, wages, and schemes to provide for the social and physical welfare of Indian and European workers are just some examples of the unique information we hold.

This week BBC Scotland broadcast a programme about the long connection between Dundee and West Bengal that developed as a result of the jute industry. Using the actor Brian Cox (who has featured in a number of Hollywood movies including the fist two Bourne films and X-Men 2) the programme provided insights into the historic reasons for the link between these two very different parts of the world.

During the programme Cox read from a facsimile of an item held here in the Archives - it was a page from the Colloquial Hindustani textbook used by the Scottish expatriates to learn Hindi and, as can be seen from this image, the phrases they were taught reveal much about attitudes towards the local Indian workforce.

The programme can still be seen on the BBC’s iPlayer until the 13th October 2009.

Our collections relating to Dundee's textile’s links with India are of particular historical importance and contain some of the best primary sources that have survived. They have attracted scholars from around the world, including the United States, India, Bangladesh, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Archive Services mounted an exhibition of this material to celebrate the visit of the Indian High Commissioner to the University which can be seen here.

Anyone is welcome to visit the archives to look these fascinating records. We are also interested in hearing from any Dundonians who spent time in India and who might have material relating to their time there. Please email archives@dundee.ac.uk.

Thursday 1 October 2009

Incremental change

When we started this blog in August we mentioned that it was quite likely that things would move around, colours would change and elements would be added or taken or away until we settled on a design we liked and built in the functionality we wanted. You may have noticed how things have evolved since our first post. Even during the last few days we've made some small final changes and added the ability to search the blog or to share any post via some popular social bookmarking sites, twitter or facebook. Overall, the look and feel of the blog is now one that we are all comfortable with and it shouldn't change too much in the short-medium term. We hope you like the blog and are enjoying our posts, but we would still welcome comments on its look, content or functionality.

Friday 25 September 2009

Using and protecting personal data

Three news stories have caught our attention this week as they all concern the use of personal information and CAIS offers several courses which examine compliance with information legislation.

The first was this story on Wired Magazine's website. It details how the FBI have used data mining and aggregation techniques to build profiles of their suspects in attempts to prevent crime and terrorism.

The second was this story on the BBC's site highlighting the inappropriate release of personal data via social networking sites like facebook and twitter.

Finally, Demon, an internet service provider, have been in the news today for inadvertently releasing a spreadsheet containing the personal information of all of its customers.

Data protection and the associated issues of information compliance and information security remain some of the most rapidly evolving areas pertinent to the work of record keepers.

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Pitcures from the CAIS Study School

CAIS students taking a moment to relax between Study School sessions on the banks of the river Tay.
Susan Mansfield, Head of SPICe and the author and tutor of the CAIS module 'Strategic Management for Information Professionals', and Ingrid Thomson, CAIS Programme Administrator.
The four speakers from the CAIS Seminar on the development of the record keeping profession; Siobhan Convery, Kevin Wilbraham, Marion Stewart and Bob Steward.
Susan Thomas, Digital Archivist at the Bodleian Library, Oxford and tutor of the module 'Management and Preservation of Digital Records', speaking to a group of students during one of the sessions.

Monday 21 September 2009

CAIS Study School Seminar '09

CAIS held its annual Study School seminar last Friday evening. Those attending heard four distinguished speakers reflect on the development of the recordkeeping profession and the changes apparent to them over the last c.40 years.

Marion Stewart, latterly Archivist for Dumfries and Galloway Council, focused on the changes in the ways that recordkeepers are trained and the developments in professional theory. She noted that her first archival post at the Scottish Records Office (now the National Archives of Scotland) required her to undertake formal legal training at the University of Edinburgh. The belief was that without an appreciation of the legal status and purpose of any record an archivist was unable to properly manage the records in their charge. She also emphasised the rigorous in-house training she received from senior colleagues in Latin, palaeography and in the subject matter of the collections held by the institution. This understanding of the records and knowledge of diplomatic became one of the cornerstones of her career. Marion emphasised that in her subsequent posts she had always worked to ensure she had as full a knowledge as possible of the collections in her custody. She spoke of the implications of uncatalogued collections, with inevitable barriers to access and use.

Marion went on to reflect on the developments in the theoretical underpinning of the profession, particularly emphasising the rapid growth and development of records management as a discipline and the need for archivists and records managers to take the broadest possible view of the records for which they are responsible. The fundamental precepts she learned as a new entrant to the profession remain as important and as relevant as they were then.

Bob Steward, the retired Highland Council Archivist, responsible for a geographic area equivalent to Belgium, built on the themes introduced by Marion and also emphasised the importance of understanding the records and the record types for which archivists and records managers are responsible, noting the changes he found in record types when he moved to Scotland having worked as an English archivist. He also emphasised the need for recordkeepers to be able to manage stakeholder relations. He noted that relationships within organisations and with the broader stakeholder communities are vital for success in terms of the records and service development. Without a knowledge of the organisation recordkeepers are unable to properly fulfil their key functions and without a knowledge of internal and external users they are unable to illustrate their value. Bob used the development of the Highland Council Archive as an example of a small service which grew under his management, moving the archival services to Inverness Castle, developing a records management service by initially taking charge of a store on behalf of the Planning Department and developing a 'hub and spoke' approach to service provision with satellite office in Wick to help ensure community engagement. Since his retirement a new satellite office has been established in Fort William and a new bespoke archive building is almost complete in Inverness, which Bob placed in the context of a long term development based on the management of relationships and the engagement with the community.

Kevin Wilbraham, Corporate Records Manager, Edinburgh City Council, spoke from a records management perspective. Having had a successful career as an archivist which included establishing the Ayrshire Archive, Kevin had moved into Records Management. He stressed that the issues associated with electronic records and the ever increasing amounts of information within organisations offered the greatest challenges to recordkeepers. He asked the question, do you need to be an archivist to be a records manager, emphasising the need for programmes, like the ones offered by CAIS, to ensure that those persons entering the profession have a broad and relevant range of skills. He contrasted the formal university-based provision of archival and records management education today with that received by Bob and Marion and his own more recent training. Kevin also stressed the need for relationships with stakeholders. Finally, as a Records Manager with responsibility for Archivists, he used his own circumstances to highlight the shift in the priorities of many organisations when calling in the skills of recordkeepers.

Siobhan Convery, Head of Special Libraries and Archives at the University of Aberdeen, illustrated the changes in the profession during her time as an Archivist, starting out as a volunteer, becoming qualified and moving to Aberdeen to work in the City Archives there, before moving to the University. Siobhan highlighted the importance of the collections and the records and diverted from the earlier speakers in her assertion that it is possible to work as an Archivist within an organisation and remain relevant without taking responsibility for records management, though acknowledging the vital relationship between all branches of the recordkeeping professions. Siobhan concentrated on the need for stakeholder management to ensure success, of aligning service provision with the business aims of the parent organisation and the need for cross-domain working with partners in museums and libraries. As one of the lead officers in the development of the new library, which will house the Special Collections, at the University of Aberdeen Siobhan was able to illustrate her points with reference to the reality of developing this multi-million pound research facility. She also highlighted the need for recordkeepers to become managers in a general sense and understand and interact with the strategic vision of their organisation. She illustrated the change from the days when archivists could concentrate on the collections alone with no involvement with their organisation’s strategic goals.

The seminar was a very interesting and enjoyable evening. The recurring themes were ones of stakeholder management and a need to understand the organisational culture and community structures in which recordkeepers work, without losing sight of their fundamental roles and responsibilities with the records. Programmes like those offered by CAIS must reflect both the traditions and the future of the profession.

Thursday 17 September 2009

Digital dissemination

Students at a session on digital records and information at the CAIS Study School earlier today. The session, entitled 'Digital Dilemmas', looked at the issues faced by record keepers when dealing with digital information in respect of the unique properties and significant characteristics of electronic records, their capture, processing and access to them. The students also examined a variety of digital media and thought about the problems that the evolution of digital media and digital formats create for records managers and archivists. Some of the more interesting items included a program on punched paper tape from the 1970s and a USB thumb drive that needed to read a biometric signature before its contents could be accessed.

The speakers at this session were Chris Prom, visiting Fullbright Distinguished Scholar, Susan Thomas, Digital Archivist, Bodleian Library, Oxford and Philip Lord, Director, The Digital Archiving Consultancy Ltd.

Earlier today the students heard Jan Merchant, Perth and Kinross Council Archive, discuss archival access and preservation issues, followed by Susan Mansfield, Head of the Scottish Parliament Information Centre and Vanessa Charles, Book and Paper Conservation Unit, University of Dundee, examining business and management issues and disaster recovery.

The students have another full day tomorrow concluding with a seminar on the development of the record keeping professions. We'll put up a post about that session soon.

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Professional body accreditation

Everyone at the Centre for Archive and Information Studies is delighted to announce that the Council of the Society of Archivists (SoA) today accepted the recommendation of their Accreditation Team at an Extraordinary General Meeting and confirmed the accredditation of all the Masters degrees in Archives, Records Management, Information Rights and Digital Preservation offered by CAIS.

Our Masters degrees were evaluated against the Society of Archivists' criteria for postgraduate degrees in the record keeping disciplines. During their visit to Dundee earlier this year the Accreditation Team were very positive about the courses offered by CAIS saying that the degrees 'meet and exceed' the requirements of the SoA.

Monday 14 September 2009

They're my archives!

A number of papers at the recent Society of Archivists conference referred to the functionality of Web 2.0 in providing new ways of access to archival collections. There are many blogs actively discussing this including Archives 2.0 and ArchivesNext as well as the wiki Archives 2.0. One of the things that interests me is the idea of control of the archives. Many of the functions that archivists carry out - appraisal, arrangement and description - involve ensuring control of their collections and then allowing access to them. This control is challenged by Web 2.0 - users can potentially add descriptions to records, by tagging them they create their own index terms, they can view them online and create links and contexts that are personal and pertinent to them.

At the conference George Oates and Fiona Romeo gave two very interesting presentations about the Commons on Flickr successfully demonstrating that by democratising access to our collections, by loosing our 'control' over them we can successfully make our collections richer and improve the community's, and our, knowledge of our archives. Fiona spoke about the impact of the National Maritime Museum's presence on Flickr, see their pages here. She acknowledged that to ensure the most rewarding and effective use of Flickr you need to be prepared to input staff time to upload and monitor the images and respond to comments but felt that this was worthwhile.

Whatever the benefits of increasing access, what about the loss of revenue if you surrender your control of images? Many repositories rely on this revenue to supplement their core funding and would be very reluctant to give it up. I found an article by Paula Bray from the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney useful here. As well as looking in general at the issues involved in allowing greater access to images from collections she specifically addresses this issue of revenue and demonstrates that, for the Powerhouse Museum at least, joining Flickr Commons had no negative impact on sales. The whole article is available here.

We're not on Flickr just now, although Museum Services here at Dundee is, but it is something we will be thinking seriously about in the months to come.

Monday 7 September 2009

Thoughts on the keynote at the Society of Archivists' conference

The general consensus seems to be that the Society of Archivists conference, held last week in Bristol, was a great success. The range of speakers and topics was broad enough to maintain interest but remained focused on the issues of dealing with digital media. Randall Jimerson’s keynote on archives and justice provided an excellent framework for later discussion. He emphasised that archivists cannot be impartial, that archives are for accountability, open government, diversity and identity, as well as for justice. Given this, and the potential power that this implies that archives hold and, by association, archivists wield, recordkeepers should not be impartial. They should try to be objective while recognising their own biases and seek to promote social justice even if this means partiality. They should break from the traditional view of archivists as passive custodians and be prepared to stand up and use the power of archives.

However Jimerson emphasised that ultimately our decisions are our own and our personal codes of ethics and sense of justice should be the final basis on which we make our decisions. This raises interesting questions as to the nature of justice – one person’s idea of ‘right’ may be very different to another’s – and the role of a professional code of ethics in relation to a private sense of right and wrong.

SAA vs. SOA Conference

When I submitted my grant application, I argued strongly that international cooperation would be necessary if archivists would find practical ways to work with electronic materials.  Last week, I had the pleasure of attending my first Society of Archivists Conference, and I certainly learned a great deal about e-records work in the UK and Europe.  (I'll be posting throughout this week at my blog concerning the sessions I attended.)

While I certainly learned a lot about the varied and productive approaches that UK archivists are taking to e-records, I also learned much more than I expected about the differences in how the 'archives sector' (as they would call it here) is organized in the US vs. the UK.

At the most basic level, I was surprised that the SOA conference was significantly more intimate (one is tempted to say civilized) than a typical SAA meeting, with all that those words imply.   

This might not seem surprising, since SOA attendance is much smaller than SAA , since the conference sessions do not begin until 9 am, since they do not spill over into weekends, and since  all meals, breaks and social events, as well as lodging, were included for one fixed price. In any case, I found that the all inclusive nature of the conference made it easy to meet and chat with people in the fairly relaxed settings, and I have more contacts to follow up on than at the typical SAA meeting where I seem to be constantly looking for someone amongst the crowd.   On the other hand, there is a lot less diversity to the sessions--although this may be due to the fact the theme was 'digital futures'.

I have to say I was very impressed by the presentations I heard; the conference was well organized around this theme, and the talks displayed a good balance between research and practice, with both informing each other.   For the most part, people debated issues honestly while not pulling punches.   I saw researchers and practitioners debating issues directly and effectively, particularly in the panel discussion on archival education and training and in the e-records sessions I attended.

I was also interested to note that numerous representatives of the National Archives, both of England/Wales and Scotland, were attending and speaking.  The National Archives in Kew plays a much stronger leadership/coordination role than NARA does in  the United States.  Under its relatively new executive director, TNA is developing a strategy document called "Archives for the 21st Century." 

This is certainly not news to UK readers of this blog, but the document will shape government policy toward archives services not only at the national level but within local government and other institutions.   One can debate whether on not the policy is wise and well argued, and clearly many people have commented on it, but the most salient point for me (as an American observer), is that such an attempt to coordinate policy is even taking place.  Admittedly, the NHPRC serves a bit of this role in the US by funding records management and archives projects that affect archival workout side of NARA, but even if the PAHR bill becomes law, the US government will have a much more limited role in affecting records issues at a local level than will government here.  NHPRC and other federal agencies have softer and indirect impact, since their role is mainly defined as funding research and projects, not setting policy for local archives.  

The ways of organizing the archive sector in each country reflect the different ways that the US and UK organize socieites and conceive the proper role of government and I'm sure each has its benefits and drawbacks.  I'll leave it for others to debate theological questions such as 'how big should government be'.  I am just interested to see the practicalities of how policy differences affect archival work on a day to day basis.

Friday 4 September 2009

Let's not be Luddites

Caroline speaking at the conference of the Society of Archivists highlighting the frustrations we all feel occasionally when dealing with digital technology.

Monday 31 August 2009

Society of Archivists Conference, 2009

The annual conference of the Society of Archivists (SoA) takes place in Bristol this week and both Pat and Caroline are scheduled to speak.

Pat's paper, Employer v Society: Ethics and morality in the workplace environment, is at 11am on Thursday 3 September and develops ideas first presented at the conference of the Association of Canadian Archivists earlier this year. Caroline gives a paper entitled Let's not be Luddites: Why the digital future is our past and present as part of the conference conclusions at 12pm on Friday 4 September. They are also involved in the FARMER Colloquium on Education and Continuing Professional Development for records professionals at 9am on the 4th.

Chris is attending the conference as a delegate. If you're interested in his research please take the chance to speak to him.

The SoA have made an effort this year to make information about the conference available online. The conference blog is available here and the official conference twitter feed is available here or by following @SoAConference09 from your own twitter account. Pat and Caroline, like many other delegates, will also be using twitter to share their thoughts as the conference progresses via our twitter account, @CAIS_Archives. The agreed hashtag for the conference is '#soa09'. You can use twitter search to look for that, or there's an account that's been set up on twapperkeeper to store all the tweets with that tag. We would like to encourage anyone attending or commenting on the conference to use 'soa09' as a tag for blog posts too so that information about, and responses to, the event can be aggregated later.

Friday 28 August 2009

Project blog

Chris launches the blog for his project 'Practical Approaches to Identifying, Preserving, and Providing Access to Electronic Records' today. He will be using Practical E-Records to share ideas and raise issues as his research develops during the year that the project takes place. He's already posted lots of information about the project on his blog and in an earlier post here.

Thursday 27 August 2009

Reflections of a Masters student

I’m posting the following on behalf of our colleague Durham who is working with ARMMS whilst studying for his Masters degree in Archives and Records Management with CAIS.


I started working for Archive Services at the University of Dundee in 2008 and enrolled on the Centre for Archive and Information Studies’ Masters programme in Archives and Records Management by Distance Learning in September of that year. I’ve completed three courses so far (and my first year on the programme) and have studied topics such as archival theory, access and preservation issues and the ethics of record keeping. I am about to begin my fourth course which is about information legislation such as the Freedom of Information and Data Protection Acts. The past year has seen me having to learn to juggle the pressures of work whilst coping with the demands of study. It’s a challenge I wouldn’t have missed for the world.

Given the way that the programme combines theory and practice, I’ve found working and studying at the same time to be an invaluable experience and one that has been highly beneficial to my personal and professional development. Being able to study theoretical issues and apply them to a working environment has allowed me to not only consolidate my learning but, crucially, place it within a practical context. It is an approach that has directly informed my work based practice and has allowed me to develop working competencies across a range of professional responsibilities including, for example, cataloguing and archival description. I am looking forward to continuing with my studies, further developing my skill set across a range of new subject areas and, at the same time, expanding my understanding of the profession and broadening my awareness of the demands that are placed on those working within the field.

Monday 24 August 2009

Zoology Museum Blogger

One of the sites that Museum Services helps to look after is the D'Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum in the Carnelley Building. Currently open to the public every Friday afternoon, we also open by appointment for those not able to make it on a Friday. The other week we had a particularly enthusiastic young bone collector along who then wrote about the visit on his own blog - so I'll let him do my blogging for me:


At his current rate Jake's collection will be bigger than ours soon!

Thursday 20 August 2009

Welcome Visiting Scholar Chris Prom

The Archives, Records and Artefacts blog welcomes new poster Chris Prom, who is visiting ARMMS and CAIS under a Fulbright Distinguished Scholar Award. Chris will be with us through early June 2010 and is sponsored by the US-UK Fulbright Commission, the Council for International Exchange of Scholars and the Centre for Archive and Information Studies at the University of Dundee.

Chris will be leading a research project concerning "Practical Approaches to Identifying, Preserving, and Providing Access to Electronic Records." He is undertaking this project whilst on sabbatical from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he is Assistant University Archivist and Associate Professor of Library Administration. Chris also holds an appointment with the University of Illinois' Graduate School of Library and Information Science, where he is Adjunct Associate Professor of Library Administration and where he teaches a distance-learning course concerning the administration and use of archives.

Here is Chris's first post:

"I'm thrilled to be visiting ARMMS and CAIS for the next 10 months. My project is intended to test some of the software and conceptual approaches that have been developed for working with 'born-digital' records having archival value. There are many tools to identify and test, and I have much to learn since this is a bit of a new area for me."

"I think ARMMS and CAIS will be great sponsors. My colleagues here are keyed into the electronic records work being completed in the UK and elsewhere. The CAIS program puts them in touch with the practical needs for archival education as well as a ready supply of students who will bring their own ideas and thoughts to the table. Finding easy and effective ways to work with electronic materials are issue number one for current and future archivists not only in the US and UK, but worldwide."

"The main goal of the Fulbright Program is to increase international understanding within a shared realm of experience. While I feel very humbled to have been selected for an award, the simple fact of the matter is that the Fulbright Commission sees problems relating to electronic records as important and as an area where shared knowledge and expertise are critical to future success."

"One of my highest goals vis-a-vis the Fulbright is to work with a significant Scottish organization or individuals whose records or papers are currently 'slipping through the cracks' or are at risk of loss or deletion. While pursuing this goal, I look forward to making many new friends and colleagues both in Scotland and in the rest of the UK. I welcome contact from anyone who would like to work with me or who can supply records to be used in my data testbed."

Thursday 13 August 2009

Musings on the Titanic

This headline from a copy of the The Daily Mirror 16th April 1912, which appears in a collection held by Archive Services, struck us as interesting for several reasons. Firstly passengers were still being reported as safe a day after the disaster, something which could never happen in today’s world of tweets and blogs. Secondly a number of published reports of the sinking appear scattered throughout the archive collections - people kept them as ‘souvenirs’ and they have been passed onto the archives with the rest of their papers. These ‘accidental’ inclusions in an archive can often be as illuminating as the official record. What kinds of mementos or reminders of newsworthy events do people keep today and how will these be preserved in future? Will blogs appear in the archives 100 years from now?

Our interest in the Titanic was sparked by some records in our collections which detail the history of the Californian, the ship that was only 5 miles away from the Titanic when she sank. The crew on the Californian saw the rockets fired from the Titanic but did not suspect a disaster, had they done so many more lives may have been saved. Details of the Californian can be found in copies of the Ingram Shipping Registers, held by Archive Services, which note the history of ships built in Dundee, Arbroath, Perth and Fife including where they sailed and their builders, owners and masters. The Californian, the largest vessel ever built in Dundee, met her end 3 years after the Titanic when she was torpedoed off Cape Matapan, Greece.

Thursday 6 August 2009

A day in the life of a Scottish businessman in the early 19th century

Do you want to know who was shopping for what in Dundee in the 1820s? Staff in Archive Services have recently transcribed two diaries written by Thomas Handiside Baxter, a grocer and dry goods merchant in Dundee in the early 1800s. The diaries cover the years 1810-1811 and 1820-1830 and give us a fascinating insight into Scottish life during the early 19th century, particularly from the point of view of a Dundee businessman.

They record a multitude of details including daily weather reports, the best pub for gambling and drinking and the latest political gossip in the local coffee shop. The juxtaposition of tales of daily life and international events can be seen from the following two entries from 1830:

‘to the Inn by Nine where I anticipated a comfortable glass of Todey over some cigars J Geddes had with him but the Blockhead never came in altho I sat anxiously waiting him ¼ past Eleven - he stopped about J Davidsons played cards & staid all night’

‘…in France the Elections having gone against the Government – the King has Issued several Decrees which in fact changes or rather abolishes their Constitution altogether – abolishing the liberty of the Press – dissolving the newly Elected members of the Chamber of Deputies – prohibiting any others from being elected except from Counties and Several other despotic & arbitrary changes which I have not got time yet to understand, but which its said will bring back the old French Despotism – the news only came yesterday & it remains to be seen whether the French people will Submitt to Such Tyranny after having tasted the Sweets of freedom – our Papers are Indignant at Such proceeding even the Courier condems it’.

The photograph, from the mid-19th century, is almost certainly Thomas Baxter and is from the James Rorie collection.

Tuesday 4 August 2009

New blog

Welcome to our new blog. We hope to use it to keep everyone updated on news and events from Archive, Records Management and Museum Services (ARMMS) and the Centre for Archive and Information Studies (CAIS) at the University of Dundee. We'll be highlighting items from our collections and the more interesting aspects of our work, sharing our thoughts on events we attend, giving you advance notice of events we're staging and keeping you informed about the courses offered by CAIS. Inevitably, the things we post will change over time as we have new ideas.

As you can see the blog is quite new so it is likely that the design will change now and then as we develop the site. Don't be surprised if things move around or change colour over the next few weeks and thanks for your patience.

We would be pleased to hear any thoughts or comments you might have about the blog. Feel free to contact us at archives@dundee.ac.uk with your suggestions.