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
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