Monday 20 December 2010

Happy Holidays!

We wanted to take the chance to wish everyone a happy festive season.

Friday 10 December 2010

Memory, Identity and the Archival Paradigm - Final Day

The final sessions of the Memory and Identity conference in Dundee take place today and as the events draw to a close we are beginning to reflect on the highlights of the last few days. What will we remember of the conference or, indeed, what will choose to forget? How will each person reconstruct their memories to form their own record of the conference? Such issues of memory are just some of the concepts that delegates have debated and analysed.

At dinner yesterday evening the Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Pete Downes, encouraged attendees to think about the conference in the context of the City and the University. George Mackenzie, the Keeper of the Records of Scotland, asked delegates to reconcile professional theory and practice in their discussions. Earlier, Graham Dominy, Chief Director, National Archives of South Africa, considered the records of the apartheid regime in South Africa and the power of the record to challenge dominant norms, using the 1955 'Freedom Charter' as his case study. On Wednesday Terry Cook, Visiting Professor, University of Manitoba, Canada, opened the conference by asking us to consider challenges to the prevailing archival paradigm and the dichotomy between impartial archives and societal interpretation.

Already today delegates have listened to an intellectual tour de force from David Lowenthal, Emeritus Professor of Geography and Honorary Research Fellow, University College London and author of 'The Past is a Foreign Country'. In the session, chaired by Professor Chris Whatley, Vice-Principal, University of Dundee, he explored the nature of remembering and forgetting, the issues associated with these acts and emphasised that mistrust is an important aspect of interrogating the archive; 'we should mistrust the documents in archives as much as we trust them – we can only mistrust them properly when we understand why they were preserved, for whom and what’s missing'.

The remaining sessions will focus on conceptions of memory and identity beyond the written word and the relationship between the archive and the historian in the making of history.

It has been a wonderful three days and we would like to thank all the speakers and delegates for making the event so successful and for 'birling' around the dance floor during a Strip the Willow last night with such unbridled enthusiasm!

Thursday 9 December 2010

Conference Tweets

Today is the second day of our Royal Society of Edinburgh supported conference 'Memory, Identity and the Archival Paradigm'. The twitter hashtag for the conference is #CAIS10 and you can see a feed of all the tweets with that tag here.

Monday 6 December 2010

Search Room Closure (Memory, Identity and the Archival Paradigm Conference)

The Archives search room will be closed during the CAIS Memory and Identity conference, 8-10th December, which is being held in the Apex Hotel. We apologise for any inconvenience.

Conference delegates will be aware of the severe weather conditions currently affecting the United Kingdom and the east coast of Scotland in particular. However, the current forecast is that conditions will improve over the course of the week and thus we are confident that the conference will go ahead as planned.

The conference will draw together speakers and presenters from all corners of the globe and the impressive programme is available here:

Tuesday 30 November 2010

The Archives are open (Tuesday, 30 November)

The Archives Search Room is open for researchers today. Because of the variable weather conditions it might be necessary to close early. Please check the blog for further updates.

The seasonal image below is of John Edward Aloysius Steggall, the first Professor of Mathematics at University College, Dundee, braving the elements to take a photograph.

Wednesday 24 November 2010

The papers of the late Dr Victor Skretkowicz, Senior Lecturer in English at Dundee University 1993-2003, have recently been fully catalogued and are now available for use. The collection comprises a range of records created, received and maintained by Dr Skretkowicz during his time at Dundee University. The records provide a fascinating incite into the development of two projects relating to the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue with which Dr Skretkowicz was heavily involved.

Dr Skretkowicz was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada on the 26th August 1942 and was awarded a BA from McMaster University, Canada in 1964, an MA from University of New Brunswick, Canada in 1967 and a PhD from University of Southampton in 1974. In 1978 he joined the University of Dundee as Lecturer in English. Dr Skretkowicz was a highly accomplished researcher of cultural and biographical history, a widely published author, accomplished editor and internationally respected figure.

In 1989, Dr Skretkowicz become Dundee University’s representative on the Joint Council for the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue and in 1992 was elected Convenor. He directed the Edinburgh-based research team that was responsible for creating volumes 9-12 of the Dictionary.

In 2001, Dr Skretkowicz was appointed Research Director of a project to create the Dictionary of the Scots Language, an electronic version of all eleven volumes of the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue and the ten volumes of the Scottish National Dictionary. This hugely significant project, based at the University of Dundee, achieved its goal to provide free access to this rich lexicographic resource in January 2004.
Dr Victor Skretkowicz’s catalogue can be accessed online and the collection can be consulted in the search room. For more information, please contact
Durham Burt, Archive Services

Tuesday 16 November 2010

The Magic of the Scottish Mountains

 Archive Services' new exhibition on the Magic of the Scottish Mountains was opened by the University Principal, Professor Pete Downes, on Monday 15th November.

View of the exhibition
This exhibition uses material from the University Archives to celebrate Scotland's stunning landscapes and natural environment. Focusing on our relationship with this environment through photographs and other archives relating to mountaineering and hill walking, it is an opportunity for the Archives to publicise its many collections relating to the environment and leisure.

Highlights of the exhibition include the photography of Irvine Butterfield, the records of the Grampian Club, material relating to the University’s own Rucksack Club, the papers of Syd Scroggie, promotional material from the Dundee Mountain Film Festival and 1920s colour stereoscopic slides.

The Principal examining some of the Rucksack Club records

At the launch we were very pleased to welcome representatives of all of the organisations included in the exhibition as well as the partner of Irvine Butterfield. A main attraction at the exhibition are reproductions of Butterfield's striking photographs. A keen mountaineer himself, Butterfield, who died in 2009 and left his collection to the archives, published many books on the mountains of the United Kingdom.

The exhibition runs in the Tower Foyer in the University's Tower Building until 17 December and continues outside the Archives' searchroom.

Friday 12 November 2010

Science in the Archives

On Thursday 11 November Archive Services contributed to the Dundee Science Festival by offering a tour of the archive stores followed by the opportunity for people to look at a selection of items relating to science and technology. We had some fascinating material on display including the papers of famous scientists connected to the University of Dundee or its predecessor institutions, such as Robert Watson-Watt, the inventor of radar, and Walter Spear, part of the team that famously worked on amorphous semiconductors. During the tour itself the visitors were also told about other famous scientists, such as D’Arcy Thompson who taught natural history and zoology and Patrick Geddes who taught botany.

Among other items were examples of papers relating to James Ballantyne Hannay, the Scottish chemist who claimed to have created an artificial diamond in 1880, some civil defence training notes for medical professionals from the 1960s about what to do if there were mass casualties resulting from a nuclear attack, and an article on the University’s pioneering satellite receiving station.

One of the more amusing items was a journal of a Sandemanian from London who travelled to Dundee in 1881 to visit the Glasite churches in and around Dundee. He describes how, after descending the Auld Steeple he was introduced by a local businessman to 'the Telephone', adding that he did not 'say anything to it as they were too busy at the other end.' Just as amusing were some of Walter Spear’s straight and to the point responses to some unusual and unsolicited letters from somewhat eccentric self-proclaimed scientists.

The image above is from the collection of R.P. Cook who undertook groundbreaking research into cholesterol. His and the other papers described above are all available for consultation at the Archives.

Thursday 11 November 2010


Yesterday the Culture and Arts Forum's Culture Day was well attended by around 60 people. We were treated to a range of fascinating talks that aptly demonstrated the range of cultural interests within the University. The theme of the day was diversity and talks covered a wide range of subjects such as an examination of gender and race, the history of paper, the development of comics, geodiversity, biodiversity, Edinburgh's New Town, the sons of JS Bach, the films of Powell and Pressburger and a responses to Gaelic culture by artists.

Caroline Brown spoke about views and treatment of 'insanity' in the 19th and early 20th centuries using items from the asylum collections in the archives. The table below details the possible causes of 'insanity' identified by doctors at Sunnyside Asylum Montrose.

Table from Sunnyside Asylum Report 1907

Thursday 4 November 2010

Culture Day: Diversity!

The University of Dundee Culture and Arts Forum is holding its sixth annual Culture Day on 10th November in the Baxter Conference Room, University Tower Building, Perth Road. This event is now firmly established in the University's calendar and is an opportunity for staff, students and members of the public to hear staff from the University talking about a range of subjects relating to a particular theme. This year's theme is Diversity, to mark the International Year of Biodiversity. You'll see from the programme below that we have a good number of really interesting talks.

Admission is free and people are welcome to come to as much or as little as they like.

Further information is on the CAF website

2.00 Welcome

2.15 Rachel Jones (Philosophy)
Identity and Diversity - Race, Gender and Philosophy

This talk will examine the ways in which attention to race and gender has changed the ways we read key philosophers of the past, and will also show how debates about gender and race are changing the ways we do philosophy in the present

2.30 Murdo Macdonald (Fine Art)
The Diversity of Responses to the Gaidhealtachd in Visual Art

This presentation explores the variety of responses to Gaelic culture by artists, with a particular emphasis on recent work explored in the AHRC funded project Window to the West

2.45 Cathy Caudwell (D'Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum)
Biodiversity and Museums

Museums have become the repositories of extinct creatures - Dodo, Tasmanian Wolf, Passenger Pigeon and many others. What can museums tell us about biodiversity? Are the collections simply a reminder that the world is a less diverse place than it used to be?

3.00 Keith Skene (Continuing Education)
In Search of the Driver of Diversity

There are millions of species of all shapes and sizes on our planet. What has led to this diversity? Answers may be found in the darkest hours of Earth's history, the Mass Extinctions.

3.15 Refreshments

3.30 Charles McKean (History)
Why unity and diversity need each other: the experience of Edinburgh

Enlightenment philosophers warmed to the idea of a unity which permitted diversity. Since the New Town of Edinburgh was the largest built example of Enlightenment thinking, that concept should have been evident upon the streets. Was it?

3.45 Neil Paterson (Botanic Garden)
Design and Diversity in Nature: William Paley, Charles Darwin and the Blind Watchmaker

Charles Darwin was much impressed as a young man by William Paley's "Natural Theology", with its many examples of apparent design in nature. In a great irony of history, Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection was destined to subvert Paley's argument by providing design without a designer.

4.00 Vanessa Charles (Book & Paper Conservation Studio)
The Paper Trail: from Diamond Sutra to Damien Hirst

We take paper for granted; it sits in our pockets, covers our walls and piles on our desks. Sometimes precious, yet often intended to be ephemeral, this diverse material has a long history. The talk will explore our relationship with paper and show what measures conservators take to preserve it.

4.15 Graeme Stevenson (Music)
Live to Compose, Compose to Live

JS Bach was arguably the greatest composer of the Baroque, but this presentation will explore the diverse music produced by his sons at the start of the Classical period.

4.30 Refreshments

4.45 Chris Murray (English)
Is it a bird? Is it a Plane? No, it's a talk about Formal Diversity in Comics!

This talk will discuss how comics appropriate lots of different styles, forms and techniques from other media, and look at how diverse comic traditions (Japanese, French, etc) have informed the visual and narrative style of Anglo-American comics, and vice versa.

5.00 Caroline Brown (Archive Services)
Being different: "insanity" in the 19th century

The University of Dundee Archive Services holds the archives of Sunnyside and Liff Asylums. Who were the people who were admitted to the asylums, why were they considered insane, how were they treated and what happened to them?

5.15 Brian Hoyle (English)
Who Know Where They're Going? Diversity in the films of Powell and Pressbuger

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger were responsible for some of the finest films ever made in Britain, but they were slow to gain this recognition, partly because of their commitment to diversity in all things. They rarely covered the same ground twice and gathered around them a diverse technical crew to achieve their dream of "total cinema".

5.30 Rob Duck (Geography)
Geodiversity of Scotland: a personal perspective

Diversity in nature is usually taken to mean the diversity of living nature. Geodiversity, however, recognises the parallel importance of the range of abiotic nature and in this regard Scotland has no equal, as this personal perspective explores.

5.45 End

Friday 29 October 2010

Preservation Survey

Since July 2010, the Archives have been undertaking a Preservation Assessment Survey to get a better understanding of the current state of the condition of the archives which will highlight preservation needs and priorities. This survey is funded by the Scottish Council on Archives and the British Library. Prior to starting the survey, Jennifer attended two training sessions at the National Archives of Scotland where she heard about other repositories’ experiences of using the survey and was able to see how to carry it out in practice.

The survey requires us to look at a random sample of approximately 400 items from the collections. For each item a questionnaire has to be completed which is split into two sections. The first looks at areas such as access, use, where and how it is housed, while the second section assesses any physical damage to the item. This information is then input into a database which is later analysed by the Preservation Advisory Centre and the results are presented in a report. This will flag up any areas where attention needs to be focused.

So far, we have surveyed 138 items so we still have a way to go! However it is encouraging to see that the majority of those assessed are in good condition with not much damage. Under the criteria of the survey a large percentage of the records has been classed as being part of the national documentary heritage and of having particular value and importance to the University of Dundee.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

CAIS student visits

Twice a year CAIS organises visits to archives and repositories for its students, usually in autumn and spring. Last week was the autumn visit and 16 of us, including archivists, records managers and family historians, were lucky enough to visit two very interesting archives in Edinburgh.

In the morning we were shown around Thomas Thomson House in Sighthill, Edinburgh. TTH is the main storage building for the National Archives of Scotland and also houses some of the key NAS services. We were greeted by Rob Mildren who gave us an overview of the NAS and in particular the balance between onsite and online user services. One of the highlights of the visit was a tour of the conservation studio where we were able to experience at first hand the range of conservation activities that we taking place. We were also given an overview of the NAS's digitisation programme and met some of the FamilySearch staff who are undertaking most of the scanning of documents. Finally we viewed some of the BS 5454 compliant stores which made some of the archivists rather jealous.

The afternoon visit was to the Centre for Research Collections at the University of Edinburgh. Both the University Archivist and Deputy Archivist, Arnott Wilson and Grant Buttars, were kind enough to show us around. The visit was extremely interesting as the Centre is housed on two newly rebuilt floors in the Library building. There are a number of public areas, with enviable views over Edinburgh, where people can consult material. The conservation studio and digitisation area were very interesting, albeit on a smaller scale than at NAS. Changing best practice in classification and storage was clearly demonstrated in the store rooms with the juxtaposition of old library classified volumes and more recently boxed material. The archive is gradually working towards consistency in housing of all its collections.  One of the highlights of the visit was a chance to see some of the treasures of the Archive ranging from the first matriculation register to a death mask of Goethe.

Overall it was a very worthwhile day and enjoyed by all who attended. Thanks to both of the archives for making this possible. We're now planning the visit next Spring which is likely to be to London.

Monday 18 October 2010

Tracing the development of Red Scotland

This month a number of history students who are taking the Red Scotland / Radical Scotland c 1880-1932 module have been regularly visiting the archives to consult our records. Archive Services has been closely involved with this module since it first ran in 2002 and students undertaking it are required to make extensive use of archival materials. Red Scotland examines the growth of the socialist left and developments in working-class politics in Scotland from the 1880s to the 1930s. Among the themes and events the students study are the wave of strikes between 1910 and 1914, the impact of the Great War and Russian Revolution on Scottish politics, and the rise and fall of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) as an electoral force in Scotland. 

Dundee and the Tayside area was an important part of ‘Red Scotland’. Dundee elected Alex Wilkie as one of Scotland’s first two Labour MPs in 1906 and was the base of several well known figures on the left of Scottish politics including Edwin Scrymgeour, Bob Stewart and E. D Morel. Others such as William Gallacher and Tom Johnston were involved in election campaigns in the city. Dundee also had some significant industrial disputes including the 1911 Carters’ Strike and the 1912 Jute Strike. Archive services hold a great many collections that contain important manuscripts and books relating to the history of the labour movement in Scotland in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These include:

  • Minutes of Dundee Town Council (MS 5). These give some idea of Dundee Council’s response to industrial unrest in the city.
  • Dundee Power Loom Tenters Society Minute Book 1916-1923 (MS 65)
  • Cox Brothers, Jute Spinners and Manufactures, Dundee (MS 66/II). Contains the records of one of Scotland’s largest textile works which was badly affected by the jute workers strikes of 1911 and 1912. The Cox Family Papers (MS 6) also contains records relating to these industrial disputes.
  • Association of Jute Spinners and Manufacturers (MS 84). This employers’ organisation was set up during the First World War and quickly represented members in negotiating with employees and trade unions over wages and disputes.
  • Joseph Lee’s Papers (MS 88). This collection includes Lee’s accounts of his time as a prisoner of war during the Great War and his copies of Tocsin, a Labour monthly published in 1909 which Lee edited. Tocsin was praised by Keir Hardie and Philip Snowden and the collection contains letters that they sent to Lee commenting on the publication. Also in this collection are copies of other publications that Lee was involved with which also offer some comment on the political situation of the time.
Pages from Lee's Tocsin
  • D J MacDonald Ltd, Engineers, Dundee (MS 93) (includes D. J MacDonald’s papers from the 1922 general election in Dundee, which famously saw the socialist and prohibitionist Edwin Scrymgeour and Labour’s E D Morel defeat Winston Churchill). 
  • The Kinnear Collection (MS 103), includes the early Communist Party activist Mary Brooksbank’s handwritten poetry as well as other materials relating to her life. 
  • Elizabeth McGill Clark Collection (MS 149). Contains a number of important books relating to the Labour movement in Scotland at this time including a signed copy of Bob Stewart’s memoir Breaking the Fetters, histories of the ILP, and Tom Johnston’s A History of the Working Classes in Scotland.
  • The Records of Dundee Conservative and Unionist Association (MS 270) provide a commentary on the political developments in Scotland at this time from the Unionist Party’s perspective.
  • The Joan Auld Memorial Collection (JAMC). A large collection of books relating to Labour History which was compiled in memory of the late Joan Auld, the University’s first archivist. This collection includes works by many figures prominent in the labour movement including Ramsay Macdonald, William Gallacher, George Bernard Shaw, David Kirkwood, G D H Cole and Beatrice and Sydney Webb.
Some of the books in the Joan Auld collection
  • The Kinnear Local Book Collection (KLoc). This collection include copies of the Dundee Yearbook which give a good account of developments in the labour movement in the city before the First World War. The collection also contains a complete run of The Dundee Free Press a left-wing newspaper set up following the general strike in competition with the publications of D C Thomson, and which devoted much of its attention to the activities of the labour movement in Dundee.

Dr Kenneth Baxter

Wednesday 13 October 2010

ICA / SUV Conference

Prague, 29 September – 3 October 2010

The Section on University and Research Institution Archives (SUV) is part of the International Council on Archives. This year’s SUV conference was Hosted by Charles University, Prague and the theme was: 'Archival Tradition and Practice: Are Archivists Historians?' Delegates attending the conference came from many different nations, and we were given insights into the differing situations to be found in archive repositories across the world.

In the first session Petr Svobodny of Charles University, Prague, spoke of how the connection between the Archives and the Institute of the History of Charles University affects the role of archivists at the University. The archivists do more than routine work, using their historical training to interpret the collections and develop research.

Bill Maher, University of Illinois, then spoke on whether impartiality on the part of the archivist is a myth – the ideal is that archivists should be completely objective, but in practice this is often difficult. According to Bill the ICA’s Code of Ethics for Archivists infers that the archivist should cover the middle ground and maintain a balanced and impartial position. Norman Reid of the University of St Andrews cautioned against the archivist cataloguing or describing a collection in a particular way which might influence future research – archivists in the past have sometimes highlighted items that may be of interest, but which might have no relevance to the historians’ area of research. Over cataloguing can hinder archival serendipity.

Another perspective was provided by Matĕj Spurný who is writing a university history and is a historian rather than an archivist at Charles University. The role of historians, he argued, is to construct the past in the archive rather than mere detection. Using the example of security service files from the Communist era being opened up he pointed out that providing access to files does not in itself enable an understanding of history. This is why, in his point of view, archivists should manage their collections from a historian’s perspective and actively engage in the process of the deconstruction and reconstruction of history.

After lunch the three delegates from the University of the West Indies, Sharon Alexander Gooding, Cherri Ann Beckles and Stanley Griffin gave an overview of the development of archives in the West Indies. In 1965 the first West Indian archives conference took place in Jamaica, which highlighted how dispersed the collections across the Caribbean are – an effect of having several colonial powers dominating the region in earlier times. Indeed, many documents relating to the history of the region are held in the old imperial capitals, such as London, impacting on access to the collections and their usability. More trained archivists in the region are also required. The point was made that archivists are not filing clerks, that they should reflect the cultural reality of present day societies.

The last speaker of the day was Andrzej Klubiński from the Archive of the Polish Academy of Science who told us about the Polish standard of archival description, which was developed by Kazimierz Konarski. Andrzej compared the scheme devised by Konarski to ISAD(G) and highlighted the many similarities between the two systems. The Konarski system has been so successful that it is still the main standard used in Polish archives, rather than ISAD(G).

The conference dinner took place on Thursday evening in Strahov Monastery, founded for the Premonstratensian order. The delegates were given a tour of the Theological Hall which houses an amazing baroque library of some 18,000 volumes. The meal itself was in the Monastic Brewery.

The second day our colleagues from Dundee, Caroline Brown and Pat Whatley, discussed the role of the archivist in ‘creating’ history – especially in the area of appraisal. Caroline presented a fictional case study to show us the many issues involved in deciding which institutional records to select, from the relevance of the material to the parent organisation to basic aspects such as storage space. A major factor, for example, is the pressure from the institution for the archivist to support the University’s current business practices. This inevitably affects the decision about which material should be accessioned. Pat examined appraisal issues in relation to outreach. She explained how the use of Beatles photographs from the Michael Peto Photographic Collection promoted the collection and how this promoted the University as a whole but also how the selection of particular images might influence perceptions of the collection. Importantly, this also raised the profile of the Archives within the institution; with active collaboration between the Principal’s Office and the External Relations department.

After a tour of the museum of Charles University and the SUV’s AGM, Garron Wells of the University of Toronto spoke on the role of early historical societies in Canada in developing historical research and preserving and making available the documentary heritage of the country, part of which involved the establishment of research centres. Shelley Sweeney told us about a video produced for the University of Manitoba’s YouTube channel that used photographs of séances and paranormal activity from their Hamilton Family Photograph Collection. This had proved successful in introducing archival material to a wider audience and increasing interest in the collection. It also raised the question of how the video relates to the collection as a whole, and if use of such a method of promotion alters the way a collection is perceived and approached by researchers.

The video can be seen at:

Marek Ďurčanský of Charles University Archives and Jens Blecher of Leipzig University Archives examined how archives can be used to promote, highlight and mark university anniversaries by looking at two relatively recent case studies from Leipzig and Prague. The turbulent history of Prague has led to many important anniversaries, and this has enabled the Archives to focus on events in preparation for compiling histories of the institutions.

The last session of the day was a demonstration of Manuscriptorium, part of the Enrich project and which is a European digital library of written cultural heritage. This is available through a website:

In the evening there was a reception at Villa Lanna which is owned by the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. We were treated to a buffet meal with accompanying music from a contemporary trio - L'Arrache-Coeur - who played European folk music with a modern approach. They used an accordion, clarinets and a modern, electric hurdy-gurdy!

On Saturday Martin Franc of the Archive of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic spoke on the exploitation of personal papers for biographies and histories. The appraisal of papers of scientists is affected by various factors. For example, the post-War political unrest in Prague affected which personal papers survived. Scientists tend to favour material relating to their research work, whereas archivists want a broader picture reflected in the documents acquired. He was followed by Gráinne Loughran of the University of Ulster who discussed issues involved in archiving the arts. This included recording performance based art and the problems surrounding this – such as, for example, the archivists themselves affecting the performance. With regards to the arts the dynamic of the relationship between the archivist and the artist moves the former away from Derrida’s belief in the archivist’s power.

The conference ended with a lively and thought provoking debate about whether or not archivists should have a historical background – which related to the theme of the conference. It was interesting to see that delegates were clearly divided in this issue and argued strongly for their point of view. For some the requirement that archivists should be historians can prevent a broader perspective of an archival collection during the process of appraisal and description. For others only archivists with historical training can bring proper tools to the job that will aid future historical researchers.

On Sunday there was an excursion to the Cistercian Monastery at Plasy in Western Bohemia. This mediaeval monastery and early modern castle that belonged to the Metternich family contains the Architectural Heritage Centre of the National Technical Museum in Prague. The visit included a climb up the old clock tower to see the original clock mechanism – still in use – that dates from 1686.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our Czech hosts for the conference organisation and for their wonderful hospitality. Děkujeme vám!

Michael Bolik and Jennifer Johnstone

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Learning to Build Archives of the Future

Over the last couple of weeks Archive Services feels like it has become a second home to students from the School of Architecture. The students have been asked to look at the issues involved in designing and running an archive building. Over 40 students, with no previous experience of archives and little knowledge of what an archive is for and how it functions, have been looking through our strong rooms, asking about temperature control and experiencing at first hand a search room overflowing with people. Interestingly it's not only the design of the building that concerns them, they've also been asked to look at ways in which the archive can be made more accessible to the public, such as through the addition of on site exhibition spaces.

The University Tower Building where the
Archives is located in the basement. This
shows the Tower being constructed in
the late 1950s.
As well as pointing them to BS 5454: 2000 (Recommendations for the storage and exhibition of archival documents) and its companion PD 0024:2001 we've recommended Kitching's Archival Buildings, Wilsted's Planning New and Remodelled Archival Facilities or his later Archival Special Collection Facilities. For those who are interested in new or remodelled buildings, there have been related articles in the Journal of the Society of Archivists, parts of the National Archives Frameworks of Standards are relevant, as are the MLA's Benchmarks in Collections Care available at the Collections Link website. The National Archives has guidance on planning a new repository and there is a group, MAPLE, which has been set up 'to help support organisations currently planning or managing large archive projects, primarily capital developments'.

Those of you who have visited the archives here at Dundee will know that we are faced with typical challenges in terms of the size and location of the archive which should give the students plenty to think about and we'll be interested to see the results of their project.

Thursday 16 September 2010

Memory and Identity

This is a week of anniversaries - as well as celebrating the 4,000th unique visit to the blog earlier in the week, this is our 100th post. I wonder how many of them you remember (as you'll see from the screen shot below the blog used to look quite different)? Those of you who aren't familiar with ARMMS or CAIS will have created and recreated your own view of our department while reading through our posts. Even those of you who know us well will have had your perceptions of 'us' altered by the blogs, and these will continue to change each time you remember what you have read.

This interplay between memory and identity, and the impact on these of archives and records, is the theme of our Royal Society of Edinburgh Arts and Humanities Network Project. This is the second RSE award that we have received and we were delighted that the current funding enabled us to extend the research generated by the Investigating the Archive Project. Caroline Brown attended a Research Awards Reception at the RSE last week where she gave a poster presentation about the Memory and Identity project. In addition Pat Whatley has been asked to speak about the Network Award at an RSE Research Awards in Arts & Humanities Information Evening in October.

Over the next few months we'll be returning to this theme regularly and we'd welcome any comments that you have. Our conference in December is a culmination of a series of workshops and lectures relating to Memory and Identity and will look particularly at the following areas:
- Value, Appraisal and Theories of Identity and Memory
- The Impact of Description on the Archival Record
- The Act of Display and Interpretation in the Creation of Memory
- Records and Truth: the Creation of Community and National Identities
- Everyone their Own Archivist – an Eternal Verity or a Digital Virtue?
- Activating the Archive: A Site for Creative Exploration
- Beyond the Written Word: Recording Memory and Identity
- The Making of History: Archives and the Historian

Watch out for more blog posts on these and other issues soon.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Congratulations Terry Cook

Terry Cook (third from left) with (left to right)
David Duncan (former Secretary of the University of
Dundee) and fellow keynote speakers Elizabeth
Shepherd (UCL) and Verne Harris (Nelson Mandela
Foundation) at the Philosophy of the Archive
conference, April 2008
Many of you will have seen the email Tom Nesmith of the University of Manitoba sent to the archives and records email listservs this week congratulating his colleague Terry Cook on his election as a member of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC). Tom explains in his email that this is the highest distinction that can be awarded to a scholar in Canada and that
only a handful of archivists have been members of the...Royal
Society of Canada, and they were elected for their outstanding scholarship as historians. Terry is the first to be recognized for scholarship about archives, and for his prominent role in defining and shaping the contours of the very field of Archival Studies as a distinct intellectual and academic pursuit.
Tom also provided the formal RSC citation:
COOK, Terry, History of archives and of recorded information, University of Manitoba

Terry Cook has transformed archives from being perceived as storehouses of old records to sites of power worthy of scholarly attention. In rethinking appraisal to decide what records become archives, responding to the challenges of digital records and critical theory and exploring archival history, Cook has developed, nationally and internationally, a distinctive voice for Canadian archival scholarship.
Terry gave a keynote presentation at the 'Philosophy of the Archive' conference held by CAIS in Edinburgh in 2008 and part of the Royal Society of Edinburgh supported 'Investigating the Archive Project'. He returns to Scotland later this year to provide another keynote lecture at the conference 'Memory, Identity and the Archival Paradigm: an interdisciplinary approach' to be held in Dundee 8-10 December. This conference is part of the successor project to 'Investigating the Archive', the Royal Society of Edinburgh funded research network 'Memory and Identity: an Interdisciplinary Research Network in Scotland'.

We would like to add our congratulations to those already offered by Terry's friends and colleagues. This is a tremendous achievement and one thoroughly justified by the quality and depth of his scholarship and his outstanding contribution to the theoretical basis of the recordkeeping profession.

Tuesday 14 September 2010

4,000 visitors!

By complete chance we were looking at our website statistics this morning just at the point where the number of unique visitors to this blog reached 4,000. In total 6,624 visitors (including returning visitors) have looked at the blog since it began in August 2009 with 11,808 page views.

As you can see from the map, people viewing the blog come from all over the world.

As well as this blog you can also find us online in the following places:

We're really pleased that so many people find the blog interesting and useful. Please let us know if you have any comments or suggestions on how we could change or improve things.

NOTE: we use Google's Analytics service to track our web statistics and the screenshots are taken from there.

Friday 10 September 2010

CAIS Study School, Sept 10 - Days 3, 4 & 5

We're heading towards the end of the Study School now after four days of fascinating sessions. Yesterday Jan Merchant of Perth and Kinross Council Archive spoke to the students about access to archival collections, Susan Mansfield of the Scottish Parliamentary Information Centre examined strategic management issues and Philippa Sterlini and Vanessa Charles of the University of Dundee introduced the students to the preservation and conservation of records and techniques for disaster preparedness and management. The day concluded with a session from Craig Fees on audiovisual records and one from Philip Lord on digital preservation.

Today's sessions have included a debate on whether the recordkeeping professions are being marginalised by developments in technology and a session on the impact of information legislation on recordkeepers. Linda Bankier and Sue Wood from Northumberland Archives and Rachel Hart of the University of St Andrews are leading a workshop this afternoon on palaeography, diplomatic and different types of archive sources and records. The day finishes with the annual CAIS Study School Seminar. This year the distinguished guest is George MacKenzie, the Keeper of the Records of Scotland.

Tomorrow the students have sessions on professional ethics and final preparation for their courses starting on Monday 20 September. It has been a very full week, but a very enjoyable one with valuable and thought provoking contributions from all the students, visiting tutors and speakers and the CAIS staff.

Wednesday 8 September 2010

CAIS Study School, Sept 10 - Days 1 & 2

The first afternoon of the Study School rushed by yesterday as the students met the CAIS staff and each other for the first time. After the introductory session the bulk of the afternoon was taken up by a workshop led by Sarah Wickham, University Records Manager, University of Huddersfield, and Rachel Hosker, the Archive Manager at Scottish Boarders Archive and Local History Centre. Their session introduced everyone to the idea of recordkeeping, and the perspectives of, and relationships between, records creators, users and records professionals.

Today there are sessions on how to use the University's online learning systems and workshops on metadata and archival theory (with David Haynes and Caroline Brown respectively), before Sarah returns with Alan Bell this afternoon as they lead a session examining issues and concepts in records management. The day also includes a visit for the records management students to an off-site storage facility and concludes with a visit for everyone to the University Library and Conservation Studio.

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Brittle Bone Society Archive comes to the University of Dundee

Archive Services are very pleased to announce that the archive of the Brittle Bone Society (UK) has been given to the University of Dundee.

Founded in Dundee in 1968 the Brittle Bone Society is the only UK wide organisation providing support to people affected by the bone condition Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI). The archive is significant in tracing the history of this important charity and developments in treatment of the condition. Changes in fundraising approaches, marketing, membership and administration can all be exploredthrough the records. As a UK charity based in Dundee the collection has strong local significance, but also reflects the impact of the charity on the development of similar organisations overseas. This photograph shows Caroline Brown with Margaret Grant, who established the Society, and Sheena Moreland who has worked for the Society for several years.

Archive Services hopes to shortly undertake an oral history project with members of the Society.

Monday 6 September 2010

CAIS Study School, September 2010

CAIS welcomes a new intake of students to Dundee tomorrow as they attend a Study School prior to beginning their Masters degrees in Archives and Records Management by online distance learning on Monday 20 September.

The Study School is a chance for each new intake of students to meet each other and the CAIS staff and tutors, find out how to use the University's online learning systems and to begin to think about many of the professional theories and issues that they will encounter during their courses. It's always a really interesting and enjoyable few days and we're really looking forward to the rest of the week. We'll be posting updates on the Study School here throughout the week so remember to check back from time to time.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Abstracts available: Memory, Identity and the Archival Paradigm

Abstracts are now available for the papers to be given at the conference Memory, Identity and the Archival Paradigm: an interdisciplinary approach in Dundee 8-10 December via the links in the conference programme. Keynote papers at the conference will be given by Terry Cook, University of Manitoba, Graham Dominy, Chief Director, National Archives of South Africa and David Lowenthal, Emeritus Professor of Geography and Honorary Research Fellow, University College London.

The conference is being held by the Centre for Archive and Information Studies supported by a Royal Society of Edinburgh Arts and Humanities research award. It is the second major conference within the Investigating the Archive project.

Details on how to register can be found on this page and the conference website also includes information on travelling to Dundee and accommodation options.

Friday 27 August 2010

New Political Collections

We are pleased to announce that The Records of the North Tayside Conservative and Unionist Association (reference MS 309) are now available for consultation. This important political collection includes various documents relating to the Conservative Party in parts of Angus and Perthshire from the 1890s until the 1990s. Among these important records are minutes of Conservative and Unionist Branches in Forfar, Blairgowrie, Pitlochry and Coupar Angus and records relating to women’s committees.

Some of the items relate to the former Prime Minister Sir Alec Douglas Home (pictured above), who represented the Kinross and West Perthshire in Parliament between 1963 and 1974, including a couple of signed photographs. There is also material relating to the infamous 1938 by-election fought between the anti-appeasement-candidate Duchess of Atholl (the erstwhile Conservative member for Kinross and West Perthshire), and the Official Conservative candidate William McNair Snaddon. The collection also contains material relating to the Dundee-born Conservative MP Bill Walker (who represented North Tayside in parliament from 1983 until 1997), such as photographs of him opening the North Tayside Conservative and Unionist Association’s Office (below). Other notable figures who appear in the photographs contained in the collection include James Provan MEP, Edward Heath and Michael Heseltine.

Another political collection which has recently been listed is the South Angus Constituency Labour Party Collection (MS 312). This collection includes some copies of SALT a newsletter produced by the South Angus Labour Party in the early 1970s. The records in MS 312 were collected Michael Masterson, who was a lecturer in political science at the University of Dundee.

If you have any material relating to either of these groups or another political party in Tayside that you would like to deposit we would be very interested in hearing from you.

Kenneth Baxter

Wednesday 25 August 2010


Earlier this week Richard Lester, the director who famously directed the Beatles in the films 'A Hard Day's Night' and 'Help!', announced that he has donated his personal archive to the nation placing it in the custody of the BFI National Archive.

Lester also features in the Michael Peto Photographic Collection, held by the University of Dundee's Archive Services. Peto was a photojournalist who's unobtrusive humanist approach allowed him to secure unparalleled access to the Beatles during the filming of Help!. This picture of Lester with Paul McCartney was taken behind Twickenham Studios during the filming.

Genesis Publications produced a limited edition volume of Peto's photographs entitled 'Now These Days are Gone' in 2006 and the deluxe editions of the book were signed by Richard Lester. The University has also staged exhibitions of Peto's work in London, Liverpool, Dundee and Ireland. Galleries and other venues interesting in exhibiting Peto's photgraphs should contact Patricia Whatley, Head of Archive, Records Management and Museum Services, for information.

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Another way to keep up with ARMMS and CAIS

We've started using tumblr this week as another place where you can keep up with what we're doing online. We're using that service as way to chronologically aggregate the things we post here and on our twitter feeds and the bookmarks we save via delicious. This blog and our websites are still the main focus of what we're doing online, but if you want to see things in the order that they were posted and in a single place you might like to take a look at

Monday 23 August 2010

Doors Open Day - Saturday, 18th September

On 18 September the University of Dundee Archive Services will take part in Doors Open day by giving two guided tours of the repository at 10am and 11am. Visitors will have a rare opportunity to see behind the scenes and be shown the archive storage areas. In addition a selection of interesting archival items will be on display, including a case book from a lunatic asylum, an admissions book from Dundee Royal Infirmary, a First World War prisoner-of-war journal, a scrapbook from Queen’s College Dundee, photographs of jute mills and workers and many other examples from the University’s collections that provide a glimpse into the past of Dundee and Tayside.

The number of places is limited so booking is essential. To book a place on one of the tours please phone 01382 384095 or email Please leave a contact telephone number or email address so we can let you know if there are any last minute changes to the programme.

Doors Open Days in Dundee is coordinated by the Scottish Civic Trust, with the support of the University of Dundee. The full programme for all the events taking place around Dundee is available here.

Tuesday 17 August 2010

Congratulations Chris (again!)

We heard yesterday that our friend and colleague Dr Chris Prom, the Assistant University Archivist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the tutor of the CAIS Electronic Records Management course, was elected a Fellow of the Society of American Archivists at their annual conference in Washington DC last week. We're delighted that Chris' contribution to the profession has been recognised by his national professional association. Some of Chris' achievements were detailed online earlier this year when he won another award and you can find out about Chris' research as a Fulbright Distinguished Scholar whilst based with CAIS in Dundee on his Practical E-Records blog.

Monday 16 August 2010

Conference - Memory, Identity and the Archival Paradigm: an interdisciplinary approach

The programme is now available for the conference 'Memory, Identity and the Archival Paradigm: an interdisciplinary approach', to be held in Dundee Wednesday 8th - Friday 10th December 2010. The conference is supported by a Royal Society of Edinburgh Arts and Humanities research award and is the second conference within the Investigating the Archive project. The first conference, 'The Philosophy of the Archive', was held in Edinburgh in April 2008. Selected papers from that conference were published in a special issue of Archival Science, Vol 9, no 3, 2009.

The keynote speakers at the conference in December will be Terry Cook, University of Manitoba, Graham Dominy, Chief Director, National Archives of South Africa and David Lowenthal, Emeritus Professor of Geography and Honorary Research Fellow, University College London. For more information please see the conference website. The full programme is available here and details on how to register can be found on this page.

Friday 13 August 2010

Ministerial approval for D'Arcy

Fiona Hyslop MSP, Minister for Culture & External Affairs, visited Museum Services on Monday and was given a tour including the current exhibitions in the University's Tower Foyer and Lamb Galleries and the D'Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum where she heard more about the ongoing anniversary celebrations. She was also given a preview of some of the artworks that will feature in the exhibition 'Sketching the Universe', to be launched 2 September in the University Tower Building's Lamb Gallery. The Minister is pictured here with Matthew Jarron, the Museum Curator, and Honorary Zoology Curator Cathy Caudwell.

Matthew also appeared on STV's primetime 'News at Six' programme on Tuesday to discuss D'Arcy Thompson's legacy. The programme can be viewed online here until 9 September and the item begins at 17 minutes and 52 seconds.

Friday 6 August 2010

Some more D'Arcy

The University's fortnightly staff newsletter, eContact, included this short article in its most recent edition about the ongoing events to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of D'Arcy Thompson, many of which are being led by the University's Museum Services. For more information please contact Matthew Jarron, the Museum Curator.

More D’Arcy Thompson weekend celebrations next month

A second weekend of events to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Dundee’s pioneer of life sciences, Professor Sir D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, gets underway next month. On 2 September Professor Martin Kemp, from the University of Oxford, will give a free public lecture on the motifs influenced by Thompson's work identifiable in art, architecture and engineering since the 1930s. Entitled 'Splashing Around: Themes from D’Arcy Thompson in the Visual Arts', the lecture takes place at 5.30pm in the D’Arcy Thompson Lecture Theatre in the University's Tower Building.

A new exhibition of artistic responses to D’Arcy Thompson will be opened in the Lamb Gallery of the Tower Building following Professor Kemp’s lecture. This will be accompanied by an exhibition of prints by the celebrated artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham in the Foyer Gallery.

A one-day conference exploring the contemporary legacy of D’Arcy’s work will also be held at the University on Saturday 4 September. This will include a performance by Creative Writing tutor Jim Stewart of his new poem about the great man. Attendance at the conference is free but booking is essential.

For more information please email or call 01382 384310. A full programme of events is available at

Wednesday 4 August 2010

Happy Birthday Blog!

Birthday Cake

It's our blog's first birthday today. In that time it's had two facelifts, nine different contributors, almost 6,000 visitors, over 10,000 page views and has been viewed in 86 different countries.

The highest number of visitors in a single day was 78 on 22 September 2009 (when we were posting lots of things from the CAIS Study School) and the two most popular posts were this quite recent one celebrating the 2010 Graduation ceremonies and this post which mentioned the early acting career of a future Dr Who.

We hope that you continue to enjoy what we post here. Thanks to everyone who's helped make the blog successful so far.

picture credit: Theresa Thompson

Tuesday 3 August 2010

CAIS E-Records Course

Many of you will remember that Dr Chris Prom, the Assistant University Archivist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (and the winner of a 2010 'Movers and Shakers in Archives' award), spent almost a year in Dundee with CAIS recently whilst he completed his Fulbright-sponsored research on electronic records issues.

Chris' experience and knowledge of this subject and his relationship with CAIS made him an obvious choice to succeed Mark Conrad of NARA as the tutor of our Electronic Records Management course. We're delighted that Chris will begin teaching with CAIS in September. Mark has stepped down to concentrate on some other projects, but he's been an incredibly popular and knowledgeable tutor and his insights on the e-records tsunami that all recordkeepers are facing have been highly valued by his students. Mark has our warmest thanks for all that he's contributed to CAIS during the last four years and we look forward to collaborating with him again in the future.

You can see Chris' thoughts as he prepares to take over the course on his blog. There's more information on the Electronic Records Management course, which can be taken as part of a Masters degree or for Continuing Professional Development, on our website.

Monday 2 August 2010

Slides now available - CAIS E-Records Seminar

The slides used by the speakers at the seminar 'Practical Approaches to Electronic Records: the Academy and Beyond', which was held by CAIS in Dundee in May, are now available from our website.

Those attending that day heard papers from Ian Anderson, Susanne Belovari, Peter Cliff, Viv Cothey, William Kilbride, Chris Prom and Malcolm Todd. We'd like to thank those of them that used slides for agreeing to make their presentations available online. The programme from the event can be seen here and there's a picture of our colleague Chris speaking at the event here.

Wednesday 28 July 2010

Dundee College of Education

The papers of the Dundee College of Education have recently been fully catalogued and are now available for use. The collection comprises over 9 linear metres of records and includes a plethora of materials ranging from minute books, prospectuses, reports and plans to student records, graduation materials and a considerable number of photographs.

The College was established in 1906 after the St Andrews Provincial Committee, one of four Committees within Scotland charged with the responsibility for teacher training, decided Dundee was a suitable site for a new teacher training facility. The picture below shows a drama class from the early 20th century.

The newly established College originally shared facilities with Dundee’s Technical Institute which had premises on Small’s Wynd. Accommodation for the opening roll of 136 students was arranged thanks to support from local Churches. Six years later the College acquired Mayfield House to provide accommodation for its female students although this was subsequently extended to provide accommodation for both sexes. Such were the College’s successes and such was the demand for College places that larger and more purpose built premises were urgently needed. After considering locations at Belmont, Small’s Lane and Friarbank, a site at Park Place was identified for expansion. Although the foundation stone for this new site was laid in 1912, it was not until October 1920 that the premises was finally occupied, the formal opening being performed in 1921 by Her Grace, the Duchess of Atholl.

The College celebrated its Jubilee in 1956 and in 1975 moved to new premises in Gardyne Road, West Ferry, with the buildings at Park Place being taken over by Dundee University. The Scrymgeour Building (pictured), the traditional premises of the College in Park Place, was subsequently occupied by the Faculty of Law in 1978, which continues to occupy the site today. In 1987 the College merged with Aberdeen College of Education to form the Northern College of Education, but in 2001 the two colleges again split and each became part of its neighbouring University.

In 2007, 101 years after it was first founded, the Dundee College of Education relocated to a new home on the main campus to form part of the University's School of Education, Social Work & Community Education.

The Dundee College of Education catalogue can be accessed online here and the collection can be consulted in the search room.
For more information, please contact