Thursday 24 June 2010

Canongate Books

We're delighted by today's announcement that the archive of Canongate Books is to be established at the University of Dundee. Canongate is a leading Scottish publisher whose authors include Barack Obama, Philip Pullman, Nick Cave, Alasdair Gray and the Man Booker Prize winning Yann Martel. You can see the full announcement about the link between the University and Canongate here.

Graduation 2010

Jennifer Johnstone and Stephanie Laing at the Graduation Garden Party
The School of Humanities graduation ceremony took place this week and we celebrated the success of CAIS Masters students and that of some of our colleagues.

Masters Degrees from CAIS were awarded to Joanne Wishart, Shetland Archives, (MLitt Archives and Records Management), Stephanie Laing, Lothian and Borders Police, (MSc Records Management and Information Rights), Jennifer Godfrey, Office of Rail Regulation, (MSc Records Management and Information Rights) and our colleague Jennifer Johnstone, Assistant Archivist, (MLitt Archives and Records Management).
Penny McMahon, Jennifer Johnstone and Keren Guthrie at the Garden Party
Keren Guthrie, the Senior Archives Assistant in ARMMS, graduated with a MA in the Humanities and two of our volunteers, Penny McMahon (MA hons History and Politics) and Garry Stewart (MA hons History) were also awarded their degrees.

Our warmest congratulations to them all and to all the students of the University of Dundee graduating this week.

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Dr Mary Young Award

Julie Danskin, a graduating History student, today became the first winner of the Mary Young Award for the best use of archives and archival sources in an undergraduate dissertation since the award was renamed in honour of our former colleague, Dr Mary Young, who sadly passed away earlier this year. The award, made by the History Department of the School of Humanities and supported by Archive, Records Management and Museum Services (ARMMS), was presented to Julie at the School's prize giving event which is held annually on the same day as graduation.

Friday 18 June 2010

The Association of Canadian Archivists Conference: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

I’m just back from the Association of Canadian Archivists annual conference. This year it was held in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the weather was unusually good and the bagpipes and kilts reminded us of home. Highlights included an interesting programme, a gate crashing dancer at the Gala dinner and the East vs West softball game where the East staged a dramatic comeback to win in the final innings.

All the sessions were worth attending and the keynotes in particular were thought provoking. Brien Brothman, for example, talked about his current research and deliberations on 5 particular areas. These were concepts that he felt were significant in 2010 and what interested him was their impact on archives and the archival profession:

1 - The idea of ‘space’ and how space and locality are imagined and realised

2 - The role of ‘windows’ and the ramifications of the meanings of the word

3 - The sensory experience of archives, the impact of the digital world and how this will change the experience of users and views of records and the past

4 - The use of screens, in particular the use of big screens and what impact this might have

5 - The concept of containers.

Brothman discussed the concept of crisis and in particular whether this is a new phenomenon or if it is ongoing. He pointed to writers in the 1920s who argued that they were faced with fundamental change as a result of new technologies. Even the concept of being online is not new – electricity has been connecting homes since the late 19th century. Brothman argued that we should be continuously questioning the impact of what we see as new in 2010, while remembering the broader context of change.

The theme of the conference was ‘Standing on the Shoulders of Giants’. Terry Cook was the final keynote and looked at ‘giants’ in the Canadian profession past, present and future. In an entertaining talk he argued that we should have a ‘big tent’ approach to archives. We should recognise our differences and acknowledge that we may all be wrong, and or all be right. He predicted that the profession will become less monolithic, that there will be several theories to support it and more partnerships. He emphasised the importance of diversity within the profession.

Cook looked back to archival giants in Canada including W. Kaye Lamb whom he credited with the reinvention of the profession. His contributions included the recognition of the importance of records management, the emphasis on historical governmental records, and the beginnings of the concept of total archives.

Hugh Taylor, according to Cook, was a bridge between the old and the new generation of archivists. Reflecting on his own generation Cook listed 10 achievements which he felt were significant: the creation of ACA; the development of archival education; the national network of archives in Canada; descriptive standards; appraisal theories and methodologies; defining and producing guidelines for digital materials and the role of diplomatics; public policy engagement - archivists as activists; aggressive public programming (outreach); recognising the importance of the history of the profession; and the postmodern archive, taking theories and applying them to archival processes.

Finally Cook left us with the thought that while we have been very good at thinking about the politics of archives, we must not forget the poetry, we need to embrace the archival imagination and view archives as joy.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Archives feature in Contact magazine

There is a feature about staff and student magazines and newspapers in this month's Contact, the University's magazine. The first student publication - College Magazine - was published in 1888 and since then there have been a various titles produced by both students and the University itself. These offer a unique insight into the development of this institution from the point of view of its people. There is a link to a pdf of Contact magazine here: - our article is on page 27.

Thursday 10 June 2010

International Archives Day

Wednesday 9th of June was International Archives Day.

The day celebrates the international role and importance of archives and it seemed appropriate to reflect on the collections held at Dundee University which have international significance. About 10 % of the material in the archives relates to the Indian subcontinent. Dundee was once a major centre of jute manufacture which resulted in the link between the city and West Bengal, where jute is grown. Dundee companies set up several jute mills in the Kolkata area and sent many Scots to the area to provide managerial and technical expertise. The records that have survived, and that are now in the University Archives, particularly the annual managers’ reports, the correspondence and the photographs, offer a unique insight into the development of the industry in India and of the dramatic changes in Indian society as the country moved from colonialism towards independence. Researchers from a variety of countries including India, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United States have come to Dundee to consult these documents.

The photographs of Michael Peto have attracted a great deal of interest across the world. The Beatles, Nelson Mandela, C.S. Lewis, Rudolf Nureyev, Jawaharlal Nehru and Nikita Khrushchev are just a fraction of the myriad of famous names from politics, the performing arts, literature and music captured by Peto’s lens. We have sent copies of the photographs showing Nelson Mandela during his 1962 visit to London to Mandela himself, and Peto’s images of C.S.Lewis have been used for a number of publications across the world, including reprints of Lewis’s books in South Korea, Sweden and the United States. Last year the National Costume Centre in France used some of Peto’s dramatic photographs of Nureyev for a major exhibition, while photographs of a young Ian McKellen performing Edward II can be found on the actor’s own American-based website.

Some of our collections originated abroad, thus explaining their international links. An example is the series of drawings depicting scenes from the American Civil War which were at one time in the possession of a soldier from the New York Infantry who fought in the war. We also have a collection, mainly of photographs, relating to the life and work of a family of medical missionaries in Tiberias. The Sea of Galilee Medical Mission was initially established when the area was under Ottoman control, and the involvement of the Torrance family continued through the British Mandate and into the early years of the State of Israel. The Torrances were keen photographers and apart from typical ‘Holy Land’ images the collection contains photographs of the hospital staff and of patients, as well as of local Arabs and Jews going about their daily business. Many of the images of the patients show medical conditions that are often quite harrowing.

Sometimes the international connection is not so obvious. Our Glasite and Sandemanian collection is an example of this. When the Presbyterian clergyman John Glas was deposed as minister of the Tealing church in the early 18th century almost all of his congregation continued to support him and eventually formed a separate church. This became known as the Glasite church and congregations were formed throughout Scotland. His son-in-law, Robert Sandeman, established what became known as Sandemanian churches in England and eventually across the Atlantic in Connecticut. The most famous member of the Sandemanian church was the scientist Michael Faraday. Although the church no longer exists some American churches trace their descent from the Glasite church and in recent years academic researchers have come here from places such as Oklahoma and California just to consult the collection. The image below is of an 18th century letter from the New England Sandemanians.

Other records in the Archives cover Caribbean pirates, Polish officers, American POWs, Hitler Youth, and the first black heavyweight boxing champion of the world. Dundee may be a relatively small city but over the past centuries its history has been linked to so many places across the world that its importance can be measured on a global scale.

Friday 4 June 2010

The Archives Hub

On Tuesday 25th May Jennifer attended a training session at Glasgow University run by the Archives Hub. The Archives Hub provides a central searchable website for users to search collections held at British university archives, though it is now being expanded to include non-university collections that are beneficial for academic researchers. Jennifer has been using the Hub and uploading our collection descriptions for a few years now but, because they have just extensively upgraded the website, the training session was a good opportunity to see how it has changed and what the new features are. It is now, for example, possible to attach images to descriptions. One of the things we are planning to do is to add an image to each collection which will make the searching process more visual and appealing for users.

We will also be adding descriptions at series level that will provide more information about the collections for researchers. Jennifer has already sent in her first attempt at using the new online form (MS 274, Papers relating to the Paterson family in Gourepore, India) and apparently it was the first one they had received that included an image. We are looking forward to seeing what it looks like on the Hub website once it has gone live.