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 archives@dundee.ac.uk.
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 http://www.dundee.ac.uk/museum/caf.htm

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