Tuesday 25 October 2011

Plans for a Botanic Garden in Dundee

2011 is the year in which the University celebrates the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Botanic Gardens and Archive Services has a number of collections which relate to the establishment and management of the gardens. The archives show that idea of creating a botanic teaching garden dates back as far as the early twentieth century. (Sir) Patrick Geddes, Professor of Botany at University College, Dundee from 1889 to 1920, was a keen advocate of such an idea.

The Geddes Quadrangle c 1960s
The garden in what is now known as the Geddes Quadrangle was laid out according to an elaborate plan by Geddes to serve an educational function. Geddes designed the garden so that the specimens planted in each bed were from the same scientific group and the beds demonstrated the evolution of that group. He also took a keen interest in the layout of the rest of the College grounds. 

In 1906 it was reported that Geddes had proposed a scheme to create a large botanic garden running from the Perth Road to the edge of the Caledonian Railway at Magdalen Green, covering the site of Clarendon Park Nursery and extending eastwards. In 1909, following the failure of a scheme by the late Bailie Mathers to erect a winter garden at Baxter Park, Geddes contacted the Town Council to propose his own winter garden or botanic garden arguing that he had support from members of the community. He also requested that the University College Council appoint a sub-committee of its members to consider the proposal. However, the College Council opted not to pursue this matter, much to Geddes' regret.

Geddes did no teaching at the University after 1914, but his legacy lived on. As this document from 1929 shows the garden at the front of the College was carefully planned and maintained and showcased a number of species of tree. Proposals for a permanent botanic garden remerged in the 1960s and, with the encouragement of Principal James Drever, the current gardens were established in 1971.

Plan for garden in front of what is now the Tower Building, 1929

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Visit of the Polish National Digital Archives

On Friday 14th October ARMMS had a visit from Sebastian Zduńczyk, Artur Łysik, Arkadiusz Świątek and Andrzej Kochaniak of the Polish National Digital Archives - Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe (NAC) – who gave a presentation about the their organisation. The NAC is one of the three main sections of the Central State Archive in Poland and is located in Warsaw.

Although an ‘Archives of Audio-Visual Records’ had existed in Poland since 1955, it was not until 2008 that it was transformed into the National Digital Archives as a response to the emergence and growth of information technologies. Its main activities are to preserve digital and non-digital photographs, film and audio recordings, and to create digital versions of non-digital archival material for sharing online. At the beginning of 2011 the archive held 30 terabytes of data. Although the NAC is part of the Central State Archive many of these collections are from external organisations.

A large part of this process involves scanning microfilm and each year; between one and a half and two million frames are scanned using state of the art equipment. The NAC also scans photographs and documents, either from its own collections or sent by external organisations. As well as being digitised these items are microfilmed as part of an overall preservation strategy and the NAC now holds some 72 million microfilm frames.

The NAC is also developing websites that permit public access to much of the digitised material and there are over 150,000 digital images on the Audiovis website. Another initiative is the development of a web interface – ZoSIA - that permits access to information about archival collections in the Central State Archive as well as regional State archives across the whole of Poland..

After the presentation the NAC team was given a tour of the University Archives. They were surprised to see photographs of a young Andrzej Wajda, the famous film director, taken by the Hungarian photographer Michael Peto, as well as other Peto photographs showing Warsaw’s immediate post-war restoration and development. These included an image of a part of Warsaw very near the NAC’s own building.

This insight into the work of the National Digital Archives was very interesting and enlightening and we were particularly impressed by the scope and scale of the organisation’s work.

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Age of Revolution in the Archives

Over the next two weeks over 270 level one students undertaking the Age of Revolution module on the University’s History Programme will be carrying out a source based exercise which uses material from our collections relating to Dundee in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including maps, a hospital report and an extract from a Dundee Directory. This assessment encourages students to think about primary sources as well as some of the broader issues relating to the impact the industrial revolution had on Dundee, Scotland and the rest of Britain. In previous years many students undertaking this and similar exercises have come to the archives to enhance their work by making use of the many other sources we have relating to life in Dundee at this time, and we anticipate many of this year’s cohort will visit us over the next fortnight. Some of the collections consulted in the past include:

MS 11 Baxter Brothers & Co Ltd. The Baxters operated one of Dundee's major textile works. Their extensive archives include many records relating to the business as well as an account of the early days of flax spinning in Dundee written by Charles Mackie, 'an old mill manager'.

MS 17/P The Thornton Collection of Manuscripts and Plans This collection includes material relating to the coming of the railways to Dundee as well as several plans of Dundee and its buildings

MS 102 The Peter Carmichael of Arthurstone Collection. There are many fascinating items to be found in the papers of one of Scotland’s great factory managers and engineers including photographs of Dundee in the nineteenth century, personal correspondence and an excellent autobiographical account of life and trade in the city.

MS 134 Working Class Life in Dundee for Twenty Five Years, 1878-1903  This study by Dr David Lennox includes much material relating to the late eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century as background to its arguments on the main period it covers.

THB 1 The Dundee Royal Infirmary Collection has a wide range of useful information on life in Dundee at this time including reports of the work of the hospital and disease in Dundee, patient admission registers and directors minutes

KLoc The Kinnear Local Book Collection has a number of rare histories of Dundee as well as publications produced in this period such as the Dundee Directories,  and the Rev. George Lewis's A course of lectures on the physical, educational and moral statistics of Dundee delivered in the Watt Institution Hall in December 1840

The archives also have many other collections which contain material relevant to students of the Industrial Revolution as can be seen from our On-line Catalogue ( and our source lists and subject indexes (http://www.dundee.ac.uk/archives/sourcetop.htm). In addition we hold copies of most of a number of useful texts on the history of Dundee in the industrial period which are available for consultation in the search room. These include:

L. Miskell, C. Whatley & B. Harris (eds) Victorian Dundee Image and Realities (East Linton, 1999)
C. McKean, P. Whatley with K. Baxter Lost Dundee (Edinburgh, 2008)
D. Swinfen, A. Smith and C. Whatley The Life and Times of Dundee (Edinburgh, 1993)
C. McKean, Dundee: An Illustrated Architectural Introduction/Guide (Edinburgh, 1984 & 1993)
C. Mckean, C. Whatley and B Harris (Eds) Dundee 1500-1800 Renaissance Burgh to Enlightenment Town (Dundee, 2009)

Dr Kenneth Baxter