Wednesday, 1 October 2014

We've moved!

We're suspending the use of this blog and moving our activities over to the news section of our (relatively) new website - We're leaving this site up as there are lots of interesting stories and items about our collections here, but please use the link above if you want to keep up with us from now on. As always, we'd love to hear your feedback on what we're doing so if you've any questions about us or our collections, please just drop us a line.

With best wishes from everyone in ARMMS and CAIS.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Memories, identities and communities - conference tweets

Our conference last week went incredibly well with a combination of fantastic papers and spirited discussion. Thanks to everyone who attended. We'll post more in due course, but here are the conference tweets to give you a flavour of the event:

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Murthly Hospital 150 years old today.

Murthly Hospital (also know as the Perth District Asylum) was opened to patients on this day 150 years ago. The Asylum, which cost £30,000, was built to cater for 'lunatic paupers' and was Scotland's second district asylum. It was built following the 1857 Lunacy (Scotland) Act which ​had created district boards that could establish publicly funded asylums to provide care for people who could not afford the high fees​ charged by private asylums. Out of town locations were common for asylums at the time as it was believed that separation from the possible causes of anxiety, and fresh air, might help patients recover. Murthly, however, was fairly remote (see its position here), but access was made easier by the fact that the Highland Railway ran nearby. In 1894 the hospital built villas within its grounds as part of a pioneering attempt to provide accommodation for patients based on the colony or village system​.

 The hospital closed completely in 1984 and has now been demolished. Archive Services hold its records (THB 30) as part of the NHS Tayside Archive. These include patient records dating back to its opening, records relating to staff and various reports. The records are available for consultation, although all clinical records are subject to a 100 year closure period. For more information contact or visit

Friday, 7 March 2014

Are you ready?

We thought this was interesting so we’re cross-posting it from Alan’s personal blog.

socially awkward

One of the headings on the front cover of the latest issue of ARC, the magazine of the Archives and Records Association, asks ‘Are you ready for Skype…?’. I found that frustrating, as did some of my colleagues.

Asking that in 2014 makes recordkeeping (and recordkeepers) look out of touch and disengaged. The lazy metaphors - dust, parchment, basements, cardigans etc - are hard enough to shake without the magazines of our professional bodies reinforcing them, however inadvertently. ARC should be a tool for advocacy as well as a way of keeping up with news and other developments across the profession.

Social media isn't the coming thing. We've had fifteen years of blogging. Twitter has been around since 2006. Facebook moved off university and high school campuses and opened up to everyone in that year too. Kate Theimer and Steve Bailey began writing about Archives 2.0 and Records Management 2.0 in 2007.

Skype launched in 2003.

Surely we've moved beyond asking people whether 'they're ready'? Platforms change. The desire of people to create and communicate doesn't. If you have the means to get online, the use of this technology isn't exceptional. It's ordinary. It's routine. It's normal.

I'm not downplaying the challenge of social media. The difficulty of securing organisational and personal memories in such volatile environments is clear. But so is the relevance of recordkeeping principles to that process. Isn’t that the message we want to communicate?

Friday, 14 February 2014

Age of Revolution in the Archives

Over 150 level one students undertaking the University’s history module Age of Revolution are currently carrying out a source based exercise which uses material from our collections relating to Dundee in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The sources used include four of our maps, an unpublished history, and extracts from a Dundee Directory. This assessment encourages students to think about issues surrounding primary sources as well as some of the broader issues relating to the impact that the industrial revolution had on Dundee, Scotland and the rest of Britain.  

Crawford's plan of Dundee 1776

Students undertaking this and similar exercises for history and other subject areas, including town planning, often make use of the many other sources we have relating to life in Dundee at this time. We anticipate many of this year's history cohort will visit us over the next fortnight. Some of the collections consulted in the past by students taking this module include:

Photograph from the Carmichael Collection 1870s

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 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 in Dundee.
Page from Dundee Infirmary's admission records 1853
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 on 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 and the same author's The State of St David's Parish; with remarks on the Moral and Physical Statistics of Dundee (1841)

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 (

Page from a Dundee Directory

In addition we hold copies of a number of useful texts on the history of Dundee in the industrial period, many of which are available for consultation in the search room. These include:

L. Miskell, C. Whatley & B. Harris (eds) Victorian Dundee Image and Realities 2nd Edition (Dundee, 2011)
C. McKean, P. Whatley with K. Baxter Lost Dundee (Edinburgh, 2008 & 2013)
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)

If you would like to consult the archives we are open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 9-1 and 2-5. It is best to email us to make an appointment on or telephone 01382 384095.

Dr Kenneth Baxter

Valentine's Day in the Archive

...ages seem to have passed since I last went to sleep with your head on my shoulder and you clasped in my arms and I can hardly wait for your comforting presence, oh! Only to hold you in my arms again!
Extract taken from letter by Burt S Paton writing to his wife Helen in 1939 when she was in Bridge of Earn Hospital. Ref: Ref: MS 141/1/6/5​.

This and other love letters, poems, literature and pictures can be seen in the Archive's new display that celebrates love, romance and marriage. You can find it in the basement of the University of Dundee's Tower Building.

Friday, 31 January 2014

Heading into 2014

The New Year of 2014 is well on its way now, heralded by weather so miserable that you could almost wish for snow. In the Archive, we’ve been keeping dry and cosy, dealing with visitors wishing to look at a range of material, including textile records, First World War letters, architectural plans and University records.

We’ve also been working with some recent accessions to the collections, some of which came in just before Christmas. One accession is material generated by the Episcopalian Diocese of Brechin that includes some newly discovered letters to Bishop Forbes. We’ve recruited some new volunteers, and one of them will be working through the scrawl of 19th century handwriting so that they can be properly described and added to the BrMS collection.

The work of the volunteers is much appreciated by Archive staff who come in regularly and create basic lists of collections. At the moment, volunteers are working on our growing collections of comics, a mountaineering club collection, Dundee Rep Theatre posters and programmes and the Kerr Anderson papers.

Finally, if you follow us on twitter you may have seen the Alex Coupar photographs that we’ve been featuring ( Alex is a renowned photographer from Dundee, whose work ranges from street-scenes and views to candid portraiture and press shots. We’re incredibly lucky to have his collection here in the Archive, and we’re seeking funding so that we can bring Alex’s work to a wider public. So, watch this space…

Dr Jan Merchant