Internships update

This week's blog is longer than usual as we hear from each of our three interns. They've each presented their work to a packed CRC seminar room earlier this week and now they've written down their thoughts to share with a wider audience. Kirstin, the Research Intern finishes today and sums up her research and achievements during her time with us. Sharon, the Archive Intern and Sarah, the Conservation Intern are now eight weeks into their respective projects and update us on their work to date.

Five weeks ago I was very lucky to be chosen as the first Research Intern at LHSA. I was so surprised when the phone rang offering me the position, and I am so happy that I have been given such a fantastic opportunity which I have gained a wealth of skills and knowledge from, which I can take with me throughout my career.  I should start by telling you how I got here, and why the Research Internship at LHSA appealed to me so much. 

I graduated in May last year with a BA Honours in Photography and Film, with my dissertation focusing on the artistic influences on the first photographic images of 19th Century male hysteria, opposed to its highly researched female counterpart. Like many people, it was my dissertation that really sparked my interest in researching historical topics, and I found I really enjoyed it, and much to my family’s disappointment I enjoyed telling them every detail I found out along the way! So when the opportunity to be the Hospital Community Intern for Artlink’s 200 Years 200 Objects exhibition, commemorating the Royal Edinburgh Hospital’s bicentenary came up, I knew I had to apply, and fortunately I was offered the position. My role involved talking to the staff and patients at the REH to unearth interesting stories and objects which told the Hospital's 200 year history. I loved talking to the Hospital community, and having the chance to share stories from one person to the next. Once I had completed the voluntary internship at Artlink, it really confirmed to me how much I wanted to pursue a career within research, particularly in a way which would benefit others, and allow them to enjoy its findings as much as I did.  So when I discovered LHSA were advertising for a new paid Research Internship, which focused on developing its WW1 collection into educational resources, it caught my attention immediately. So, to be been given this incredible opportunity and be part of the LHSA team for 5 weeks has been an amazing experience.

In the first few weeks of the internship I began this project by selecting and choosing some of the material from LHSA’s WW1 collection to develop for school children.  This initial task was very difficult, as there is so much interesting material to choose from. I knew I had to find something which would appeal to my chosen target audience of school children, but could also be adapted to fit in with the requirements of the Curriculum of Excellence and National qualifications. With this in mind, I knew I had struck gold when I opened both Nurse Ethel Millar’s autograph book and the Craigleith Chronicle Hospital Magazine. 

Nurse Ethel Millar’s autograph book contains incredible drawings, sketches and poems dedicated to her by wounded soldiers she nursed in her ward at Craigleith Hospital, now the Western General Hospital. The Craigleith Chronicle is equally as rich in content, containing 36 issues filled with stories, diary extracts, poems, sketches and artwork from various members of the Hospital community throughout the duration of the War. Both are unique in their own right, and if I am honest I find it very difficult to choose which is my favourite, but what I love most is how both offer a more personal insight into life during the War. It was a pleasure to go through both materials finding the gems which could be developed further into online resources. One of my favourites, which I have chosen to be part of the Schools Educational Package on LHSA’s website is ‘War Time Wooing’, a short poem from the Craigleith Chronicle explaining how due to rationing and the shortage of flowers, it became acceptable to woo a woman with bacon! (Which I think, some may agree could be considered a great strategy, even today!) 
War Time Wooing from the Craigleith Chronicle
What I absolutely loved throughout the research phase of the project was having the opportunity to be a detective, and find the same individuals mentioned throughout both sources.  I have found some extremely interesting characters such as Nurse Helm, who is congratulated in the Chronicle for “surviving her escape of a very unpleasant experience” after the hospital war ship she worked on was torpedoed and incredibly she survived.  She is also mentioned in Ethel Millar's autograph book in a tiny scribble of a short poem titled ‘To Nurse Helm’ by a Private in the ward, which gives the impression she was a force to be reckoned with. Very fitting when comparing both sources! She will also be part of the online educational package for schools, as she is a great example of women’s changing roles throughout the Great War. 
Illustrated page from Ethel Millar's autograph book
The internship has prepared me well in selecting my final edit for schools educational resources. I have met with teachers and education officers to get their opinions on how my chosen material can be developed, which has been invaluable throughout the final selection phase of the project.  I have also met professionals from The National Records of Scotland (NRS) and the National Library of Scotland to find out how they develop their own archive material into online educational resources for schools, which has also been extremely beneficial for the project and for my own personal knowledge. 

I have had the opportunity to see how archive material can also be developed for use in the classroom, by taking part in a Drama based education workshop at NRS. The workshop was absolutely fantastic, something I am quite surprised to say as I hated drama at school.  But having the chance to be a kid for the day and take part in the same drama based activities primary school children experience, truly was a brilliant way to see how archive material can be used in such a creative way for learning.

I am sad to say that I am now in my final week of the internship…. But I will leave on a high note as I will spend the last week physically making a replica of Ethel Millar's autograph book in aid of the ‘Explore your Archive’ campaign which aims to promote the amazing things which can be found in archives to the public.  I am very excited to make this so that many others can physically handle such a beautiful and insightful object again and again…

I have loved every minute of the internship, and look forward to using the skills I have gained from it in my future career.

Kirstin Cunningham


My name is Sharon Boyle and I’m the Archive Intern at LHSA. I completed the MSc in Information Management and Preservation at the University of Glasgow in August of this year. I did my course cataloguing placement at LHSA last year, so it’s been exciting to return there to start my career as an archivist.

My internship has afforded three very important opportunities; further cataloguing experience, involvement in the range of activities that are carried out in any busy archive and a chance to find out more about the use of archival material in education. This last subject is of real interest to me as it was the focus of my MSc dissertation

My main task was to continue cataloguing LHSA’s collection of photographs into the database, so my first week was spent assessing them and creating a hand list of our holdings. After three weeks this list had been completed and Archivist Laura advised me which series they fitted into. It was necessary, however to create some new series as my search had uncovered groups of photos that did not readily fit into existing ones. I found, for example, a number of photos of hospitals abroad and individual portrait shots of notable physicians and medical staff. Some series were so large that creation of sub-series was also needed; there are a huge number of items relating to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (RIE), so photographs will comprise different sub-series within this large series, including one of residents (junior doctors), one of cliniques (medical teams responsible for the care of patients on wards headed by a senior member of medical staff) and others, including buildings and other staff members. I’m currently at the stage where I have begun to enter items into our photographic database.

I have also had chances to work with our Conservation and Research Interns, Sarah and Kirsten. Sarah and I worked on an accession from the Edinburgh solicitors Gillespie Macandrew which contained title deeds and legal papers relating to the RIE. From this I was able to gain further experience of hand listing a collection and as each item was listed, Sarah explained possible approaches to cleaning that could be applied to the beautiful, fragile and in some cases, very, very dirty documents!
Research Intern Kirsten has been examining materials from LHSA’s collections that are related to WWI and thinking about ways in which they can be used as an educational resource. We discussed some ideas together, and I was able to take along digital images of materials she had selected to the SCA ‘Enquiry Based’ Education Workshop held at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. There we learned about techniques that enable students to engage with the archival material and how to direct further research projects based on it. The educational consultant running the event has kindly agreed to create a resource for us, so the autograph book created by Nurse Ethel Millar of Craigleith Military Hospital and the poems, verses and cartoons written within by the soldiers she nursed, will soon have a wider audience.

When I haven’t been focusing on cataloguing the photographic collection, I’ve been involved in learning about other aspects of running an archive service. Sarah, the Conservation Intern and I helped Archive Assistant Stephen research some enquiries from the public by looking through the Royal Edinburgh Hospital Register of Deaths and the Casebooks. I helped Archivist Laura evaluate and complete the loan papers for objects and papers from our collection which form part of the exhibition ‘200 years 200 Objects’ which commemorates the bicentennial of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. I also assisted the student from the University of Glasgow who carried out her cataloguing placement at LHSA. She continued cataloguing the same material I began work on last year, so I was able to provide her with some contextual information about the collection.

The internship has been a fantastic opportunity; I have handled some wonderful materials and been given the opportunity to carry out many interesting and practical tasks. Since my main undertaking has been cataloguing photographs, I thought I would end my blog post with a few gems from LHSA’s collection. It’s been a real joy and privilege for a fan of photography like myself to handle so many beautiful images and research the stories that lie behind them.


RIE Residents and senior medical staff, 1874, Acc 04/11/2
 The photograph shows a group of residents and senior doctors at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, taken in 1874.The physician pictured second from left in the back row is Joseph Bell, FRSE, and the main inspiration for the character of Sherlock Holmes. Arthur Conan Doyle was Bell’s pupil, and wove his teacher’s talent for keen observation into the character of the shrewd detective. The bearded man in the front row is John Hutton Balfour, who served as dean of the faculty of medicine at the University of Edinburgh. Balfour also helped to establish the Botanical Society of Edinburgh and was nominated keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. His descendants include the actress Tilda Swinton.

St Kentigern's Nursery trip to Edinburgh Zoo, LHB16 (courtesy of Johnston Press)
My favourite photograph, however, documents the simple pleasures of an afternoon trip. Pictured below are the children and staff of St. Kentigern’s Nursery enjoying the company of the penguins at Edinburgh Zoo in June 1949.


Hi my name is Sarah and I am the new Conservation intern with LHSA, which is part of the Centre for Research Collections and based at the Main University Library, University of Edinburgh.

I came here after recently graduating from Northumbria University in July after having completed an MA in Fine Art Conservation, specialising in ‘Works on Paper’. During my MA we had to complete 2 placements during the summer months, for one of my placements I chose to come to Edinburgh and I am very pleased and excited to be back here in Edinburgh once again to live and work.

My conservation internship is for 10 weeks and my main task is to review the condition report and create a treatment proposal for an accession that came in from a local Solicitors ‘Gillespie Mcandrew’ that contains a selection of Parchment title deeds, other related papers and architectural plans relating to the RIE. I have already completed 8 weeks of my internship and have only another 2 weeks left to complete all that I have hoped to achieve.

This internship is especially designed to give me the opportunity to gain the hands on skills and experience that I need to help me forge a career in my chosen field of Conservation within the UK Heritage Industry, so working on a large accession that has many different elements involved has been a fantastic opportunity for me and has already helped me get a 1 year internship at The British Library, London starting at the end of December 2013.

So my first few weeks were spent looking at each item within the accession, seeing what items there were, what condition they were in and getting an idea as to the possible treatments that may be involved in the future. Because of the nature of this accession being so large and having so many different elements it was decided that I would enlist the help of the Archive Intern Sharon who would create a hand list for this accession. This is required so that once treatment begins on the accession the original order that the accession arrived in can be maintained even once items may have been physically separated. The original order is a very important consideration when the cataloguing of an accession takes place. Once the hand list was completed I was able to start compiling information about the possible different treatments that I felt may be required, I went about this by reading published journal articles, books and speaking to more experienced conservators about the various treatments and re-housing possibilities and deciding upon which were the most suitable for this accession.

Within this accession there were a number of large parchment title deeds that had previously been opened and flattened by another conservation intern using a dry pressing technique and it was decided that I would re-house these flattened parchment title deeds into made to measure 4-flap folders using acid free card that would encase the parchment. The parchment itself would then be attached to a sheet of acid-free boxboard using sections of Archival Linen Tape; this was used to reduce any movement of the parchment within the 4-flap folder. Some of the parchments also have pendant seals attached and some are rather fragile and desiccated; so these seals have an extra support consisting of a made to measure Tyvek draw string pouch that will encase the wax/resin seal, keeping it safe and protected within the folder housing.
Large poster being humidified in a Sympathex humidification chamber
Aside from the parchment title deeds the main elements within this accession are many boxes full of paper documents, letters and pamphlets, all requiring surface cleaning, tear repairs, dry pressing and re-housing. There is also a selection of oversized maps and plans that are currently stored in rolled up tubes. These are currently being surface cleaned, humidified and pressed and will then be housed in Melinex Sleeves and placed into plan chests in the store. 
As part of this internship aside from the work on the accession I have also had the amazing opportunity to work with two exhibitions that LHSA are involved with.  On Friday 15 November the ‘200 years, 200 Objects’ exhibition opened at the Talbot Rice Gallery and on 5 December ‘Collect.ed’ exhibition opens at the Main Library Exhibition Gallery, Edinburgh University.  As part of these two exhibitions, LHSA has lent an extensive amount of objects to go on display. It has been my job to make sure that all of the objects have been condition checked, packed, transported and then installed. This was all done alongside Ruth Honeybone, Manager of LHSA and in conjunction with the curators, artists and exhibition installation teams from each exhibition.
Installing the 200 Years 200 Objects exhibition
I have also been writing blogs (like this one!) for the LHSA website, running a conservation training day that was designed for people who have been thinking about conservation as a career, and want to get a better idea of the kinds of treatments that a conservator may have to do on a day to day basis, visiting other conservation studios and archives, attending the Annual Icon Scotland conference in Dundee and also giving my own 20 minute presentation to the whole of the Centre for Research Collections about what I have been achieving during my 10 week internship.

This internship has given me an amazing amount of opportunities that have enabled me to enhance and expand my skill base in the area of conservation and I have gained a huge amount of experience during my time with the LHSA and I am really looking forward to using these skills in the future, especially within my next internship. My time here has been an invaluable experience and one that I am extremely grateful for and I hope that I have brought as much to LHSA as I have gained.