Changing rooms

The Digital Content Team are in the process of relocating to a new space. Having outgrown the old studio it is hoped that a larger new studio and an improved layout will help facilitate increased workflow capacity.  It will also allow the team of archivists moving into the old studio space to be nearer to the teams they work with on a regular basis.  This will be the first time the Digital Content Team have all been based in the same room which will aid communication.

It has been all hands on deck to renovate the room. Firstly the old shelving used by the previous archivist tenants was removed from the walls, increasing floor space. A fresh coat of paint and flooring has given the new area a simple cosmetic update. White daylight lighting has been installed and new data points and cabling fitted.

The new layout will include two permanent copy stands which effectively doubles capacity for image capture as the old studio only had one. These will be stationed at opposite ends of the room to allow both to be in use at the same time. The book scanner will take up residence in one corner of the room. This bit of kit is still a workhorse for the digitisation of student newspapers. Flatbed scanner stations will complement the cameras as flat items such as photographs can be scanned while other items are photographed. Audio equipment and the microfilm scanner round up the equipment list.

As the camera is currently out of action whilst work on the new room is going on, the Digital Content Team have been undertaking various housekeeping tasks, mainly relating to Online Course Readings. Hundreds of emails have been sent out to module tutors to audit usage of readings available on the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). Where articles are no longer needed, they must be removed to comply with the terms of the Copyright Licensing Act. Ensuring copyright compliance is a really important part of the team’s work but we can’t wait to get in the new space and get digitising!

Medical Manuscripts Go Digital

Riza Hussaini, Medical Collections Project Assistant, writes about digitising medical manuscripts from Special Collections.

For today’s blog I’ve picked three of my favourite medical manuscripts to focus on, out of the thirty-eight I’ve digitised for the Medical Collections Project.

The first is ‘Lecture notes on medical topics, reputedly made by James Tatham’ (MS 2032/16).

Modern student notes may often contain rough notes, sketches, quotes and the occasional doodle.

A number of the manuscripts of medical lecture notes I have digitised dissolve that perception. Most are dense with information and some are beautifully illustrated.

It has been thought, for several of the manuscripts, that the student surgeon attended lectures around the country, with the notes providing reading material for other would-be surgeons.

Mostly compiled in elegantly bound volumes they all appear to be similar in style; introductions to medical conditions, followed by the causes, treatments and occasionally, patient cases. They are written in neat and fairly legible hand. The tone is utilitarian and doubtless, this was how the lectures were conducted.

Digitising this particular manuscript was tricky as a lot of the pages were brittle and holding together like a jigsaw. It has since been rebound; an example of how we are committed to preserving the collection through digitisation and physical conservation.

James Tatham Lecture Notes
MS 2032/16 James Tatham Lecture Notes; rebound. Image credit Leeds University Library

It may be surmised, but impossible to confirm, that this was transcribed by James Tatham, a surgeon-apothecary based in Leeds. There are lectures delivered by several notable individuals like Thomas Pridgin Teale Senior and William Hey III; founders of the Leeds School of Medicine.

Next is ‘Notes on forensic medicine and on insanity’ (MS2032/19).

If you, like me prefer your medical notes to be accompanied by chemical formulae, this is it. The unknown author is thought to be Berkeley G.A Moynihan (1865-1936), but the provenance is unclear.

Manuscript in tête-bêche style
MS 2032/19 Notes on Forensic Medicine. This manuscript is in tête-bêche style (first half written normally, second half written from the back and upside down). Image credit Leeds University Library

It is a comprehensive toxicology guide offering a fascinating insight into forensic medicine. The manuscript focuses on different aspects of ‘insanity’ from the reverse. It goes into detail about the affective symptoms of different conditions to ascertain grounds for insanity defence in legal cases.

Finally, ‘Notes on surgery made by Leonard Ralph Braithwaite’ (MS 2032/23).

This is probably the most legible and also one of the youngest manuscripts (early 20th century). It is written in ball point pen and is one of the few manuscripts that has coloured illustrations.

The notes were written by Braithwaite during his medical training and early career as a surgeon, and delve into quite significant detail. For example, he provides information about how to perform both simple and invasive surgeries, such as amputations. Even without a medical background, I found the notes comprehensible and fascinating.

Leonard Braithwaite Notebook
MS 2032/23 Leonard Braithwaite Notebook. Three examples of illustrations. Image credit Leeds University Librar

If this has piqued your interest, you can explore The Medical Manuscripts Collection and search through the Special Collections catalogue to browse the digitised manuscripts.

Caring for orphan works

Jodie Double, our Digital Content Team Leader, outlines how the Library cares for orphan works through risk management.

The Library is approaching a milestone of 1 million digitised images and as our digital collections grow our processes and procedures are evolving to include risk management for material still in copyright.

The Library’s approach to digitisation for inclusion on the Library website has been based upon two principles:

  • only digitise material out of copyright
  • digitise where we have permission from the copyright holder to make items available through Special Collections Search.

This approach means a large percentage of books and archives are not available digitally because they are orphan works.  We are now introducing a risk managed approach for orphan work digitisation that will increase the amount of content available to the world.

So briefly what are orphan works and how do they affect decisions for collection digitisation?

According to “Orphan works are creative works or performances that are subject to copyright – like a diary, photograph, film or piece of music – for which one or more of the rights holders is either unknown or cannot be found.”

Medieval Manuscripts are excellent examples of low risk orphan works held in many collections around the world, for example the Breviarium ad Usum Parisiensem held at Leeds.  Did you know this work is still in copyright and will be until 31 December 2039 under the terms of the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988? We are digitising material like this for the public to engage with, due to it being low risk as determined by the web2rights risk management calculator.

BC MS 2 Breviarium ad Usum Persiensem. Image credit Leeds University Library.

Developing a risk managed approach requires implementing safeguards, procedures, staff training and policies.  One step the Library has taken is to have a visible takedown policy so a potential rights holder can get in contact if they see an image online that they believe they hold rights to.

Using this risk management approach enables us to care for orphan works by digitising them, thereby reducing damage caused by handling and importantly increasing the amount of content available for research and study.

As more material goes online there are increasing layers of protection and care behind the scenes for digital content.  A future blog post will cover digital preservation and the actions the Library is taking to care for digital collections now and for the future.

New digitisation for the Kathleen Raven Archive

Today marks 107 years since the birth of Dame Kathleen Annie Raven (1910-1999), an influential nurse whose archive is held at Special Collections.

Kathleen Raven Report
MS 1721/3/4/1 Kathleen Raven Archive: Report on experimentation with various techniques in the prevention and treatment of pressure sores. Image courtesy of The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

The new Kathleen Raven Archive catalogue was launched earlier this year, and we’re pleased to announce that parts of the collection have been digitised and are now available online. This digitisation was supported by the AHRC project Exploring Histories and Futures of Innovation in Advanced Wound Care at the University of Leeds.

The digitisation focused on items related to the treatment of wounds and skin in the collection. This has included a number of Raven’s notebooks from her period of nurse training at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, which have gone online for the first time. These cover various medical-related topics, such as dietetics, surgery, gynaecology, obstetrics and midwifery, as well as a focus on skin.

Kathleen Raven's notebooks
MS 1721/2/2, 4: Lecture notebooks written by Kathleen Raven during her nurse training at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Image credit: Leeds University Library

In addition to the notebooks, we digitised documents from a project experimenting with methods for treating pressure sores, undertaken by Raven during her time as Matron at the Leeds General Infirmary.

The experiment ran at the Infirmary between July 1956 and August 1957. They investigated whether applying new barrier creams, rather than the usual practice of a soap and water massage, would help better prevent pressure sores in patients. They found that it was the frequent turning of the patients which had the most impact, rather than any particular topical cream.

Pressure ulcers are still a common healthcare problem today, and can be severely debilitating or even lead to life-threatening complications.

Explore the digitised items in the Kathleen Raven Archive

Some of these items, and other material in Special Collections relating to the history of nursing and wound care, will be on display at the upcoming event Nurses on the Frontline of wound care: from Passchendaele to pressure ulcers. It is being held on Friday 17th November, and will commemorate the life of the nurse Nellie Spindler during Stop Pressure Ulcer Week.

The event has been organised as a partnership between the University of Leeds and the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, and is supported by funds from the Leeds Teaching Hospitals Charitable Trust and Gateways to the First World War.

Cooking up a Storm in the Digitisation Studio

Rosie Dyson from our Digitisation Studio gives us an up-date on the team’s activities.

It’s all go for the Digital Content Team as preparation gets under way for the opening of the next changing exhibition in the Treasures Gallery – ‘Cooks And Their Books’.

The Digitisation Assistants have been busy creating images for a variety of exhibition purposes; preservation, marketing, design and information. Images created in the Digitisation Studio will feature on the Digital Library, walls and plinths in the Treasures Gallery and on the exhibition tablets.  The tablets are also known as digital labels and give additional supporting information. The Digital Content Team are already working with the Collections and Engagement Team to organise images for the changing exhibition that follows Cookery.

The last changing exhibition ‘Caught in the Russian Revolution’ was a great success and the Digitisation Assistants enjoyed working with curator Richard Davies to create a visual feast. It was refreshing to see items with an actual size of a 6 x 4 cm photograph blown up to the size of a wall. The team also designed the newspaper cutting collage that featured on one wall and created an accompanying map to mark significant locations.

Special Collections closes to the public from 21–30 August for the annual “Action Week”. During this time it is all hands on deck, as time is given to essential works that are difficult to carry out during open hours. The Digital Content Team plan to reorganise the Studio. This will improve workflow and allow the team to accommodate some exciting new pieces of kit – watch this space for more information! The move is being carefully planned and research has been carried out on other institutions to gain tips for best practice.

One of the next phases of work for the Digital Content Team is the busy Online Course Readings period of eligibility checking, scanning and uploading book and journal extracts to the newly revamped Minerva VLE. Last year alone the Studio alone scanned over 1000 chapters!

Training notebook
Kathleen Raven’s nursing and midwife training notebooks

Recent additions to the Digital Library include Kathleen Raven’s nursing and midwifery training notebooks and complete versions of the BC MS medieval manuscripts.

Medieval manuscript
Floral border in medieval manuscript, folio 61r.
Also known as ‘Textualis Rotunda.’

Spatulas, bulldog clips and digitisation!

Our Digitisation Assistant, Rosie Dyson, talks about some of the more unusual tools the Digital Content Team uses in its work.  The team is lucky to work with some high tech photographic equipment but without a number of more rudimentary tools we would be unable to capture our Special Collections to such a high standard.

The Digitisation Assistants are trained in handling delicate material as a large percentage of our collections are fragile. Regardless of condition, all items must be treated with utmost care and attention. When capturing tightly bound items the humble plastic spatula is exceptionally helpful to hold pages back.

Recently we have been digitising our impressive collection of medieval manuscripts. It is usually possible to work on a manuscript alone but as these are particularly fragile and valuable, we have often worked in pairs to ensure the best possible capture. Sometimes the nature of the binding requires one person to support the book and hold it in place and another to photograph the item. The image at the top of this post shows a bulldog clip and spatula doing the work of one Digitisation Assistant!

The focal depth of our lenses is impressive but extension rings allow us to push the lenses to their limits. As a rule, we try to use the full area of the exposure and leave as little blank space around the item as possible. Sometimes due to the size of object and constraints of the lenses and setups we are unable to get the lens close enough. Extension rings give an additional zoom and can be affixed to our lenses. The images below show items with and without the rings – what a difference!

Medieval manuscript
BC MS 18 ‘Horae Beatae Mariae Virginis’ in the process of being photographed

We have been continuing to digitise the ever popular Godfrey Bingley collection. This is made up of thousands of glass plate and cellulose nitrate slides taken by the Victorian industrialist and serves as a comprehensive social and geological history of the UK and further afield. We are currently digitising the more fragile section of the collection prior to freezing for preservation purposes.

During digitisation gloves must be worn and good ventilation is essential as the slides are capable of off-gassing. Many of the slides are not flat so a plate of glass with feet (made by our conservator) is placed over the slide on the flatbed scanner to gently flatten it without applying pressure. Without this it would be difficult for the scanner to focus on the image and produce a legible image.

Reflection is a major issue for digitisation. Because our studio has a white ceiling, sometimes the lights bounces back off this and presents a problem for our shots. In the left hand image of the medieval manuscript BC MS 23 ‘Legenda aurea sanctorum’ below, you can see the shadow of the camera reflected in the binding. To counter this, we had to think creatively. We cut a lens shaped hole in a piece of black card and held it around the lens to block out the camera reflection.

Cover of medieval book
BC MS 23 Legenda aurea sanctorum cover being digitised

As you can see from the middle image, the first attempt wasn’t big enough and light was still able to reflect off the ceiling. We tried again with a larger area of card and were pleased with the resulting image.

Digitisation – What have the studio team been up to?

Since our last blog 6 months ago the team have been very busy.

We have produced over 45,000 images for Special Collections customer orders, internal staff requests for publicity and marketing, alumni office requests and of course, images for Treasures Gallery exhibitions, The majority of the images produced are for our programmed work making sure that collections are online and accessible to all. We are slowly working through the Special Collections medieval manuscripts collection, digitised various years from 1930-2007 of the  University calendars,  and over 39 hours of Audio tapes of oral history recollections from the Liddle Collection.  We have also digitised a substantial amount of Leeds Student newspapers.  We’re currently working on the 2000’s.

Creating a digital image of Adolphus a mascot belonging to M. Le Blanc Smith

Other ongoing projects include digitising the cellulose nitrate negatives from the Godfrey Bingley Collection in order to capture the information before the negatives degrade. This has to be done in controlled conditions to protect staff from the potentially harmful fumes that can be emitted from the negatives themselves.

At the time of our last blog we were updating our studio equipment. We now have the use of a new extra copystand, thanks to our new studio manager Ken which enables us to produce more content. We also have a new member of staff temporarily with us to cover a secondment so we welcome Riza to our team. 

Very soon we will be digitising collections to replace some of the items on display in the Treasure Gallery’s permanent exhibition later this year. Here’s some behind the scenes photos to give you a clue as to what they may be.