The University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Research Collections

The chances are high that you, will have spent at least some stimulating, boring or desperate hours at the main library on George Square. But have you ever wondered what is going on the sixth and top floor? Probably not, but that’s what this column is about. Beyond countless bookshelves and study spaces lies the core of the University’s Centre for Research Collections (CRC). 

If you are a student, particularly an undergraduate, you may never have heard of the CRC, which is a shame and why this regular column will aim at shedding light on some of the treasures which are kept at the CRC. Because contrary to what one might expect from collections at an old and prestigious university such as ours, the CRC is not a mere cemetery for busts of dead white male intellectuals. 

It is an exciting, internationally-renowned hub of older and newer, often rare and always valuable objects of all sorts, which are not doomed to sit in glass cases and to be occasionally stared at by people, but which are there to be studied and used in research, by members of the university community and even the public. 

Particularly for undergraduates, the CRC could serve as a first research lab and enrich their early research experiments, which are usually their dissertations. Sometimes, undergraduates seem to forget that they are part of a research community, and those recycling arguments from books and journal articles are not all there is to completing assignments. 

To spread the word about the opportunity of working with the CRC, and to encourage especially undergraduates to benefit from their university’s rich and diverse collections, one item will be presented here every week. This will hopefully also demonstrate how versatile the research collections are. They include, of course, the ‘obvious’ items, such as old and rare books, thousands of metres of manuscripts, and portraits from the last three centuries. But also, more than six-thousand instruments, many of which are still playable, are guarded by the CRC, as is the Lothian Health Services Archive, the genetics collections (think Dolly the sheep), the Sir Godfrey Hilton Thomson collection on intelligence research, the William Ronald Dodds Fairbairn collection on psychoanalysis, or the Sir Patrick Geddes collection on urban development. Hopefully, at this point, you are intrigued. See you next week!

 

Image: Library cat facebook page

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