The Oriental Hotel in Kobe

Foreboding storm clouds gather in this atmospheric view of the Oriental Hotel, taken from our exhibition of Japanese postcards on Capital Collections.

The Oriental Hotel, KobeThe Oriental Hotel is one of the oldest and most famous hotels in Japan. It also has one of the most bizarre and difficult histories.

The hotel opened in 1870 in the Kobe Settlement, a self-governing district. Kobe was the area where foreigners stayed and settled; the Japanese could not enter. Kobe Settlement was designed by British civil engineer J.W. Hart and constructed on the basis of modern European city planning. It was praised as the most beautiful and well-planned area in Asia.

The hotel was first built at number 79, then moved to number 80 in 1888. The building was burned down by fire in the 1890s but rebuilt at number 6 on the seafront, (as shown in the postcard dated 1907). This building was destroyed by a bomb attack during World War II in 1945, before being reconstructed at the same place.

The hotel moved to number 25 during the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964. Disaster struck again in 1995 when the building was destroyed by a huge earthquake . However, it was once again rebuilt and reopened in 2010.

The postcard offers a nostalgic view of the past to foreign eyes but for the Japanese, who could not enter this area, the hotel represented a different world from their daily lives.

Discover many more fascinating views of Japan during the first half of the 20th century in our Japanese Postcards exhibition.

Lindsey Davis double bill!

Fans of ancient Rome-based crime fiction are in for a treat as ‘Falco’ creator Lindsey Davis join us for a double bill of Mayday events.

Lindsey has won a legion of admirers on both side of the Atlantic with her series charting the adventures of Marcus Didius Falco, the laid-back Roman ‘informer’ who investigates crimes and acts as an often reluctant imperial agent.

More recently Falco’s adopted daughter, troubled teenager turned feisty widow Flavia Albia, has come to the fore, as the protagonist in last year’s The Ides of April and this year’s Enemies at home.

Book now for our free Edinburgh Reads event with Lindsey at Central Library on Thursday 1st May from 7.00pm.

Earlier on that day Lindsey will be at Leith Library to talk about A Cruel Fate, her ‘Quick Reads’ novel based on real events during the English Civil War.

‘Quick Reads’ are short, easy to read books which are great for adults who are less confident in their reading skills. Lindsey is the latest big name author to be asked to contribute to the series.

If you’d like to find out more about this event, which starts at 10.30am, call 0131 529 5517.

How do animals prevent and treat disease?

Capuchins use smelly plants to prevent insect bites:

A fascinating exhibition, showing other ways the animal kingdom prevents and treats infection and disease, goes on show in Central Library from tomorrow.

Learn about how chimps use rolled up leaves to remove gut parasites; how honey bees treat infection in their hive and how humans commonly use the environment in which they live to treat and/or prevent infection, whether treating nettle rash with dock leaves or taking Aspirin – a drug originally developed from Meadowsweet.

The exhibition is on until Tuesday 15th April and there’s a related activity trail taking place in the Zoo on Wednesday between 10am and 4pm, which is free with Zoo admission.

Part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival, in partnership with the University of St Andrews and RZSS Edinburgh Zoo.

A souvenir from between the wars

Capital Collections’ new mini exhibition provides an interesting snapshot in time of one of the most important places in the political landscape of 20th century Europe:  the Armistice Clearing deep in the Compiegne Forest in France where it was decided the hostilities should cease on the Western Front.

The happenings there in the early hours of 11th November 1918 brought peace to Europe but ultimately set into motion a series of events which would scar the face of the continent for years to come.

As it became clear the Allied Forces were to be victorious in the Great War the question of where to negotiate and ultimately sign an armistice became a pressing one. The responsibility for obtaining an armistice agreement was entrusted to Marshal Ferdinand Foch, Commander in Chief of the Allied armies.

It was decided that negotiations would take place on a remote railway line in the Forest of Compiegne in Picardy.  This lonely outpost was chosen to maintain secrecy as the armistice was pressing yet fragile and if negotiations failed fighting would continue.  Moreover, Foch knew that public opinion may be against the move. Many saw it as weak and unnecessary to give any concessions to an all but defeated German force. The Armistice Clearing, Compiegne Forest, general view

The opposing delegations met in Foch’s luxury railway carriage.  Terms were offered which would be devastating to Germany. Amongst other sanctions, Alsace and Lorraine were to be handed to the French, the entire naval fleet was to be surrendered to the allies and Germany was commanded to pay huge monetary reparations to France. In short, Germany was to accept all responsibility for the conflict. Just after 5 am on the morning of November 11th 1918 it was done.

Foch, without shaking the hand of his opponents, left immediately to take the armistice to Paris. He would later say ‘This is not Peace. It is an armistice for twenty years.’ This statement proved prophetic as it was in 1939 that World War Two broke out to devastate Europe anew.

After peace returned to the French countryside the once inconsequential clearing in Compiegne became an important location for the French people. It became a memorial to the deed. Monuments were erected to Foch himself, to the peoples of Alsace and Lorraine and to the destruction of the German power. The site on which the train stood that fateful day was marked out for posterity.  Later the carriage itself was returned to the spot and an ornate carriage house was built around it to serve as a small museum.Foch's railway car, in which the armistice was signed, The Armistice Clearing, Compiegne Forest

However the clearing’s role in history was not over.  In 1940 France was once again threatened by German Forces and quickly fell to the might of the Reich. Hitler, who had been a soldier in WW1, sought to humiliate the French at the very place Foch had humiliated the German people in 1918. The French surrender was signed in the carriage which was then taken to Germany as a victor’s trophy.  The monuments were dismantled and the carriage house razed to the ground. All that remained was the sculpture of Foch to eternally survey the desolation of the shrine to his greatest achievement.

Today the Armistice clearing has been restored to some of its former glory. Monument stones stolen by the Nazis have been returned and a new carriage house encloses a perfect replica of the original train, which was burned by SS soldiers in 1945.

View the full exhibition on Capital Collections. 

Reading Rainbows at Muirhouse Library

reading rainbows

Children from Forthview Primary school celebrate the start of Reading Rainbows 2014 with storyteller Mara Menzies.


The children visibly had a lot of fun looking at their new books but the cutting and sharing of the cake came a very close second!


This year, over 1000 4-year olds across the city will get a free book pack and hopefully, take part in Reading Rainbows events in libraries and Early Years’ Settings.