How we’re rescuing our photograph collection with a hairdryer

IMG_4429Edinburgh Libraries is home to a collection of around 100 000 photographs.

We want these pictures to be seen by as many people as possible, so back in 2007 we started digitising photos and uploading them to the Capital Collections website.

But would you believe the everyday hairdryer has become an integral part of the process? Here’s how.

We discovered that many of the images had been mounted using sticky tape and in some cases the glue was starting to mark the image.

Around 80% of the collection was affected, many more than we could ever afford to have conserved by a professional.  Fortunately the glue had not yet seeped through to the image on most of the items but we needed to take action quickly.

Working with EDFAS (Edinburgh Decorative Fine Art Society) we recruited a dedicated team of volunteers who have been using a relatively low-tech tool to help remove the glue and help save the images. That tool being a hairdryer.


Edinburgh Libraries’ Janette Gollan explains the process: “We are working on prints that belong to the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection within Central LIbrary. The prints haven’t been mounted very well  in the past so we take off the tape and remove the glue. The  hairdryers are used to soften the glue first then we can rub off the residue.   

The vastness of the collection means it’s a task we’d never be able to complete ourselves so the volunteers have been very valuable to us. It’s allowing us to preserve these prints for posterity and digitise them for public access.”

Volunteer Trina adds: “Some photos had quite a bit of residue on them so it could take a while. It’s a fairly intricate process as well and some days you could spend all morning on one photograph.”

So far they’ve got through about 4000 prints, helping save our collection for future generations and in the process of doing that they get a sneak peek at some wonderful shots of Edinburgh’s past.

“Some that stuck in my mind were the ones of Leith during blitz” Trina says. “None of us had realised just how badly Leith had been bombed. It’s photos like this that remind you of the importance in preserving  these moments of history for future generations”

Bomb damage on Portland Place

Bomb damage on Portland Place

Hilary agrees that the history they uncover to be very engaging: “ We’ve had great fun looking on websites locating photographs and finding out about places we didn’t know about.”

“One of the things I’ve just discovered is Sciennes Hill House where the historical meeting between Robert Burns and Walter Scott took place.  It was a house in the country with a long drive and now you can’t see the front of it unless you peer over a wall as it’s been built around so much. It’s lovely discovering things like that.”


At the moment the hairdryers have been put to one side and the group are working on mounting photographs and adding relevant information to them.

When asked about the size of the collection, Irene laughs, joking that maybe Janette’s been keeping that from them.  “I’ve a feeling there’s some way to go yet” she says.

Once the photographs have been cleaned up and remounted they make their way to our photographer for digitisation. Images can then be viewed at

Art Library Exhibition for May

art may


This month’s exhibition is entitled ‘Ars Gratia Artis’ and features work by Norma Henderson, Anona May Lyons and Neida Pearson.

Lunch with the Gruffalo

A special Gruffalo-themed party helped to launch this year’s Big Lunch at Stockbridge Library.

Opened by Councillor Richard Lewis, the City of Edinburgh Council’s Convener for Culture and Sport, toddlers were treated to a Bookbug session, which involved listening to the Julia Donaldson story and songs, rhymes and party treats.
GruffaloSee more terrific photos from the launch on Flickr
The Big Lunch – the UK’s annual get-together for neighbours – is funded by The Big Lottery Fund and partnered by Halifax and ASDA. Now in its seventh year, the simple idea from the Eden Project aims to provide neighbours with an opportunity to get to know one another better. The Big Lunch happens on the first Sunday in June each year – Sunday 7 June 2015.
This year, The Gruffalo is The Big Lunch’s animated ambassador and The Big Lunch in Scotland has partnered with the Scottish Book Trust and Bookbug to help encourage more Scottish communities to take part.
Councillor Richard Lewis said: “We wanted to tie in with The Big Lunch this year as there is a shared community ethos between the campaign and the work we do in our libraries. Libraries are a community hub and an important local resource. We know that Bookbug sessions are popular with young families across the city. This is especially important as being a new parent can be an isolating time and having additional support within the community can really help.

“Initiatives like The Big Lunch are encouraging people to break the ice with their neighbours in a fun and easy way. We’ve loved supporting the campaign and hope to hear of lots of lunching going on in Edinburgh this June on Big Lunch day!”

Edinburgh neighbours are being encouraged to host Big Lunch events to help build community spirit and connect with those they live beside.

Anyone who is interested in getting involved can get started by requesting a free Big Lunch pack from Packs contain invitations and posters to adapt for your community, Gruffalo stickers as well as seeds, recipes and activity idea

Today is International Jazz Day

UNESCO has decreed 30th April International Jazz Day to inspire people to learn more about this particular form of music.

Here in the Central Music Library we’re getting in on the act by by focussing on Scotland’s contribution to jazz.

Reserve any of the items on this handpicked list to collect from your nearest library.

Or listen to jazz online on Naxos Music Library Jazz 24/7 free with your library borrower card. Go to Naxos Music Library Jazz or come along to one of our drop-in sessions and we’ll show you how to get started.

Our next  sessions are on Thursdays 14th and 28th May from 11am – noon in the Central Music Library.

Bertram Ltd. of Sciennes

Bertram Limited, Sciennes was founded in 1821 in Edinburgh and soon developed into a major manufacturer of papermaking machinery.

Brothers George and William Bertram set up a workshop near Sciennes with a few machines and a small forge, later moving to new, larger premises around 1859 to a site which it was to occupy for over a century.

St Katherine's Works

Bertrams was a very family orientated company where you’d find several members of the same family working alongside each other. They produced The Bertrams Family Magazine where in each issue, were published photos and articles about the company’s many social activities and sports teams.

Bertram Family Magazine

Our collection has been made possible thanks to Bill Hall who followed his father and uncle into the Bertrams workplace and who shared with us many of his own personal photographs taken throughout his family’s time there.

Staff on roof of Bertrams

Bill’s father, Joe (top row centre) and Uncle Willie (top row right) with colleagues on Bertrams roof.

See the full Bertrams exhibition online at Capital Collections.

Which magazines would you like to download for free?

We’re about to add even more new titles to Zinio – the free emagazine service for library members – and we need YOU to tell us which magazines you’d prefer.

Choose up to three preferences from the following list.

And if you’re new to Zinio we’ve got plenty of help and advice to get you started.

Share your memories and make history

edinburgh collected YL

Share your family snaps and favourite scenes with Edinburgh Collected, a brand new community archive for our city.

Take a look to see what early users have been adding to the site, and start uploading your own images and memories as well – helping build a unique record of life in Edinburgh past and present.

Visit Edinburgh Collected now!