University of Aberdeen


Paul Logie - Archivist

Paul Logie has worked as the Assistant Archivist at the University of Aberdeen since 2004. In that time, the University Archive has been moved into a spacious purpose built facility in the academic Library. ,

As well as the collections from the 3 original Colleges that make up the University, the Archive also houses 5000 different collections. Paul talks about the pros and cons of managing such a large and varied collection, which includes material from all over the North East of Scotland.

Please Note: This is an automated, machine-generated transcription. We have presented this 'as is' and have not undertaken any editing.

hello and welcome to the max communications 2021 podcast a series of podcasts where we explore various archives and collections my name is faith williams and i'm joined today by paul logie archives assistant for the university of aberdeen hello paul would you like to introduce yourself and talk about what you do at the university of aberdeen hi faith thanks um yes i'm an archive assistant in museums and special collections at say at the university of aberdeen and i've i've worked there since 2004 and and i've worked from various projects since that time as part of a small arc house team based within special collections and apart from a brief secondment for a year as a project artist to catalogue the papers of the aberdeen medical geological society in 2009. obviously the last year has been a bit a bit different but normally i help process new accessions to the archives and correspond with depositors catalog new materials deposited with the archives but um also legacy cataloging and transferring old paper catalogs into our cam database the the software we use to catalog our collections i also maintain the location list for the various stores that we have in the building and answer inquiries and work in various small projects one of which quite recently involved arranging and cataloging a large collection of maps and plans and in the past has included helping to create a rule of honor website resource which involved writing blog posts and recording information about students uh staff and alumni who served in the first and second world world wars i also carry out research based on the collections in order to write administrative histories about the individuals and organizations we have in the archives and to provide information for other departments in the university helped to digitize our kind material as well and this included scanning our roads of graduates for in order to help make them searchable online and work with volunteer staff and just generally provide support to the university university archivist so what type of material are you dealing with in the collection well as a university archive we've got a wide variety of material we we care for the historic records of the of the university and its predecessor institutions and so we have records dating back to the foundation of king's college in 1495 marshall college in 1593 and the university formed in 1860 from an amalgamation of these two institutions the university is scotland's third oldest university in the fifth oldest in the uk for instance the records relating to kings and marshall college includes detailed resources on the the founding of the colleges and staff and students financial papers such as staff salaries and routine accounts uh legal disputes and papers relating to college administration and properties and buildings and the records we have relating to the university from 1860 includes court minutes and papers uh student lecture notes and the papers of individual departments and members of staff but this institutional archive has also been added to over the years by manuscripts and archives of families estates churches businesses and organizations associated with the university and the northeast of scotland as well as the literary academic and antiquarian papers of individuals so special collections um as a result holds more than five thousand collections of manuscripts and archives and dating from antiquity to the 21st century and it ranges from you know a single item such as a journal and to estate collections running to hundreds of boxes and and the the archives also includes um collections of medieval and early modern manuscripts um 17th to 19th century collections relating to science medicine and scottish enlightenment philosophy um such as the papers of thomas reid who was the um chief representative of this scottish school of common sense and he was born near aberdeen and we also have oriental manuscripts and papyri um and again because of the the variety of our material that we have and they come in various formats the archives we have parchment handwritten on paper and typescript digital format photographs on glass or paper we have maps and plans um sound recordings and films and digital images and we also hold collections from local institutions who have connections with the university so there's the aberdeen college of education papers the north of scotland college of agriculture and the rabbit institute of nutrition and health and we also house although we we do not own and the historic papers of the scottish catholic archives before 1878 and the nhs grampian archives there's also the lives in the oil industry oral history archive and the capturing the energy project which aims to promote recognition of the technical and cultural importance of the oil and gas industry and to encourage the retention of records for research and education some of our collections are primarily available to search online and this includes the george washington wilson photographic archive and the aberdeen harbour board photographic collection the george washington wilson collection consists of over 40 000 class plate negatives produced by the firm uh between the second half of the 19th century and the the early 20th century and and wilson was actually born in the northeast and became a well-known uh photographer from the 1850s onwards and he was became the official royal photographer in scotland but the photographs uh that he and his staff to cover um the whole of britain and and they can be searched online and the aberdeen harbour board collection um on the other hand consists of about six thousand plus plate negatives and they date from the 1880s to about the 1930s and there are mainly images of the harbour and the surrounding area and just to i should mention in addition to the the archives i should mention the printed and the gene collections that are held within within the department we have over 230 000 books dating from the 1460s and including 231 in general which there are books printed before 1501 and and the museum collections are recognized as of national significance and contain over 300 000 items across a wide range of subjects say human culture medicine and health and natural history so um so that's quite a long answer to to your question but i just trying to give a sense of the the variety of the material that are held with within museums and special collections and within archives in particular yeah it sounds like it goes well beyond that academic remit that you might expect from the university collection yes yes because we have um you know we're such strong connections with the northeast and and and we we've taken in a lot of material relating to the surrounding area and um institutions and connected with the with the university and people who attended the university as well former former students and staff members who have donated their papers to to the archives i mean i imagine you get a lot of academic researchers and students and that using the collection but are there more um outward people who use who utilize the collection what are the more unusual things that people are looking at yes um well the people who consult the archives they they do so in the wilson reading room and they request material in advance and arrange time to visit which allows uh us time to find the material and check its condition and so forth um and um the the reading room provided great customer service to the to visitors and the archives team are really there to support them in relation to locating material or providing advice about collections and and in addition to students and and staff we do have a lot of external researchers from from other other universities who come to do research on the collections um and also a lot of family historians who try trying to find out about their their roots in the northeast and we also receive a large number of requests for uh digital copies of um archive material and a large number of open email enquiries relating to the collections which um it requires a lot of research um to answer the the staff and museums and in special collections are a fantastic group of people to work with and and it's made up of a number of different teams and and we all work together to to care for the collections and there's a lot of communication across the different areas of the department whether it be the the conservation team the the reading room rear boots archives or museums and we work with museum colleagues and on various projects and across collections as well is it all based on site at the university of aberdeen campus yeah we're we're based in the the lower ground floor of the sir duncan rice library which opened in 2011 and so um everything's all all on on that level then and we have a conservation studio and and a reading room as mentioned and there that people can come in and request to to see a material from the archives so it's a purpose built and we were able to design the the store rooms and the the reading room area exactly as we as we wanted it and we have a lot more space than we used to have in the in the the old building where we were based behind and the king's college um so it's um yeah it's it's a a lot of work um involved in in caring and maintaining for the the archives across a number of store rooms but um but it's the variety of the material that really makes the job enjoyable as well that's really fantastic you have a purpose built area to keep your collections what what apart from that which solves a lot of your problems i would imagine but what are the particular challenges that you find managing this collection this very large collection well um i suppose i suppose it is the sheer volume of material that we hold i mean it's a it's a great thing you know it's a it's a plus point but it's also a challenge as i just mentioned one of the best things about my role is the variety of material that i get to work with you can be working with different collections every day but it is nice sometimes to focus on a project we spend a bit of time working in one collection and getting to know it in more detail just because of the sheer volume of the material that we hold it's it's not possible to remember absolutely everything about or to know in great detail about every single archive but i suppose the the trick is knowing where to find that information and then understanding the links between the different collections that we hold what are your hopes for the collection going forward well um i suppose as a as a university archive we want to continue doing what we have been doing for many years and and that's providing a home for collections relevant to the northeast and maintaining a an accurate record of the activities of the university throughout its history suppose ideally we would hope to expand the number of stan staff working in the archive team it's it's just the university archivist andrew mcgregor and myself at the moment but obviously with the scale of the archive additional staff would allow certain projects to get addressed that we haven't been able to to get to ourselves we would also want to keep improving the online catalogue to the to the archives that's an ongoing um task and we did have two long-standing volunteer staff who were a great help prior to lockdown with with this we'd also hope to improve the accessibility of them to information about the archives and including perhaps providing more themed content on our web pages such as the history of the university and individual departments um which um in itself would be aided but by having better authority records and obviously looking more closely at how we manage our digital records and both those created internally as part of the process of managing the archives and those that are deposited in the archives too do you have i mean you mentioned the row institute your maritime and oil records do you have lots of links with the local industries or do they sort of come to you well we we do we have i mean we have quite a close working relationship with um the oil and gas um industry as part of the capturing the the energy project and we also have you know good working relationship with um a number of external bodies such as the nhs grampian archives who i mentioned and we hold their archives are held within our stores although we don't own own the archives and we have a good a good relationship with them yes so we we are um we work with a number of different external organizations and and groups and um we have a close obviously keep in contact as well with the aberdeen city archives um and and other local archive groups and organizations with such a large collection this might be a different question to answer but what is your favorite item we have lots lots of amazing items in the collections and i suppose the best story the aberdeen mystery quite rightly receives a lot of attention it's it's a manuscript that illuminated manuscripts um produced in in england around 1200 and um it's of added interest as it contains notes and sketches and other evidence of the way it was designed and executed and it's a you know it's a beautiful beautiful item um and but the the collections i suppose i like are more personal such as um those belonging to individuals and containing personal accounts such as um wheeling diaries and travel journals which you know they provide a fantastic insight into a different way of life and experience of people in years gone by um there are also beautifully illustrated volumes of um robert wilson who attended marshall college in the early 19th century and he traveled through europe and egypt syria persia and india among other places in the 1820s and he also helped to to find what they became the anthropological museum and set up a travelling scholarship and his volumes of journals are really a really amazing resource but so it's impossible to name really one item from the variety of collections we hold but i suppose i could say what what three of my favorite archive collections are um and they are the first of these would be the mcdonald maps and plants collection which contains over 5 000 um maps and this was quite a big cataloging project and involved arranging and cataloging a collection of maps and plans belonging to a succession of serene firms and relating in particular to aberdeen in the northeast and and i find it really enjoyable looking through the maps and seeing the development of the city and suburbs of aberdeen as well as towns in aberdeenshire through the the 19th century and and some of the maps and plans are are beautiful in works of art really in their their own right another collection that i really like is the papers of alexander augston um who was professor of surgery at the university from 1882 to 1909 and was senior surgeon at aberdeen royal infirmary and he graduated from marshall college and his papers include travel journals and and two really detailed journals kept during the first world war when he served as a military sergeant in serbia in italy when he was over 70 years of age and they contain insight into the conditions and the reality of working in a military hospital during the war and include letters photographs maps enclosed inside um and his papers also include a lot of material there is a media and wider family and they're an amazing record of the life of one of the most important medical people to come out of aberdeen and then i suppose the third collection that i'm quite fond of is the the student show papers um i've done a lot of work recently on the student show collections and that including audio visual material which was digitized by max communications which we were really pleased with and this was all in preparation for the online exhibition we've recently completed and it's been really nice working on something that contains a lot of fun and light-hearted material and that meant a lot to the students who took part in it over the years and and it's become an annual tradition in the in the university calendar it's a it's a very visual collection and comprising programs posters photographs of cast members and crew and it was it was just a nice project to work on and most of the hard work and design of the online exhibition was put in by emma raymond who's the assistant curator and you can see the the results of the online exhibition on our web pages do you have other things available for people to view yes um there's a whole host of material online that you can you can look at i mentioned the george washington wilson photograph photographic archive that's it's online you can search that and there's information relating to the thomas reed papers um our oral history collections um as as well there's um you can access the website up related to the aberdeen bestiary and there's some fantastic and really detailed images of the of the bestiary there that you can view and a whole host of information about um our printed collections and our our museum collections and access to um um our current obviously our current exhibition um and past exhibitions as well fantastic i have definitely have to check out the student show um stuff see if i can find any embarrassing photos of my brother from when he attended and thank you so much for talking to me today paul it's been a real delight hearing about the vast treasures that you have in your collection truly incredible about material although northeast scotland is a big area so should be expected i suppose yes yeah well thanks thanks very much cheers paul thank you thank you bye