Eddie Barnes: Uncovering the Past




Eddie is a Project Management Intern, working in ISG on a number of projects. Whether it’s bussing around to King’s or the Medical School, making process maps, or digging through the library’s image archives, he’s always kept busy. Outside work you might find him enjoying a wide range of live music from Scottish and Irish folk, choral singing, power metal, or progressive house.




The nature of working in Project Management enables many of us to juggle several distinct projects at a time

This means you have the flexibility to jump around your projects and ensure you never get restless. However, sometimes the tasks can be bizarrely unique, and little did I know that this Summer I would be using Photoshop to transform medical manuscripts from 1543 into A5 sized cards to be used in Information Services workshops.


So first a little background just to get everyone on the same page.

The idea of “visual metaphor cards” as they are known have been around a while. They are generally diverse packets of images that you can use in workshops to spur creative thinking, assist collaboration, and just generally approach issues in a new manor; instead of answering a question with words about how you feel, chose and image which represents that instead.



Contrasting these images from colleagues in the room often yields fascinating results through ensuing discussions.



Part two of this background involves something I assume not many of us were aware of, as I certainly wasn’t aware of it before this project – the University’s library of historical and contemporary images.

This library is open to all students and staff, and in many cases the objects depicted in some photographs can be seen in person as well. Some notable objects include: Charles Darwin’s class card, Arthur Conan Doyle’s MD thesis, a letter from George Washington to a Professor at Edinburgh, late medieval medical manuscripts and more.

You have probably figured it out by now that the goal of the projects was to attempt to create a set of 250 of our own University metaphor cards, using the fantastic library of images at our disposal.

As with all projects there were moments of frustration and difficulty, as hundreds of images had vague titles and descriptions, and not to mention the dreaded copyright. Despite all of this however, the project was wonderfully exciting and fun, hence why I wanted to share the experience in this blog post.



Some of the photos quite clearly invoke a certain emotion, whilst others require some more interpretation.





Piper and a Penguin from The Papers of William Speirs Bruce, 1902-1904.






Some on the other hand are just pieces of history that make you think, “What? The Uni has this in a room somewhere in the library? Seriously?”







Romeo and Juliet’ title page from the second ‘good’ quarto printed in 1599










Shells from St Helena collected by Charles Darwin. 









It wasn’t just finding and preparing the images however, one of the biggest tasks was creating the descriptions which would help lend more meaning to many of the images.




Sophia Jex-Blake’s Casket and Address.

In 1889 largely as a result of her struggles, degrees for women were sanctioned by Act of Parliament. Grateful students of the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women presented her with this address on 3rd November 1894.




Other images, have not really aged and speak entirely for themselves.




Sea Elephant, 1915


The face you make when you drop an ice cream and are powerless to stop it. (Lucy Sinclair 2018)







Tavola II del Lib.I. Derived from page 164 of Vesalius, an anatomy book from 1543.


Waiting for exam results to come out





It really made me feel privileged to be a part of an institution which is trusted, and has been trusted for hundreds of years, to serve as custodian for so many unique pieces of history. The cards are in the final stages of design, and will be moved to print shortly, something which will be an extremely satisfying result to behold.

This project has been a major highlight in my role this Summer, and I hope that reading this will encourage you to browse the library yourself, and enjoy it whilst you are still a part of the University.



All these images and more,10s of thousands more, are available for anyone to explore over on images.is.ed.ac.uk.

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