Guest Blog Post: Whose Town? a heritage project for schools

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Sep 082011

This week we have a guest post about the Whose Town? Project from Clare Padgett, Library Services Officer at Edinburgh City Libraries and part of the Whose Town? team. We bumped into her at the Scottish Association of Family History Societies Conference and she kindly offered to let AddressingHistory blog readers know more about this new resource about Edinburgh’s past.

School pupils across Edinburgh are getting to grips with an award-winning new digital teaching resource which uses real life case studies to illustrate key periods of history.

Whose Town? is an award-winning and innovative resource for teaching Social Studies developed by Edinburgh City Libraries. The resource is aimed at pupils aged between 8 and 13 and is linked to the Curriculum for Excellence, second, third and fourth levels. It is available on Glow, the Scottish schools’ intranet and on free CD.

Whose Town? looks at Edinburgh’s past from the 1850s to the 1950s through the eyes of people who lived there. Continue reading »

Nov 122010

Extremely exciting news: today we are making a limited number of tickets available to our fantastic AddressingHistory Launch Event taking place next Wednesday (17th November).

We hope that you will be able to join us to celebrate not only the launch of our AddressingHistory online tool but also to celebrate the rich history and historical resources of Scotland. The programme for the event includes some fantastic speakers and will highlight some really fantastic resources and projects around local, family and Scottish history.

You can reserve your (free) place via our booking page ( and we recommend doing this as soon as possible as our venue has a strictly limited capacity and we anticipate significant interest from local historians, genealogists and academics.

If you cannot join us on the day (we know that you, our lovely readers, are both very busy and located all over the world!) we will also have various online celebrations. Videos of our speakers will appear here shortly after the event whilst we also hope to post images and blog postings live from the launch. You can also contribute directly by adding your comments to the Twitter hashtag #AHLaunch, by commenting here on the blog or by adding your thoughts to our Facebook page. We will also be adding some extra special goodies to the website over the next few days so watch this space…

Finally, if you would like to add a mention of AddressingHistory or the launch event to your blog, your community group website, a newsletter or publication you are involved with or any other space you contribute to please get in touch ( and we can provide you with information, a link to the preview of the tool and images. We can also provide you with our new and fabulous HTML badge so that you can show your support for the project (full info on that coming soon).

We look forward to seeing you in person or online for our launch next week!

Edinburgh Beltane Annual Gathering 2010

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Oct 122010

Last week our Project Officer Nicola represented AddressingHistory at the Edinburgh Beltane Annual Gathering 2010, a workshop and networking event on community engagement.

Last Wednesday afternoon around 40 members of educational, research and cultural organisations from Edinburgh and beyond gathered together at the Engine Shed (native Edinburghers may know it better for it’s delicious tofu than as an events space) for a workshop organised by Edinburgh Beltane, a National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement with partner organisations across – and beyond – Edinburgh.

All of the attendees had signed up for the day with a tweet to the event hashtag (#ebag2010) describing areas of interest and ideas so we knew we would be meeting a really interesting group with a diverse set of ideas for engagement and communication – from mathematical knitters to theatrical chemists. I grabbed a space for AddressingHistory with this tweet:

“Social Media evangelist seeks genealogy & local history collaboration and/or expertise for @Addresshistory project and blog”
Image: Our Group's Ketso Board halfway through the afternoon...

Our Group's Ketso Board halfway through the afternoon...

The idea of the workshop was to develop event ideas and we split between tables representing various possible venues (AddressingHistory joined the National Museum of Scotland’s (NMS) table) and began forming ideas for events using the “Ketso” planning and ideas tool. The goal was to find three viable event ideas for each of six venues that could then be voted on.

Ketso, which I’d not used before, is a tiny bit like Fuzzy Felts for groups of adult brainstormers. A large felt planning area with several “stems” forms a background (which looks like a tree root structure) to add ideas and comments on little leaf shaped cards which you can stick anywhere on the stems. The process involves several rounds of idea sharing and, in this workshop, also several rounds of switching tables to comment on other’s emerging idea boards (adding comments and approval to their ideas, suggesting new event ideas based on their interest areas).

The National Museums of Scotland table attracted a diverse group and, in addition to representatives of NMS and AddressingHistory, there was a scientist working on communicating renewable energy projects, an expert on language and language preservation, a member of the BSLUptake project and a representative from the University of Edinburgh’s sustainability office.  Having written our ideas and resources down (on brown leaves), our good ideas and clever solutions to combine lots of ideas (on green leaves), our concerns (on grey leaves), our comments (on white strips) and having picked out our favourite ideas (little yellow ticks and red exclamation marks) we had an enormously fruitful and full Ketso board and three fully formed ideas to take forward.

The NMS Group's Ketso Board at the end of the day.

The NMS Group's Ketso Board at the end of the day.

The ideas that went through from our table were all for possible events to be held in a new area of the National Museum of Scotland (in part of the building being refurbished under the Royal Museum Project):

  1. LangEvol: Language diversity and diversity in language: origins, evolutions and futures of language
  2. Meaning: Debunk the jargon! Speed dating exploration of science through sign language, visual arts, dance, etc.
  3. Idea: Mapping the ideas and innovation of Edinburgh institutions.

I was particularly excited about the potential for AddressingHistory to be a part of either the possible event on the history of ideas in Edinburgh or the possible event on  language – since the origins and changes in place-names are a really interesting c0nnection to the historical post office directory data.  The history and changes in language over time was an important part of forming the “LangEvol” idea but one of the most interesting contributions that first sparked the idea was from Bob of BSL:Uptake who explained that the sign language for telephone has changed three times since telephones was first invented and that all three signs remain in use. The signs each says something about the type of phone being described and about the signer since they represent either an early mouthpiece/earpiece set, a relatively modern handset or a mobile phone.

Post It Note of our LangEvol idea

The main reason for compiling all of these ideas was to share experience and make new connections but some of the ideas may go on to become real events which is a thrilling prospect as every group came up with superb suggestions any one of which would be huge fun to take part in (all of the ideas are listed on the workshop blog). All eighteen event ideas also went forward to the evening networking event at InSpace where both workshop attendees,  and lots of additional communicators and researchers who had joined us, were able to vote on their favourites.  The results of the voting have just been released on the Beltane Blog (see the graph below and click on the image to go to the full results) – I am delighted to see that Langevol received the most votes but I think all of the winning ideas sound fantastic!

#ebag2010 Votes

The remainder of the workshop consisted of presentations from two previous Beltane grant recipients who presented on  two very different projects.

BSL Sign Language Interpreter - from the BSL:Update Website

BSL Sign Language Interpreter - from the BSL:Update Website

The first presentation, from Bob Duncan of Heriot-Watt and BSL:Uptake, was about a Knowledge Exchange Cafe for the deaf community that enabled networking, engagement in public policy – particularly the ability to contribute to a consultation document by being videoed signing their responses – and socialising over tea and cake as well of course.

3D Tree Image ("3D-02-22-09-0018a geese in holding pattern above the trees") - Image by Flickr user Jim Frost (jimf0390)

"3D-02-22-09-0018a geese in holding pattern above the trees" by Jim Frost (jimf0390) from Flickr

The second presentation, from Dan Ridley-Ellis of the Centre for Timber Engineering at Edinburgh Napier University, was on “Real Life Science – Wood Biomechanics 3D”. This was a weekend of activities at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh in which various organisations concerned with increasing public awareness of trees and woodland worked with a secondary school student to create engaging displays including a 3D tree exhibition.

Awaiting the results of the Public Engagement Challenge Award

Awaiting the results of the Public Engagement Challenge Award

The afternoon workshop was followed by a lovely evening meeting others’ working at academic organisations, museums, galleries and similar organisations throughout the city, and also finding out the winner of the Public Engagement Challenge for the year (which was the BSL:Uptake project!).  I was able to share AddressingHistory flyers with various researchers and made contact with organisations including the National Museum of Scotland, the Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh and the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Hopefully AddressingHistory may feed into the work or events of some of the organisations we met at the Beltane Annual Gathering but we’d also love to hear from you if you your local history groups would like flyers, posters or would like to include AddressingHistory in an event or piece of work of yors or of a community group you are involved in.

Huge thanks to Heather Rea at Beltane and all who organised the Annual Gathering – I had a superb time and was delighted that my fellow attendees were really excited to hear about AddressingHistory and keen to have a play with the website when it launches in November!

Guest Blog Post: Around Causewayside in Old Maps and Photographs

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Oct 012010

Today we have another excellent guest blog post from Chris Fleet, Senior Map Curator at the National Library of Scotland.

When the AddressingHistory team popped in to take some pictures of the PODs and Maps this week Chris showed us the exhibit of Causewayside in Old Maps and Photographs that he has created for the new Maps Reading room and he agreed to tell us more about what he’s been finding out about the area of Edinburgh that the AddressingHistory project calls home. We hope Chris’ post will inspire you to send us your own stories about people, professions and locations you hope to use AddressingHistory to help you explore and research.

Around Causewayside in Old Maps and Photographs

Post Office Directories and maps are often just the starting point for exploring the history of particular streets and buildings. With the recent move of the NLS Maps Reading Room, we not only face our AddressingHistory partners EDINA across the same street, but we have also put together a small exhibition  –  Around Causewayside on old maps and photographs.

Chris Fleet stands next to part of the Causewayside in Old Maps and Images exhibit at the National Library of Scotland Maps Reading Room

Chris Fleet stands next to part of the Causewayside in Old Maps and Images exhibit at the National Library of Scotland Maps Reading Room

Causewayside – recorded as a causey or paved routeway from the 1580s – was historically the main highway from the Burgh Muir south to Liberton. However, it was not developed for feuing (the legal process under Scottish law of selling land) and housebuilding until after the acquisition of the Newington Estate by Dr Benjamin Bell of Hunthill in 1804. Most of the streets were laid out by the time of Kirkwood’s map of 1817, and Leslie’s map of 1826 shows extensive residential development and the names of individual proprietors.

During the 19th century, there was a partial transition from residential to manufacturing development along Causewayside, with new printing and publishing works, as well as the famous Middlemass Biscuit factory.

Middlemass & Son entry in the 1905 Edinburgh Post Office Directory

Middlemass & Son entry in the 1905 Edinburgh Post Office Directory

Robert Middlemass was born in Peebles in 1819, and we know from the Post Office directories that he started biscuit production through premises in West Preston Street in 1835. From 1869 he acquired a second site on Causewayside, which expanded in phases, to front onto Salisbury Place and Upper Gray Street by 1897. This expansion of the factory can be seen on the Ordnance Survey maps of 1877, and 1893. These photographs of the exterior and interior of the Middlemass Biscuit Manufactory were taken in around 1910:

Exterior of the Middlemass Biscuit Factory (image courtosy of the National Library of Scotland)

Exterior of the Middlemass Biscuit Factory (image courtosy of the National Library of Scotland)

Interior of the Middlemass Biscuit Factory (image courtesy of the National Library of Scotland)

Interior of the Middlemass Biscuit Factory (image courtesy of the National Library of Scotland)

The Middlemass Factory is of particular interest to NLS, as it originally housed the NLS Map Room from 1974, and the Factory was subsequently demolished in 1984 to allow the current Causewayside Building to be built.

A recent addition to the NLS Digital Archive is the fascinating set of 138 photographs of the South Side of Edinburgh, including Causewayside, taken by Alfred Henry Rushbrook for the City of Edinburgh Improvement Trust, 1929.

Exterior image of 72-78 Causewayside (image courtesy of the National Library of Scotland)

Exterior image of 72-78 Causewayside (image courtesy of the National Library of Scotland)

Our small display of photographs and maps of Causewayside can be seen until the end of October inside the new National Library of Scotland Maps Reading Room, 159 Causewayside. Opening hours: Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri: 9.30 am – 5.00 pm; Weds 10.00 am – 5.00 pm; Sat: 9.30 – 1.00 pm.