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Tag: #History #WarPoetsCollection #Archives #SiegfriedSassoon #WarPoets #Sassoon #Craiglockhart #Poets #Poems

Preserving the Past: My Journey Volunteering with the University Heritage Collections

Preserving the Past: My Journey Volunteering with the University Heritage Collections


Delve into the captivating world of heritage preservation through the eyes of one talented high school volunteer. Join Charlie as he unveils his unique experiences and insights gained during his enriching half-term adventure with the Edinburgh Napier University Heritage Collections team. If you would like to consult our Collections please contact us via email



My name is Charlie and I am a student currently studying in my last year at Berwickshire High School. I aim to pursue history as a subject at university. Since an early age when I first began studying in high school, I have been fascinated with history and any surviving items and relics from the past. This passion was only heightened more as I studied History throughout school. This is why when I got the great opportunity to volunteer at the University Heritage Collections, I took it with no hesitation. I found many parts of my experience amazing and fascinating especially when I was working with real preserved books from as far back as the Middle Ages. This really struck my passion for history and made the whole experience worth it as the thought of holding the very same book as someone from the Middle Ages felt so strange and fascinating.

My Experience

My work while volunteering involved working with books from the Edward Clark Collection which illustrates the development of the book from the 15th century, concentrating on the development of typography, the techniques of printing illustrations, and fine bindings. My first task was to check out some of the book’s conditions and how they could be preserved better along with researching them and their origin. I also got the opportunity to spend a day of my volunteering experience doing work at the War poets’ collection which involved me getting to look at and organise real poems from soldiers who had suffered in the war. This really fascinated me as I felt like I was getting a unique chance to investigate the soldiers’ mental struggles and thoughts after their experiences on the front line. As part of my experience, I also got to complete a piece on the history of the poppy that we use for remembrance, which will support the development of a temporary exhibition. This involved looking at each type of poppy and what they mean along with the origins of the remembrance item and how it changed to become a symbol of the First World War. This really excited me as I have always found WWI to be insanely interesting and it was nice being able to research topics directly related to the war. I also got to complete tasks which involved looking at the Mehew collection, this collection is about Robert Louis Stevenson and his works which you may have heard of who’s works including books such as Treasure Island. This involved looking into the History of his works and checking up on the condition and safety of the valuable collection and implementing basic conservation measures to support delicate bindings. I also gained the chance to work with Napier’s expensive new collection scanner which I used to digitise fragile books from hundreds of years ago. Another one of my duties included Installing an exhibition about the history of Merchiston Tower and John Napier himself. Finally, my last task Included processing documentation for collection records. This taught me how to process documents and preserve important collection information for future curators and researchers to learn from.

Photo of Charlie volunteering at the special collections


I overall gained a lot from this experience which covered a wide range, this spanned from learning how to correctly handle historical records and valuable scanning equipment all the way to learning new information about historical time periods I had less knowledge on such as the Middle Ages and much more. I also was able to see just how fascinating it was to investigate the lives of those who came before us and how they lived their lives.

My experience in this volunteer position has further inspired me to study history at university and reinforced my love of the subject. It has also made me find a new interest in books and how they can be used to study the past.

As a whole, I loved my time volunteering, and it has given me tons of new experiences that will help me as I move forward to university next year.

By Charlie

Check out our Special Collection pages here.

Read more work experiences from other wonderful volunteers on the blog:

Part one Uncovering Hidden Histories: Provenance research internships in the Edward Clark Collection

Part two Uncovering Hidden Histories: Provenance research internships in the Edward Clark Collection

Special Collections: Sassoon poem returns

Special Collections: Sassoon poem returns

An original Siegfried Sassoon poem returns to our special collections.

Last month, an original poem written by Siegfried Sassoon was donated to the War Poets Collections based at Edinburgh Napier University Craiglockhart Campus. It was written at that location, more than 100 years ago. Titled Glory of Women, it was given to fellow patient and poet Wilfred Owen in 1917. Since then the poem has gone through different owners but has now returned to Craiglockhart through the kind donation of Scottish Playwright Stewart Conn.

Our curator, Laura Cooijmans-Keizer, said of the poem “Glory of Women” is a poignant poem that demonstrates the conflicting pressures faced by men fighting in the trenches. The idealised expectations of glory and heroism that women at home, both in Britain and Germany, projected onto soldiers was often in direct competition with war’s stark, and often decidedly unheroic realities. The kind donation of this important manuscript poem by Siegfried Sassoon will offer a unique opportunity for it to be studied, appreciated, and debated at the place where it was first composed.”

We want to thank Stewart again for his generous donation.

Special Collections

It’s a significant addition to a collection that comprises more than 800 items. It is a permanent exhibition based at Craiglockhart campus. The collections gives ‘an insight into the personal and social experiences of war through the words, memories, voices and objects that the officers, medical staff and relatives left behind’. You can find out more information at the War Poet Collections and enquire about visiting.

You can read more of what our amazing Special Collections team are up to

Read more about the donation here

Read about previous War Poets Collections Posts 

By Maya Green


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