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Amazing 100-year-old pictures emerge from depths of Scots science archives

Photograph of a Maori girl standing on a canoe at the drop scene two miles up the Wanganui River in New Zealand in the late 19th or early 20th century. In the background there is another canoe, jungle and mountains.
Photograph of a Maori girl standing on a canoe at the drop scene two miles up the Wanganui River in New Zealand in the late 19th or early 20th century. In the background there is another canoe, jungle and mountains.

Archivists at a Scots university have revealed a collection of weird and wonderful images showing the early days of animal research.

Edinburgh University has begun digitising 3,500 glass plate slides which show animal studies by professors at the institute, in the lead up to genetics testing.

A first batch of 1,300 images has now been released online for public view, featuring an array of different subjects showing different types of livestock, such as sheep, cattle and horses from around the globe, as well as a two-headed lamb.

 Burmese Hairy Family. Photograph of a Burmese family of three, mother, father and son, who have Hypertrichosis in the late 19th or early 20th century.
Burmese Hairy Family. Photograph of a Burmese family of three, mother, father and son, who have Hypertrichosis in the late 19th or early 20th century.

There are also pictures of scenery and architecture from around the world, in places such as New Zealand, India and Bolivia.

The team bringing the slides to life know very little about their origin, except they are from the archives of the renowned Roslin Institute — the animal research centre responsible for Dolly the Sheep — and were taken in the late 19th to early 20th century.

They also believe many were taken by James Cossar Ewart, who was a professor of natural history at the university from 1882 to 1927, and Robert Wallace, a professor of agriculture and rural economy between 1882 and 1922.

Shearing Board, Burrawang Station, New South Wales. Photograph of a group of men shearing sheep in a shearing shed at Burrawang Station, New South Wales, Australia in the late 19th or early 20th century. NB: Some of the men on the left-hand side of the image are painted, possibly to cover up a blurred image.
Shearing Board, Burrawang Station, New South Wales. Photograph of a group of men shearing sheep in a shearing shed at Burrawang Station, New South Wales, Australia in the late 19th or early 20th century. NB: Some of the men on the left-hand side of the image are painted, possibly to cover up a blurred image.

Clare Button, principal investigator in the project, said the slides were used for teaching to illustrate lectures in natural history, agriculture and zoology.

She added: “We don’t really know much about them at all — really just what we’ve been able to figure out by some of the subjects.

“We know some of them are linked to two professors.

 'Mulatto and Romulus at 5 days old'. Photograph of James Cossar Ewart's West Highland pony, Mulatto, and her foal, Romulus, at 5 days old standing next to each other in a barn. Romulus was born in 1896 and is a cross between a horse and a zebra.
‘Mulatto and Romulus at 5 days old’. Photograph of James Cossar Ewart’s West Highland pony, Mulatto, and her foal, Romulus, at 5 days old standing next to each other in a barn. Romulus was born in 1896 and is a cross between a horse and a zebra.

“It’s mostly pre-genetics, and more natural history looking at the physiology of animals — a precursor to genetics.

“Having said that, the professor of natural history here was responsible for setting genetics up here.

“A lot of this early work on animal breeding represented in these slides paved the way for Edinburgh being at the forefront of genetics in Britain, right the way through to Dolly the sheep.”

Road to the Pyramids. Photograph of a road to the Pyramids in Egypt showing men with camels on a tree-lined dirt road with the Pyramids in the background in the early 20th century.
Road to the Pyramids. Photograph of a road to the Pyramids in Egypt showing men with camels on a tree-lined dirt road with the Pyramids in the background in the early 20th century.

She said the slides had been been in boxes for quite some time and some were damaged when the team at the Digital Imaging Unit, Centre for Research Collections, at the university library received them.

The images are being treated and digitised by John Bryden as part of the project ‘Science on a Plate: the natural sciences through glass slides, 1870-1930’.

Burchells Zebra. Photograph of Burchells zebra standing in a paddock next to a barn in the early 20th century
Burchells Zebra. Photograph of Burchells zebra standing in a paddock next to a barn in the early 20th century

The project is funded by the Wellcome Trust’s Research Resources scheme.of the most striking images in the collection include a man riding a llama, who is a zoo keeper at an eccentric’s menagerie in the south of England.

Button said it was hard to choose a favourite, adding: “Last year we got extra money to digitise them.

“It’s really hard to pick a favourite one. A favourite in the university as a whole is a man riding a llama.

 'Shire Stallion, Staunton Hero. Photograph of the Shire stallion, Staunton Hero foaled in 1861 and sold to the Duke of Westminster for £500 guineas in 1889.
‘Shire Stallion, Staunton Hero. Photograph of the Shire stallion, Staunton Hero foaled in 1861 and sold to the Duke of Westminster for £500 guineas in 1889.

“There’s quite a nice story with that as well. It was part of a menagerie kept by an eccentric man called Anthony Wingfield.”

Also in the collection is a slide featuring a young Maori girl paddling a canoe down a river in New Zealand, with large mountains looming in the background.

Another shows a leper being carried on a pole by two young boys in India, with a hanging bench “for alms”.

Mr. H. A. Wickham, Founder of the Hevea Brasiliensis Plantation Industry in the East. Photographic portrait of Henry Alexander Wickham, a British explorer and Founder of the Hevea Brasiliensis [rubber] Plantation Industry in the East.
Mr. H. A. Wickham, Founder of the Hevea Brasiliensis Plantation Industry in the East. Photographic portrait of Henry Alexander Wickham, a British explorer and Founder of the Hevea Brasiliensis [rubber] Plantation Industry in the East.

Button believes many of the more exotic images in the collection were taken by James Cossar, who travelled around the world.

His research involved looking at different breeds of horses and sheep in countries such as New Zealand and Mexico.

The Roslin Institute in Midlothian is an animal sciences research institute which aims to enhance the lives of animals and humans through animal biology research.

Step Cutting on Ice Face, Tasman Glacier, New Zealand. Photograph of two men step cutting on the ice face of the Tasman Glacier, New Zealand in the late 19th or early 20th century
Step Cutting on Ice Face, Tasman Glacier, New Zealand. Photograph of two men step cutting on the ice face of the Tasman Glacier, New Zealand in the late 19th or early 20th century

The most famous achievement was the creation of Dolly the Sheep — the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell.

In 2007 a team developed genetically modified chickens able to lay eggs with proteins needed to make cancer-fighting drugs.

Photograph of a Maori girl standing on a canoe at the drop scene two miles up the Wanganui River in New Zealand in the late 19th or early 20th century. In the background there is another canoe, jungle and mountains.
Photograph of a Maori girl standing on a canoe at the drop scene two miles up the Wanganui River in New Zealand in the late 19th or early 20th century. In the background there is another canoe, jungle and mountains.
 Elephant. Two hunters sitting on a dead elephant with a third man standing behind it on the plains in Africa in the early 20th century.
Elephant. Two hunters sitting on a dead elephant with a third man standing behind it on the plains in Africa in the early 20th century.
'Street Hawker in Buenos Aires'. Photograph of a street hawker selling strainers, pots and pans in Buenos Aires, Argentina in the late 19th or early 20th century.
‘Street Hawker in Buenos Aires’. Photograph of a street hawker selling strainers, pots and pans in Buenos Aires, Argentina in the late 19th or early 20th century.
 'Ankole-Watusi Cow'. Photograph of an Ankole-Watusi cow in [South Africa?] in the late 19th or early 20th century.
‘Ankole-Watusi Cow’. Photograph of an Ankole-Watusi cow in [South Africa?] in the late 19th or early 20th century.
Grand Parade. The most imposing feature of the Royal Show, Edinburgh.  A collection of weird and wonderful archived slides showing the early days of animal research has been released by Edinburgh University. The first 1300 of 3500 images have been first to be released online for public view and feature an array of different subjects.
Grand Parade. The most imposing feature of the Royal Show, Edinburgh. A collection of weird and wonderful archived slides showing the early days of animal research has been released by Edinburgh University. The first 1300 of 3500 images have been first to be released online for public view and feature an array of different subjects.
A little girl posed with a little lamb in a paddock with trees in the background entitled, "Mary had a Little Lamb" in the early 20th century.
A little girl posed with a little lamb in a paddock with trees in the background entitled, “Mary had a Little Lamb” in the early 20th century.
Deer Stalking. A man tying a dead deer onto a horse as it grazes while another man assists in Scotland in the early 20th century. The two men were out deer stalking.
Deer Stalking. A man tying a dead deer onto a horse as it grazes while another man assists in Scotland in the early 20th century. The two men were out deer stalking.
 Photograph of James Cossar Ewart standing with Romulus, the zebra/horse hybrid, on the lawn behind a house in the late 19th or early 20th century.
Photograph of James Cossar Ewart standing with Romulus, the zebra/horse hybrid, on the lawn behind a house in the late 19th or early 20th century.
 'Travelling Merino Rams in New South Wales'. Photograph of Merino rams being herded from one pen to another by men on horseback in New South Wales, Australia in the late 19th or early 20th century.
‘Travelling Merino Rams in New South Wales’. Photograph of Merino rams being herded from one pen to another by men on horseback in New South Wales, Australia in the late 19th or early 20th century.

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