It’s hard to believe that more than half a year has elapsed since ‘Jewish Lives, Scottish Spaces’ first got under way. So much has been achieved – two oral history interviews, continued scoping of selected collections of the Scottish Jewish Archive Centre, a pilot digitisation project, and crystallisation of our research plans to name just a few of our many accomplishments.
The convening of the second six-monthly Project Advisory Board Meeting a few days ago therefore gave pause for reflection on our progress in relation to significant milestones. A team of academics with expertise in digital humanities and historical research, archives and library professionals, and representatives from Jewish community organisations were in attendance at the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre on Wednesday 30th March. The remit of the Board is to meet biannually to critically appraise the project’s strategy, progress and outputs, and also to offer specific expertise on matters relating to their individual areas of knowledge. They perform this role consistently and cohesively well, drawing upon their experience to offer fresh and constructive insights which help to resolve challenges and move the project forward.
After a preliminary update on our progress and publication plans, the focus of the meeting was very much upon the practicalities of digitisation: selection of sources, equipment purchase, funder requirements, open access, timeframes and ethical issues all received attention. Much ground was covered, and we left eagerly anticipating the next phase of the project. The meeting will convene again towards the end of this calendar year where the emphasis will be on knowledge exchange and impact.
After a very productive meeting, attendees were treated by Harvey Kaplan and Dr Kenneth Collins – Director and Chairman respectively of the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre – to a tour of the Synagogue and Centre. In the early evening, Kenneth Collins delivered an engaging lecture to an audience of academics, volunteers and members of the Jewish community. Dr Collins – current Edgar Astaire Fellow in Jewish Studies at the University of Edinburgh – shared selected insights from his extensive research into Polish Jewish medical students and soldiers in Scotland. Although the lecture’s title suggested an emphasis on Edinburgh –where a Polish School of Medicine was established in 1941 – consideration was given also to the role of Polish Jewish refugees in the provision of mental health services and psychiatric medicine in Dundee, Aberdeen, Dumfries and Glasgow. Of especial interest was Dr Collins’ discussion of the extent to which Polish Jews in Scotland during wartime experienced anti-Semitism. The talk captured the interest of community and academy alike, generating numerous questions. A lively reception followed, where delicious kosher food was abundantly served, courtesy of Mark’s Deli in Giffnock, bringing a successful day to a relaxing close.