Knowledge Matters blog

Behind the scenes at the British Library

30 September 2021

Behind the scenes at the British Library: Isabelle Reynolds-Logue

We go behind the scenes to introduce you to our people and the many ways they work to open up our collection for everyone. This month we meet Senior Imaging Technician, Isabelle Reynolds-Logue.

Isabelle Portrait
Isabelle Portrait

Tell me about your role?

Isabelle joined the Library in January 2020 as a photographer on the International Dunhuang Project, working on the Lotus Sutra Manuscript Digitisation Project. She has since worked on a number of other projects including Heritage Made Digital, medieval manuscripts and the Bollinger Javanese manuscripts, as well as exhibition photography and commercial orders.

How did you get into this field?

Isabelle first encountered cultural heritage photography at university during her course in Arts and Sciences. However, it was after university, working front of house at the Postal Museum, where she discovered her passion.

‘I love photography and cultural heritage, so seeing the two combined was a dream! In my spare time, I went to the studio and was trained on the equipment. I knew this was the path I wanted to follow so I set about looking for more experience.’

She embarked on a digital archiving traineeship with the National Archives, learning on the job, which then led her to her current role as a Senior Imaging Technician at the British Library working on the International Dunhuang Project.

Isabelle unfurling the scrolls
Isabelle working on the Lotus Sutra scrolls

What do you love about the Library?

Isabelle is passionate about the collection and also enjoys the diversity of her work.

‘I love how the Library holds such a wide range of material that anyone can access. From a great Philatelic collection to the Sound Archive, and all the incredible manuscripts, there is something for everyone here. I also love the variety of exhibitions the Library puts on. Women’s Rights followed by Paddington Bear? Excellent!’

What are some of your favourite projects you have been a part of recently?

In almost two years at the Library, Isabelle has worked on a number of diverse projects and a variety of medieval manuscripts, requiring different types of digitisation and photography techniques.

Her favourite project so far has been the medieval manuscripts project where she discovered the incredible and fascinating illustrations of armed hares found in Yates Thompson MS 8 during the digitisation process.

‘They are as weird as they sound,’ she says. However there is no doubting the beauty of the illustrations.

Hare illustrations
Examples of the hare illustration on the Yates Thompson manuscripts

For the upcoming Elizabeth and Mary: Royal Cousins, Rival Queens exhibition, Isabelle digitised the Elizabeth I funeral procession scrolls. This manuscript is unique in being ‘the first ever visual record of the funeral of an English monarch’.

The panels of the scroll had been cut and bound into a large volume, and for the exhibition Isabelle was asked to generate a stitched image of all the panels so that the item could be viewed in its original state.

Funeral procession image
[Left hand of drawing]: The horse trapped with velvet, led by two attendants; the Sergeant of the Vestry and Children of the Chapel Royal

She captured each panel of the item individually, straightened and cropped the images using Capture One and then pieced these files together to generate a stitched image in Photoshop. As it wasn’t a continuous scroll and has been cut into pieces, Isabelle had to manually stitch each panel together, making sure they aligned properly and making the join line invisible.

This step by step guide, based on the Lotus Sutra scrolls for the International Dunhuang Project, shows you how she did it.

Overhead camera set up
Overhead camera set up capturing the funeral procession drawings

What is your favourite object in the collection?

Currently her favourite is the manuscript containing a lock of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s hair and ashes, alongside a lock of Mary Shelley’s hair. She found it while working at home on the metadata of images in the Library storage system, Portfolio.

‘However, there is so much to discover at the Library that my favourite object in the collection is bound to change!’

Any book recommendations for our readers?

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist by Adrian Tomine. ‘I’m a huge fan of graphic novels and this cartoonist in particular, and this is the last one I read. It is so well put together, it really made me laugh and cringe. It is such an honest depiction of the artist’s life.’

Find out more about our Digitisation Services.