Dundee University’s archives hold the papers of many of the institution’s former staff.
While often these relate to research interests and work within the university, these collections also hold many unexpected gems that relate to the hobbies of these academics.
The records of Professor George Howard Bell (1905-1986) are one example of this as they contain hundreds of photographs and slides taken by Professor Bell.
As well as images taken at the university, these also include images taken on his travels in Britain and beyond.
However the images which are undoubtedly most popular with the archive users are those he took of the City of Discovery at a time of great change.
G. H. Bell came to what was then the University College in Dundee in 1947 as Symers Professor of Physiology, a position he held until 1975.
His many contributions to the university during a time of major development and expansion included providing strong support for the creation of a separate Biochemistry Department under Robert P Cook.
This would ultimately pave the way for Dundee to become an internationally recognised centre of life science teaching and research.
He also realised that the university campus was physically changing and his photographs record this.
For instance he captured the demolition of the last part of the original 1880s University College buildings in the mid 1960s to make way for the tower extension.
Bell also seems to have anticipated the 1960s would lead to the city itself being dramatically re-shaped.
This is reflected in the photographs he was taking from the late 1950s onwards which show historic parts of Dundee that would soon vanish.
A 1960 image taken from the City Square shows the buildings of the Overgate and Nethergate which would be demolished to make way for the first Overgate Centre.
This includes the building then popularly known as Monck’s Lodgings, the demolition of the building would be a source of regret to many Dundonians. A later image shows construction work at this site.
Interestingly while many people assume that Strathtay House, home of Boots, was not affected by the redevelopment work, the image below reveals that in fact only the frontage of the building was retained.
Bell’s pictures also reveal the impact of the building of the new Tay Road Bridge. As well as showing its construction, his images provide wonderful glimpses of the “Fifies”.
The Fifies, as they were known, were boats which travelled from Dundee to Fife, or vice versa and would regularly travel between the city and Newport.
Bell’s photographs also show the redevelopment of the waterfront area, including the demolition of the West Station and the famous Royal Arch, that was necessitated by the building of the bridge and its approach roads.
For many Dundonians the demolition of the Royal Arch is remembered ith a tinge of sadness, however Bell’s 1963 photograph of the arch makes clear that in the years prior to its demolition it was in a poor state, having turned almost black and acquiring significant patches of vegetation.
The Bell photographs are just one of the many collections the archives hold relating to Dundee’s history and although the archives are currently closed due to the ongoing Covid-19 emergency more details can be found at www.dundee.ac.uk/archives.
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