Friday, 22 August 2014

The History of a Charming Hospital

Among the NHS buildings around the site of Lauriston Building, a notable Victorian structure which still survives in use today, is that of Chalmers Hospital. The Edinburgh plumber and burgess George Chalmers (1773-1836) left the residue of his estate (worth £27,000) for the foundation of an infirmary in his will. At the time of his death, this money was not sufficient to build a hospital, therefore it was invested in government stock until 1854 when it had accrued enough for the hospital plans. Construction of the hospital began in 1860 and it opened on 22 February 1864 without ceremony. As originally designed, the Chalmers Sick and Hurt Hospital consisted of 48 beds in four wards, two of which were fee paying and two of which were for non-paying patients. Nurses’ quarters were only added in 1887. A programme of modernisation was carried out in the early 20th Century using money subscribed from the funds of the hospital faculty, in commemoration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. These included electric lighting, a new operating theatre, new surgical staff and an anaesthetist. The renowned surgeon Sir Harold Stiles was appointed during this period.

The hospital was not used for war patients during the First World War. However, in 1939 Chalmers Hospital was requisitioned by the government for civilian casualties of World War II, though in the event it was used for many service personnel also. In 1948, with the formation of the NHS, Chalmers Hospital came under its control and the practice of having fee paying patients ended. In 1951, the hospital became an annexe of the Hospital for Diseases of Women in the adjacent Archibald Place.

The hospital finally closed in 2008 and a major redevelopment of the site began. Much of the rear was demolished and replaced with a new structure designed to meet the needs of 21st century patients - however, the front and many original features have been renovated. It re-opened as a Sexual Health Centre in 2011 and continues to serve the community it was built for over 150 years ago, at the bequest of a plumber from the Canongate.

The images show a rear view of Chalmers Hospital and gardens from approximately the late 19th century (ref. LHB4/4/7/2) and a photograph of the front of the hospital from the late 1970s (ref. LHB4/4/7/15). In the later view, Lauriston Building and the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion are visible in the background.

Friday, 15 August 2014

A grand day out...

Last Friday, LHSA had the opportunity to take part in the annual Royal Edinburgh Hospital Fete. The event has been on our calendar now for a number of years, and it’s been a pleasure to take an ongoing part in the institution that has generated our most widely-used collection.

Along with the craft stalls, live music – yes, we did hear a piper making his way through the hospital corridors! – and home-baking, there’s also a historical element to the fete every year, and that’s where we come in. LHSA Manager Ruth put together a small display demonstrating how the history of the hospital is reflected in our collections in the fete’s History Room, from the first minute book of the hospital to photographs of its buildings in times gone by.   

LHSA display in the Royal Edinburgh Hospital History Room

Some of the items on display in the History Room were also used in last year’s 200 Years 200 Objects exhibition, celebrating the bicentenary of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. My particular favourites were the editions of the Morningside Mirror on display. The Morningside Mirror was a magazine written by patients dating from 1845. It was printed on a specially purchased printing press (part of an early form of ‘occupational therapy’):

LHB7/13/23 - 1964 edition of the Morningside Mirror
By far the most popular items on the day were examples from our photograph collection. Not only did we represent the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, but also Bangour Village Hospital. Since many clinical and support staff who came to see us worked across both buildings, they could see the changes that had occurred across the sites. Perhaps some of the most arresting images we displayed in this centenary year came from the First World War, when both hospitals housed military patients, with Bangour Village Hospital being taken over by the War Office to treat physical casualties of war and the Royal Edinburgh Hospital treating soldiers suffering from the conflict's psychological effects.

Left: Unidentified First World War soldier from LHSA's Bangour Village Hospital collection (P/PL44).
Right: Red Cross ambulance at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, First World War (P/PL7).

The image that intrigued most visitors was this one from 1966:

Celebrity visitor to the Royal Edinburgh Hospital (P/PL7)
We know that this lady was likely to have been a celebrity visitor, but we have had no luck in identifying who she is. As Blue Peter used to say, answers on a postcard, please….

Friday, 8 August 2014

An introduction to our latest intern

The blog this week comes from Stephen, our Archive (Projects) Intern:

Hi, I am Stephen Bournadet, a 26 year old intern with LHSA. I will be working for 10 weeks on various ongoing projects, involving cataloguing, conservation, outreach and fundraising. First a bit about myself: born between Bordeaux and Cognac in France, I graduated 3 years ago with a Master’s degree in Archives / Records Management from Aix-en-Provence. Then, after spending one year working in various places, I felt that I needed to travel while young and I came to Edinburgh where I secured a job as a language assistant. Falling in love with the city and my girlfriend (ah l’amour!) I want to stay here so I’ve started a MSc in Records Management and Digital Preservation at the University of Dundee (which I will complete by the end of 2015). Since arriving I have also been volunteering in various places, such as the National Library of Scotland and the Records Management Section (RMS) of the University of Edinburgh. The RMS is mainly involved in providing the university staff with guidance on record keeping and on handling Freedom of Information requests. From an archive point of view the RMS manages and prepares the records prior to their transfer to the University archives when they are no longer of business value. From a personal point of view, whilst I’ve really enjoyed my work there I must acknowledge that LHSA’s large windows on the 5th floor of the Main Library with views of the Pentland Hills are leading in the best office match!

Stephen hard at work with the Dott case notes

So far after two weeks working on the Norman Dott case note cataloguing project, I have to say that I haven’t been bored for a second. Luckily I haven’t been affected by some very detailed descriptions of patient’s conditions and I quite enjoyed trawling through poetic Latin and Greek medical terms (such as ataxia, hemiparesis or diplopia). Before working with LHSA I already had several forays into medical archives. Three years ago I classified and catalogued archives of a French local health board during WWII, discovering how life under German occupation was harsh (when Jewish doctors were banned from practice, even if hundreds of thousands of refugees had arrived). Last year, while on an internship at the University of Dundee archives, I worked with the Tayside asylums’ archives, carrying out research for relatives from as far away as Australia. 

My current work with LHSA is part of a wider project funded by the Wellcome Trust and involves cataloguing around 26,500 patient case files from collections relating to Norman Dott (1897-1973). Dott was a pioneering Edinburgh neurosurgeon and his records, spanning 40 years (1920-1960), are an invaluable source for history of medicine and genealogic research. The LHSA team and I (modestly) are gathering information on each case (for example patient age, profession and medical conditions) to create an online publically accessible catalogue.  We work with EAD-XML (Encoded Archive Description), an informatics language standard. EAD is widely used by the archive community and allows standardization of digital catalogues.

What has most struck me in this work is how developed surgery was in the 1950s and how efficient. In the case notes we find numerous examples of people who are severely incapacitated by conditions such as back pain or brain tumours. Patient care and surgical treatment could bring a huge relief and allow them to return to a normal life.

Overall a very good experience so far, see you in three weeks for an update on my job here!

Friday, 1 August 2014

Using the archive as artistic inspiration

Over the past few years we’ve been involved in a couple of great projects to create artwork for hospital spaces, where items from the archive have been the starting point for others’ artistic endeavours. The first, ‘Narratives’, used our historic bed plaques coupled with modern relief bronzes to tell the stories of domestic and nursing staff at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, medical science, the role of subscribers before the NHS and the coming of the NHS itself. The second, ‘Unsung Heroes’, looked more closely at the nursing experience and the end result was three cases of historic nursing and hospital badges and new jewellery pieces from Edinburgh College of Art students and tutors.

This panel from 'Narratives' was based on interviews with present and past domestic staff and their memories of the Royal Infirmary when it was at the Lauriston Place site, before the move to Little France
One of the three cases in 'Unsung Heroes'
More recently we’ve been involved with the Royal Edinburgh Hospital’s bicentenary celebrations, which saw a fantastic art installation at the Talbot Rice Gallery and a wonderful story by an award winning author produced after extensive research in the archive collections.
It’s really exciting for us to see how LHSA’s collections can be used by different people for such different ends - from academic research to artwork - and we’re always open to new projects in which we can get involved. The last couple of weeks have seen us take part in two inspiring meetings in which the foundations for future projects using the archive to improve therapeutic spaces in local hospitals have been laid. We look forward to continuing to work with Susan Grant, NHS Lothian’s Art Manager, and Gingko Projects (we collaborated with them on both ‘Narratives’ and ‘Unsung Heroes’), and now we have new partners in the shape of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for Sick Children’s artists in residence - Cate James and Linda Cracknell, an illustrator and writer respectively. These projects are often a long time in the making as ideas are shaped into something concrete over the weeks and months, but watch this space!

Friday, 25 July 2014

Looking Back and Going Forward: Experiences of Project Working

The blog this week comes from Emily, our Project Conservator.

I am now halfway through a 12-month project to conserve LHSA’s HIV/AIDS collections. Since I started in January, time has really flown by and I am very proud of what I have achieved in six months. Project based positions like this are very common for new professionals such as myself. Although it can be worrying not knowing what jobs will be available in the future, or where they may be, I believe there are many positive aspects to undertaking short fixed-term contracts. Firstly, a wide range of conservation experience can be gained from working at different posts. My current post deals with modern papers and plastics, whereas my previous role was based at an 11th century castle and I worked with maps and plans from the 18th and 19th centuries. Prior to this, I lived and worked in rural India at a Buddhist monastery to conserve its wall paintings and I’ve also worked in a high-tech conservation studio in Singapore! All very different roles, but all very enjoyable!

My first conservation placement, Tsuklahkang Temple in Sikkim, India. A wall painting mid-way through surface cleaning
 In the Studio at the Centre for Research Collections. Rehousing large format posters
Although I did not expect to be working with condoms and balloons when I graduated from a fine art conservation degree last year, I have enjoyed working with these modern objects. I had little prior knowledge of this type of material before I started, but I’ve had the chance to study this subject further in this role. Early on in this project, I was able to undertake an online course on the conservation of plastics. This was a fantastic experience as I was able to learn a great deal about plastics and discuss conservation problems with professionals from all over the world, all from the comfort of our office! This was not only beneficial to me, but I was also able to improve the housing of our plastics objects based on the knowledge gained from this class.
I have also taken advantage of other types of training available at Edinburgh University whilst in this post. The University offers many professional development classes. I was keen to take part in the ‘Presentation Skills’ course as this is something that I have always struggled with and wanted to improve. I found this day really useful and I was able to implement the advice given in presentations to tour groups and peers. Another useful class was ‘Writing for the Web’ which gave instruction on designing websites. This is something that will be really useful in the future, with more and more content being accessed online. Last week, I also attended an ‘Interview Skills’ class to prepare for the impending end of my contract!
During my time here, I have tried to take advantage of any opportunities that have come my way. Inspired by the modern materials in the collection and supported by my line manager, Ruth, I applied to the Wellcome Trust Small Grant Fund to put on a symposium. I recently found out that I was successful in this bid and plan to hold the event, which will focus on the conservation of modern plastics and funding applications, at the end of November. On the back of this, I have also been asked to present at a conference in London on the conservation of the HIV/AIDS collection – both things I never imagined I would be doing when I started this job! I’ve also had the occasion to help put on ‘Conservation Taster Day’ and work with interns. In the near future I will also be supervising volunteers and interns in the studio. Over the next six months, I am looking forward to seeing where else this project will take me, and of course actually completing the conservation work on time!

Conservation taster day at the conservation studio
My advice to others, in similar positions to me, is to jump in with both feet to whatever project you find yourself in and make the most of the chances that are available. It is surprising where they may lead you!    

Friday, 18 July 2014

Let’s Get Social - Working to Promote the HIV/AIDS Collections

Although the main objective of the HIV/AIDS project is to catalogue the records and make them available for all users who have an interest in them;  it is also important that we promote the collections as widely as possible otherwise users won’t know that the records exist. The use of various social media platforms means that project updates are now available to anyone in any country in the world, which has opened up new avenues of communication that would not be available to the project otherwise.

Social media revolutionised the way we connect with our users!

LHSA as as institution has been involved in social media communication since 2009 and currently has a Facebook page, twitter feed, Flickr gallery and this blog. Having a range of communication methods allows our users to connect with is in a way that suits them and only link to the posts and feeds that interest them.

Some of our albums listed on Flickr
In terms of the HIV/AIDS project, the visual element of the collections means that social media is an excellent way to generate interest in the collections and the work to catalogue and preserve them. The HIV/AIDS collections involved contain a large volume of promotional postcards, information leaflets, business cards, posters and photographs.  Before the invention of social media, items like these could only be displayed in exhibitions in small numbers meaning that lots of the items could go unseen by many people who may be interested in them. Uploading these images to Flickr means that anyone searching the interenet for related topics will see the images and know where to access them should they wish to in the future. 

Screenshot of our Twitter Page
Searching a catalogue on-line, making an appointment and coming in to view records on a subject of interest can be a time consuming activity. However, through regular tweets we can contact users in 140 characters or less about items of interest or exciting developments within the archive.  We can also highlight changes to opening hours or search room closures due to events to ensure no one has a wasted journey to view our collections. Facebook allows us to give short project updates and talk about items of interest without alienating those with no time to read the blog. The great thing about social media is that no one misses out and we are able to promote the archive in ways that seemed imposible 20 years ago.
Example of a post from Facebook

Using social media allows us to make the collections fully accessible to anyone, anywhere at any time. The purpose of keeping archives is to tell their story to the world in an interesting way and social media allows for a flexible communication method that focuses on the collection, the staff and the users - the most important elements of any archive!

Friday, 11 July 2014

Charting neurosurgery

As previous Dott project blog posts have discussed there is a wealth of information to be found in the individual patient case notes and they are made up of a variety of documentation from which specific details are recorded and entered into the catalogue. A lot of what we require for the catalogue entries can be found in typed case summaries or correspondence which will give details about the patient, their condition, how they were treated and the outcome of their treatment, but other documents such as clinical charts provide additional detail such as the type and dosage of medication the patient received and detailed monitoring of their physical condition.
LHB40 CC/24/PR2.9393

LHB1 CC/24/PR2.9393
The volume of material comprising each case note can vary greatly, often depending on the patient’s condition and how they were treated.  The clinical charts tend to be found at the very back of the case note and in some instances were surgical treatment has been undergone there can be a large volume of charts detailing the patient’s condition prior to and after their treatment.
LHB1 CC/24/PR2.9356
There are several different types of chart that appear in the case notes including those which record temperature, pulse, blood pressure, respiration,  fluid balance, medication administered, body charts and eye charts. I have selected some of the different clinical charts I have come across in the last few weeks from case notes of patients who were treated in the Department of Surgical Neurology in 1950 and 1951.
LHB1 CC/24/PR2.9364

LHB1 CC/24/PR2.9526
These records are a valuable part of the case notes as they can provide important detailed information that may not be included in case summaries about their symptoms and condition and showing how patients were treated and how they reacted to treatment.