My name is Bridget Cox and I am currently doing an undergraduate degree in History but very keen to pursue a career in the world of archives! Over the last couple of years I have tried to gain as much experience as possible in lots of different archives and the last two weeks of volunteering at LHSA have definitely contributed to this.
Working mostly with collections relating to the patients and nurses of various Edinburgh hospitals, I have been fascinated by the extent of the personal information medical records are able to provide, from nurses’ exam results to notes on a patient’s physical appearance.
|LHB1/95/17 – Nursing: Record of Training|
Much of my time volunteering has been spent researching for enquiries. I have become aware that though it is wonderful to be able to provide researchers or family historians with such detailed information, the reasons for the existence of these records can make it a little bittersweet. One particular enquiry relating to a psychiatric hospital illustrated this for me. Although the search began for a single patient, the nature of psychiatric case books, (which recorded mental and physical history and symptoms as well as family history), allowed me to discover that he had three relatives who had all also spent time in the same hospital, suffering from a similar condition. While this is information is useful for expanding a family tree, it is also very difficult to consider the repeated tragedies experienced by this family.
|GD30/58/7 - Roxburgh, Berwick and Selkirk District Asylum case book, May 1887 – December 1889|
LHSA also holds and continues to collect more light-heated personal records which have proved to be as entertaining as they are informative! I could have spent many more hours listening to nurses chatting away about their careers working at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh as they were recorded for the RIE Oral History project. They reflected on all aspects of working in ‘The Royal’, from the wards and their training to the drills in preparation for the turn of the millennium. I had a limited experience of oral histories before this, but have loved working with such characterful records. They area already an incredibly interesting and valuable resource and contain one or two stories which I am sure will be a source of great amusement for their future listeners!
- Thank you Bridget! You have been enormous help and we wish you the very best of luck with your final year!