For two weeks in July, we had the pleasure of hosting Sanya Kuslii, a high school student soon to go into her final, S6 year. Sanya was on placement in the Career Ready programme, a national initiative connecting young people with the world of work through mentorship and hands-on placements. Sanya wants to study medicine, so her career aims are a bit different from people who usually work with us to gain experience. We hope we made the connection between Edinburgh's medical past and its (judging by Sanya's abilities!) very bright future. We'll leave it to Sanya to explain:
Hello, I am Sanya Kuslii and I am doing a 2-week placement with LHSA based at the University of Edinburgh as part of a 4-week internship with Career Ready. The structure of my internship is a bit bizarre – I had worked at the Anatomical Museum during the last week of June, where I helped gather information for the accreditation of the museum, and various bits and bobs. The following week I was at the Medical Campus Week at the University of Edinburgh, before starting my internship with LHSA; after these 2 weeks I will return to the Museum to complete my last week of the internship there. Despite just starting my second week with LHSA as I write this, I have worked on a few projects covering a variety of themes, which I have chosen to mention in this blog.
One of my first assigned tasks was to index some press cutting from the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, previously known as the Edinburgh Lunatic Asylum in the 19th century. The Hospital collected many cut-outs from newspapers or publications printed in Britain which mentioned the hospital or anything relating to it, such as the laws regarding the treatment of patients suffering from mental health disorders or patients that were treated in the Hospital. This was similar to the work I was doing at the museum, where I analysed large quantities of data, rearranging it into a more accessible format; at LHSA I handled the original bound volume from the Hospital and read the stories and news, and I was also able to improve my skills of skim reading and summarising large amounts of information into several sentences for easy interpretation. It was also amazing to see how well the book had been preserved for the past 150 years; the spine, cover and pages themselves were, arguably, in perfect condition.
Building upon the topic of conservation of archival material, I had the opportunity to work on some work surrounding the conservation of accessions with Ruth Honeybone, LHSA Manager. The accessions included some clippings from one of the patients of Prof. Norman Dott, a Scottish neurosurgeon and the first holder of the Chair of Neurosurgery at the University of Edinburgh. Enclosed was a newspaper clipping about Prof. Dott, admittance cards from the patient’s visitors, and an information booklet that had been given to admitted patients. Another accession was a collection of documents from the Edinburgh Cancer Centre and included re-prints of Professor McWhirter, research into cancer therapies, chemotherapy booklets and more. The hands-on work that morning included transferring the sheets of paper out of their original wrapping into acid-free folders to prevent them from decomposing, and making sure the documents sat comfortably in their boxes. What appealed to me through-out the morning was the different factors that you need to consider to efficiently re-house an accession – what paper should I use for this? Should I keep the original housing material, or can I bin it? How much material can I place into one folder before it becomes too much? Given my passion to pursue medicine after high school, the re-housing workshop reminded me of the numerous questions a doctor should be asking themselves when caring for a patient, as well as the methodical approach we took to ensure the accessions were placed in the right order.
Another project I have enjoyed participating in was organising an activity for the University's Science Insights visit to LHSA, which focused on records from the Dietetics Department at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Medical Officer of Health reports from the early 20th century, and an 18th century patient case study from Dr John Gregory. For this project, I digitised the majority of the collection items, created questions the students could think about regarding the collections, and a slide show with photographs of the Dietetics Department. Given the short amount of time we had, the plan was to give each group folders with all three collections and let them explore them, before selecting a favourite fact/memorable piece of information to share with the others. They really enjoyed it, and we are hoping Science Insights will come back to LHSA next year.
To get a better understanding about the kind of things LHSA do, apart from preserving and storing information, I had the chance to work through some enquiries with Louise Neilson, LHSA Access Officer. These queries came in last week, and were asking for some more information about patients. The two enquiries were different from one another: the first was very straightforward, and only required access to one patient register from Longmore Hospital, while the other was more complex, relating to a patient who had stayed at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for over 3 decades. We had to take out several bound volumes between two store rooms, following notes between pages to complete the search for the end of the records for that patient. I got to explore the two extremes of the types of things people can request from LHSA, and how the medical history of Lothian ties into the modern world.
During my second week I worked with some of the non-paper collections at the archive, which included oral history, photographs, glass plate negatives, film, and other objects. I chose to look at the photographs of medical teaching at the University of Edinburgh from the early 20th century, placing them into melinex sleeves for easier handling and writing up a shorts description about each one. I was excited to see how medicine had been taught at Edinburgh just a hundred years ago. Having recently visited the old lecture theatre where the majority of the lectured had been located, it felt surreal to look back in time at the theatre and imagine what it must have felt like for the students studying medicine at Edinburgh. Arguably, this was one of my highlights of the placement.
|Dr Derrick Dunlop (top) and Dr G Jamieson (below) teaching in the University of Edinburgh Medical School, c. 1930s (Acc20/009)|
To conclude this blog I would like to say how lucky I was to get a placement with LHSA. I really enjoyed working with the small but lovely team of Louise Williams, Louise Neilson, and Ruth Honeybone, and I have learned a lot about archives: how they work, how they are relevant to today’s world – not just keeping and preserving information but also reaching out to the public. If you get the chance, definitely visit LHSA in the Centre for Research Collections (CRC) at the Main Library; they have some really interesting things and you will definitely want to come back.