Friday, 27 March 2015

It’s official!

We’ve known for a while now that we were successful in our archive service accreditation application – we were told towards the end of November last year. But now we’ve got the certificate to prove it!

On Tuesday night, the National Records of Scotland hosted an evening reception where we were presented our certificate by Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs. Louise and I represented LHSA, and Jacky MacBeath (Head of Museums) and Stuart Lewis (Acting Director of Library and University Collections and Head of Research and Learning Services) joined us from the University. And of course we were delighted to be there with the other recipients of certificates from Falkirk Archives and, our hosts, the National Records of  Scotland.

The official photographer for the evening captured the moment (from left to right: Jacky, me, Fiona Hyslop, Louise and Stuart.

And Stuart, our unofficial photographer, got another of us with the certificate….now where to hang it?

Ruth Honeybone, LHSA Manager


Friday, 20 March 2015

Popstars in the Archive

Closing into the final month working on the Wellcome Trust funded HIV/AIDS project at LHSA, I have been cataloguing GD22 - The Take Care Campaign. The Take Care Campaign began in the late 1980s in response to cases of HIV and AIDS in the Edinburgh and Lothian being four times the national average, affecting mainly young heterosexual people. The Campaign was intended to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS amongst all members of the community and involved advertising, events, and education, which were often described as ‘ground-breaking’. The Campaign took a very direct, explicate and vibrant approach to get their message across. Straight to the point promotion of safe sex was disseminated which stressed the importance for everyone to ‘Take care of themselves and encourage others to take care’. 
So what was it about the Campaign’s promotional activities that made it so effective? I turned to the Take Care Campaign Report, 1988 – 1989 (GD22/4/1/2) for more details. The Report is really useful in providing a background to the HIV/AIDS problem in Edinburgh and the need for such a Campaign. It also provides a record of the promotional activities the Campaign used to get their message across. Some of the most innovative ideas included: turning a Lothian bus pink and decorating it in the Take Care message; a banner bearing the slogan, ‘Take Care of the one you love and AIDS concerns us all’ was displayed on the railings at the top of the Mound; and the Campaign promoted the first installation of condom machines in pubs, ‘discos’, and large workplaces.

However, after I had an all singing and dancing wedding weekend, Deacon Blues ‘Dignity’ being a party favourite, coming back to work on Monday morning was a treat when I came across a signed copy of a Deacon Blue vinyl within the collection. 
Signed Deacon Blue Vinyl 'Wages Day' (GD22/10/8)
Deacon Blue were an Edinburgh based band, having their main hits in the late 1980s but who also supported the Take Care Campaign. They featured in special concerts and participated in advertising the Take Care message. They were not the only ones though! James with their famous hit ‘Sit-down’ were also advocates of the Campaign, as well as Scottish band Simple Minds. Within the collection there are some great images that illustrate how the Campaign used contemporary pop-culture to connect with the audience in which it wished to target.
James postcard advertising the Take Care Campaign (GD22/14/4/6/12)

At Deacon Blue concerts 6700 postcards which pictured the band with the lead singer wearing a pink watch, with the Take Care message, were given to fans as their tickets were checked. According to the Campaign Report, ‘The cleaners were asked to set aside the cards which were left behind. These amounted to 133, indicating a very good initial retention rate’. Similarly at a Simple Minds concert at Meadowbank, Take Care posters were produced for the event and Take Care messages were flashed on electronic scoreboards during the event.   
Deacon Blue postcard advertising the Take Care Campaign, given out at their concert (GD22/14/4/6/15)

These were just some of the innovative ways that the Take Care Campaign effectively got such an important message across during a very threatening time to health in Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Engaging with Education: Creating resources based on the HIV/AIDS collections.

Last week, I began a month long project to make the newly accessible HIV/AIDS collections (conserved and catalogued last year) more available to a larger and more diverse audience. The project is funded by the Wellcome Trust’s ‘Provision for Public Engagement’ scheme, which allows previously Wellcome Trust funded projects to apply for further funding to develop a strategy to encourage the public to use and engage with the material. Our project aims to create educational resources based on the HIV/AIDS collections and linked to the Curriculum for Excellence, focusing on the year groups S2 to S3. These resources will be uploaded on to a dedicated website and are for use by teachers and educational professionals.

Collage of postcards from the 'Take Care' Campaign
This is a short term project which hopes to achieve a lot. As such, there is a large group of people who are helping out. Firstly, the website is being created in house by the Interactive Content Team. They have come up with some great designs and ideas for the website based on the collection items. Next we have Iain Philips, who is on a short term secondment from John Lewis, thanks to a John Lewis Golden Jubilee Award. He will be working 2 days a week for the next 20 weeks at LHSA, and for his first month he will be making educational resources and helping with the promotion of the website. Clair Millar, Project Cataloguing Archivist, is also helping out on the project. She will be providing some historical context for the website, describing the problem of HIV/AIDS in Edinburgh and the Lothians in more detail, to give a background to the collections. Conservation volunteer, Colette Bush, will also be helping out on this project. Colette is starting a Master’s degree in Museum Studies and will also be making educational resources for the website. Finally, the LHSA team will help with checking the website for any errors or navigational problems, making this project a truly collaborative effort! 
Collage of Postcards made for World AIDS day
As I trained as a paper conservator, this project is a little bit out of my comfort zone. So I have been talking to teachers, youth workers and educational professionals to find out more about the curriculum and how to make educational resources. I first dipped my toes in to world of Education by attending a one-day workshop provided by the Scottish Council on Archives entitled “Understanding the Curriculum”. This gave a basic overview of the education system in Scotland (invaluable for someone like me who is from south of the border!) and gives an introduction on how to make educational resources based on archive material. I’ve also spoken with representatives from Education Scotland who gave useful information on teacher’s needs and timetables as well as giving insightful feedback on our resource drafts.  Edinburgh University’s Widening Participation team have also been very positive about the project and will help us advertise the website when it is completed to the local schools that they work with. We’ve also had a great response from Crew 2000, a charity that provides information, advice and support for young people on sexual health and drug use.  

Overall, the project has got off to a great start. The HIV/AIDS collections have huge education potential and there is loads of material to choose from to make engaging and informative resources. The website will be launched in May, so keep your eyes peeled for project updates in the coming months!

Friday, 6 March 2015

The early days of dietetics in Edinburgh...

It was observed in early hospitals that patients tended to get better more quickly if they were well nourished. It was also noted that patients with certain illnesses sometimes needed more of particular foods while others could not tolerate some foods at all.
According to the British Dietetic Association website, the earliest dietary observations were at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in 1687 and the first recorded therapeutic diet was at Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford in 1837. It was not until the late 19th century and early 20th century, however that the science of dietetics was developed, first in the United States of America. In 1920 a report was commissioned by the Board of Managers of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (RIE) to investigate dietetic arrangements and the Dietetic Department opened in 1924, the first hospital known to have developed such a department. Sister Ruth Pybus was appointed dietician and obtained a Rockefeller Scholarship to study dietetics in American hospitals. In 1928, the Rockefeller Foundation also generously gave the hospital a grant towards the building of facilities for the Dietetic Department which included a metabolic unit, two wards, a diet kitchen and laboratory. The image shows the diet kitchen in 1950.

Staff working in the dietetic kitchen, ward 21 RIE, 1950 (P/PL1/S/395)
Much ingenuity was exercised in the creation of recipes in the early days. The ‘liver diet’ and the ‘spleen diet’ were created for patients with pernicious anaemia and great effort was made in producing bran wafers for diabetics, made from bran with the starch removed put into a jelly of agar-agar or carragheen moss. The consistency was described as being like fairy toast with the appearance of thin firelighters, but they were much in demand by patients! LHSA holds a set of tasty recipes from the Dietetic Department from the 1950s, which includes this one for chicken in jelly (LHB1/89/4/1).

Recipe for chicken in jelly, 1950s (LHB1/89/4/1)

References: The Growth and Development of the Dietetic Department: 4 The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh by Anna Buchan, International Journal of Food and Nutrition vol. VII, no. 2, Summer 1954.

British Dietetic Association website:

Friday, 27 February 2015

Just mess-ing around...

In this week's blog, Archivist Louise has been looking at a hidden side of hospital life...

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the records that we hold for hospital staff are considerably less detailed than most of those that we have for patients. We can often say that someone was a nurse, doctor or a member of non-medical staff at a particular time, but can provide few other details than that. Although sometimes photographs, monographs and nurse training records can fill some gaps, it can be hard to access individual personalities behind professional roles or to reconstruct the daily lives of hospital staff from archives alone.

However, for some periods and for some institutions, we have a little more to build up a picture of life off the wards. One example that I’ve become intrigued by is the section of our Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (RIE) collection from the Residents’ Mess. After graduating from their medical course, physicians had to complete a period of practice experience in a hospital, in whose grounds they lived as a House Officer for six months (before 1950 – although this then was amended to a full year of service). We have quite a range of records from those serving this medical apprenticeship, from the photographs of residents that appear fairly often on our website and social media, including our earliest featuring Joseph Lister…..

Our earliest photograph of RIE residents, 1854 (P/PLI/S/294)

… to lists of residents (charting the early careers of clinicians who would go on to change the course of Scottish medical history), rules, correspondence, financial records and ephemera.

Page from Rules Subscribed by Resident Physicians and Surgeons (1895-1928) from October 1921. Can you spot and famous names? (LHB1/114/1)

One set of records that stood out to me was the log books of the Residents’ Mess – what would a canteen log book be like, I wondered naively? In fact, a ‘Mess’ referred to each new intake of residents. Looking at the Residents’ Mess log book from 1914 to 1915, it is a curious document, recording the lighter side of clinical life with an entry for each day. There are in-jokes lost in the interceding years, nicknames, some decidedly savoury language and an almost daily recording of fines handed down to members of the Mess. Here is a more than typical (and relatively tame!) page:

Page from Log Book of Residents' Mess 1914 - 1915 (LHB1/115/4)

This loose page from an unknown volume mentions (amongst the obligatory sampling of wine for the mess dinner) a fancy dress parade, which seems to have dropped off, but was planned to be revived:

Page from undated Log Book of Residents' Mess, undated (LHB1/115/5)

The Mess Log from 1914 has more detail about the parade, which took place every Christmas Eve at 11pm from the Surgical Outpatients’ Department (SOPD), and lists in delightful detail the individual outfits of each member taking part, including the prize-winner, Dr W A Alexander, who cut a dash as a ‘ballet girl’. Dr Alexander was far from alone, since ‘there was a strong majority of ladies of all ages, nationalities and description from Little Red Riding Hood up to the fully developed butterflys [sic.]’.

Page mentioning the residents' outfits from the Log Book of the Residents' Mess 1914-1915  (LHB1/115/4)

If you’d like to put some faces to some of the names mentioned, here is the class of Winter 1914, with the fancy dress prize-winner in the centre front row:

RIE Residents, Winter 1914 (LHSA photographic collection)

And to prove that the parade was not an isolated occurrence, here's an early twentieth century image of residents in their finery:

Residents taking a break from their hospital white coats, early twentieth century (P/PL1/R/008)

The residents also produced a light-hearted magazine, the Infirmary Independent, of which we have the first (and perhaps only!) edition from 1913. It serialised stories, published satirical poems, and included outlines of out-of-work activities, including theatre and sports.


Cover and first page of The Infirmary Independent, 1913 (LHB1/115/12)
My favourite part of the magazine is ‘The Probationer’s Guide to Knowledge’ (a probationer is defined in the piece as a trainee – or in this case ‘trying’ – nurse) – but at least these young doctors seem to know their place before the ultimate earthly hospital authority, since they acknowledge that 'above [the probationers] are the assistant nurses, above them the sisters, above them the assistant-superintendents , above them the lady superintendent, above her, we believe, the Almighty.'

What we have left from the residents' off-duty life is at times funny, sometimes (to our twenty-first century ears) bordering on the (or actually) offensive, but reveals a world lost in time. This world was undoubtedly a privileged one, since residents had the advantage of an elite education and received no salaries from the RIE before the NHS, but would come to rely for their income on private practice.

Residents' event invitation sent to Dr W A Alexander, the fancy dress competition winner! (LHB1/115/7)
Although this world of Latin invitations and medical graduates dressing as ballet girls may justifiably invoke ire at the social inequalities of the early twentieth century, it must be read in the context of its time - perhaps as an outlet for people at the start of their careers with heavy expectations on their shoulders. Similarly, we can see these items with some relief that we have moved towards an era in which there is a narrower social gap between doctors and many of their patients.

And if you ever wondered what the Mess actually had for their dinner every night, we can tell you that as well:

Pages from book of residents' daily menus, 1918 - 1921 (LHB1/115/8) 
If you've been equally fascinated by the world of the RIE residency, you can read more in coming weeks, as we outline a theatrical visit to the fledgling doctors in our Every Picture Tells a Story feature. And this time, it's not the residents dressing up....



Friday, 20 February 2015

Making friends and influencing people (with the Scottish Council on Archives)

AKA Ruth provides an update on a recent Scottish Council on Archives development and its impact on LHSA...

Last week I went to a Scottish Council on Archives (SCA) event in which they introduced their brand new Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation status (SCIO). SCA provides leadership for the archives and records management sector in Scotland in a number of important ways (more information here) and we’ve worked closely with SCA for a few years now. We’ve certainly taken advantage of all the fabulous advocacy work SCA does for our sector - our most notable success was submitting a recipe for invalid fruit tart to their awareness raising campaign, ‘Edible Archive’, which made its way onto the 2012 Great British Bake Off!

More recently we were awarded Accredited Archive Status, a process which was supported by SCA, and we’ve been pumping their Education Development Officer for information to help with our new Wellcome Trust-funded public engagement project where we’ll be producing online resources for teachers. We’re also looking forward to Paul, Edinburgh University’s Skills for the Future Trainee, spending some time with us over the summer. He’s been based in the Centre for Research Collections since October last year as part of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant managed by SCA that aims to offer experience in the archive sector to six people each year for three years.

But what does SCA’s new SCIO status mean for us? Well, we’ll be hoping to carry on working with a great organisation, but now it will be as a member of it! Becoming a member is free, and if you’d like to join us in joining them, more information is available here:

Friday, 13 February 2015

The growth of the Department of Surgical Neurology

In 1960 a new Department of Surgical Neurology was opened at the Western General Hospital, Edinburgh (WGH) under Professor Norman Dott. This new department brought together the facilities for the diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of surgical neurology patients that Dott had been working towards throughout his career. 
Image showing the new Department at Surgical Neurology at WGH (LHB11/7/2)
When he started out in the 1920s there were no dedicated facilities for surgical neurology patients and Dott worked in private practice, treating patients in rooms in a private nursing home and moving his surgical equipment across Edinburgh in a taxi. In 1931, Dott was appointed Associate Neurological Surgeon at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (RIE) and was and given access to four post-operative beds for his patients in Wards 13 and 14 and use of the operating theatre. This was the beginning of the Department of Surgical Neurology at RIE, which was the first of its kind in Scotland.  This move was followed in 1936 with the allocation of Ward 20, which was located in the clock tower at RIE, to Dott to set up his own department. However it wasn’t until 1938 that the new department received its first patients, as the Ward had to be extended and made fit for purpose, this included adding an operating theatre (with a special steel elliptical lighting dome imported from Paris and a sound-proof viewing room which featured one-way glass for students to view operations), twenty beds, an ophthalmic room, staff-room and out-patient facilities. Further accommodation was made available to Dott and his team in 1939 at Bangour General Emergency Service Hospital at Broxburn in West Lothian, where he established the Brain Injuries Unit providing treatment to military and civilian cases. The Department of Surgical Neurology, now firmly established as a specialist unit, operated over two sites providing different services at each location throughout the 1940s and 1950s. Although the department was extended in the 1950s, the growing number of patients (in 1959/1960 Ward 20 dealt with 1,100 patients, performed 900 operations and saw 6,000 out-patients – still with only twenty beds) and the demands on the expertise of Dott and his team meant that more space was needed. A major contributing factor to the growth in patient numbers was the increase in head injuries sustained in road accidents due to the rise in car use.

Roof of operating theatre at Ward 20, RIE (P/PL1/B/l/080)

So, to the Western General were a six- storey block was built, at a cost of £500,000, to accommodate the expanded Department of Surgical Neurology.  The new building housed twin operating theatres; sixty beds; physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and occupational therapy rooms; and staff accommodation.  The theatres, which were specially designed by Norman Dott and described by fellow surgeons as ‘Utopian’, were an ovid shape designed to limit infection and had domed roofs which featured shadowless lamps.
Plan of operating theatre, WGH (LHB13/11/5)
Ward 20 at RIE became a specialist unit for head and spinal injuries and for out-patient services, while the new department at WGH was mainly for elective surgery, with patients transferring between the two sites. The sites were even more equipped to work together when, in 1962 a television link was set up. Norman Dott retired in 1963, but the department that he established continued to grow and lead the way in research and treatment, finally merging in 1986 with the Department of Medical Neurology to form the Department of Clinical Neurosciences.

Television link between Department of Surgical Neurology at WGH and Ward 20 at RIE (P/PL1/l/006)

More images relating to Norman Dott can now be viewed on the Scottish Cultural Resources Access Network (SCRAN) by following this link:


The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (1929-1979), Catford, E F
A History of the Western General Hospital Edinburgh, Eastwood, M and Jenkinson, A

With Sharp Compassion: Norman Dott Freeman Surgeon of Edinburgh, Rush, Christopher and Shaw, John F