Friday, 8 April 2011

Objects day

This week we have held an ‘Objects Day’, focussing solely on the cataloguing and re-housing of objects received amongst a number of recent accessions.

LHSA collects the historically important local records of NHS hospitals and other health-related organisations, and whilst this largely consists of paper-based material, LHSA also holds approximately 1,000 objects. Objects can play an important part in informing us about the past, particularly where paper records are incomplete.

Objects have distinct archival requirements and ensuring that they are catalogued and conserved appropriately is a real team effort. They are each assigned a unique reference number and catalogued separately from the paper-based collections by our Assistant Archivist, Laura. A description of each object (materials used, dimensions, any information about where it has come from etc.) is entered into a specially designed database and the objects are then passed to our Archive Assistant, Stephen, to be photographed so that there is an image to go with each database entry. This means that we can find information about our object collection quickly and easily in order to respond to enquiries and to identify suitable items for displays or exhibitions. Finally, our Paper Conservator, Ruth, assesses the objects’ conservation needs and houses them accordingly to ensure they can be stored with a minimum risk of future damage and decay. 
Stephen, Ruth and Laura at work
The description of each object is very important because, without the story behind them, the objects carry little archive information and it may be difficult to identify what they are or ascertain their purpose. For example, earlier this year we received an unused pair of nurse’s gloves (LHSA reference O456) as part of an accession. These are made of white leather, are 27cm long and date from about the 1950s. White leather gloves are not very practical for a nurse you might think but the depositor was able to tell us the story behind them. Each ward on the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh had one 24 hour ‘waiting day’ per week. This was the day on which that ward received any emergency patients. On the extremely rare occasions when 24 hours went by without an admission, the Ward Sister would be presented with a pair of these white gloves.
Nurse's Gloves (Object O456)

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