Friday, 26 August 2011

Old archives and new artworks

Our year-long ‘Unsung Heroes’ project is coming to a close with a new exhibition in Edinburgh University Main Library. This showcases historic badges from LHSA’s collections, and artworks from Edinburgh College of Art (eca) students and staff that have been inspired by them, before permanent display in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.

The 'Unsung Heroes' exhibition
The exhibition is in the reception of the Centre for Research Collections, on the sixth floor of the Library ( 30 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9LJ). Entrance is free, and the exhibition will run until 24 September 2011. It’s a great opportunity to see some of our collections and some beautiful pieces of enamel work by talented artists. You’ll also get the chance to look at a selection of their sketchbooks and preliminary pieces to see how the design process evolves.

New artwork and several of our badges on the top shelf and a sketchbook below
The project has also had an oral history element – retired and current Royal Infirmary nurses have been interviewed and their stories have helped the creation of new pieces by our eca partners. The testimonies will come to us once the project is finished. For those of you with smartphones, extracts are available via QR tags in the exhibition.

‘Unsung Heroes’ has been a fascinating project to be involved with. For more information please see the project page on our website (Unsung Heroes project page). It has brought the Archive to a new audience and the collections have been used in exciting new ways as a result.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Charting our cataloguing progress

One of our hardworking volunteers, Louise, has recently completed cataloguing the Papers of Amelia Nyasa Laws (our ref: GD18). Dr Laws had a widely travelled and varied life and career. Born in 1886 in Nyasaland (now Malawi), she was educated in Edinburgh and Rome. She worked as a masseuse in a French field hospital in the First World War then later worked in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. She graduated from the University of Edinburgh with an MB ChB in 1930. She did further training in Physiotherapy in Brussels, Orthopaedics in Hanover and specialised in Osteopathy in London. She practiced as an Osteopath in London until her retirement in 1959 and after this she lived in Edinburgh where she still continued to receive patients until the age of 90. She died in 1978. The collection comprises of Amelia’s case notes, lecture notes, glass plate negatives, anatomical charts, objects, books and personal effects. The completion of the cataloguing of these documents means that all of Dr Laws’ papers are now more accessible for future generations to learn about her story.

Part of chart showing sections of the iris (GD18/10/9)
Dr Laws took a keen interest in iridology (often examining the eyes of her patients).  Above is part of a coloured chart showing sections of the iris and its relationship to parts of the human body (part of GD18/10/9), which was published by Kr├╝ger and Co. in 1924. Included in the collection are Dr Laws’ handwritten notes regarding this chart dating from 1924-1929.

Friday, 12 August 2011

User services update

Up to the end of July this year we’ve had 80 readers who between them have made nearly 200 visits and consulted 951 items! Our readers have come from all over the UK and Ireland, from mainland Europe and further afield from the USA, Australia and Canada. A wide range of topics have been researched: students from Edinburgh College of Art have used Archive material to inspire their artwork to be displayed in the forthcoming Unsung Heroes exhibition (see blog of 13th May), records of the Edinburgh Royal Maternity Hospital have been used as part of a birth weight study to examine the effects of birth weight, amongst other things, on cognitive ability in old age. We’ve also had retired nurses looking at their nurse training records from the 1940s and 1950s; it’s often a shock for them to see the comments made by the matron, or a photo of their younger selves! LHSA shares reading room facilities at the Centre for Research Collections, Edinburgh University Library which offers a bright, modern area in which to consult records and is free to use.

An item recently consulted in the reading room (from the Royal Edinburgh Hospital Physician Superintendents' collection)

We’ve also received 356 remote enquiries, usually by email or through our website, from all corners of the globe. There are requests for images of our material to be used in publications, guidance on records retention schedules for NHS staff, advice on conservation and a whole host of academic and local history queries. These have come from a wide range of sources including the NHS, the media, other archive services, students and academics. Many enquiries are from family historians looking for information on an ancestor’s stay in hospital, or as an employee of a hospital. No two enquiries are the same and they provide an opportunity for staff to learn more about the material held in the Archive and to develop research techniques.

To make an appointment to view LHSA records, please email us at or call on tel: 0131 650 3392

Friday, 5 August 2011

x-rays: tackling long-term preservation

The orthopaedic case notes from the Princess Margaret Rose Hospital (ref: LHB30 CC/131) originally contained many x-ray photographs of patients’ limbs as their treatment progressed. The case notes date from 1932-1958, a period when x-rays were produced on unstable acetyl acetate, which slowly deteriorates over time giving off a characteristic vinegar smell. This reaction can be stalled but not halted therefore a digitisation project was carried out during 2004-2005 to make electronic copies of all of the x-rays. The digital images were stored on DVDs, however, they also deteriorate over time and run the risk of becoming unreadable if they get scratched.

A back-up procedure for LHSA’s digital images has been introduced to secure preservation over the longer term. Digital images at preservation standard (TIFF) are extremely large (sometimes over 4 gigabytes on each x-ray DVD) so they cannot be saved onto an ordinary PC, therefore a stand-alone hard drive is used to store LHSA’s larger digital files.

This week each of the x-ray DVDs has been copied to this hard drive to provide a back-up copy of the x-rays for the Archive, a process that takes about 15 minutes per DVD. Since the degraded x-rays could also damage the rest of the Archive collection and they are now copied, the originals will be disposed of in accordance with secure waste procedures to meet confidentiality legislation.

Stephen transferring x-ray images to the external hard drive