Friday, 21 December 2012

On the twelfth day of Christmas... true love sent to me…twelve months of enquiries.

“The LHSA inbox never sleeps!” With so many ways in which to get in contact, LHSA receives enquiries from all corners of the globe at all times of day and night. By far the majority are received by email, or through our website, but we still receive letters and phone calls, and even one fax this year! We’re also seeing increasing numbers arriving via our social media forums (see the Fourth Day of Christmas), and our enquiries figures are up by 27% on 2011.

One in seven of our enquirers make the trip to the Centre for Research Collections reading room to look at the original records. We receive requests for information from the NHS, the media, academics and students, other archives and libraries, and private individuals looking into local and family history and the history of medicine (from very specific biographical and institutional facts, to clinical research covering vast numbers of records over a long time span). We also provide reproductions from our 40,000-strong image collection and advice to other conservators and archivists, and contribute to archival awareness campaigns. The Royal Edinburgh Hospital has been the most heavily used collection for the past few years – will it be again in 2013? Watch this space!

Our enquiries service is available to all, and we’ll be back to answer more queries in the New Year, but in the meantime our inbox is waiting! We wish all enquirers (and everyone else!) a joyful festive season, and a happy 2013.

Looking festive: the LHSA in-tray with just a few of the enquiries from 2012

Thursday, 20 December 2012

On the eleventh day of Christmas... true love sent to me…eleven volunteers.

Over the last 12 months our volunteer programme has gone from strength to strength, and eleven people have benefited from the training and experience they have gained whilst working with LHSA staff and collections.

We’ve offered a range of volunteer placements from one-day taster sessions for those who are interested in the archive sector but have yet to decide whether it is the career from them, through to those who have volunteered with us for the whole year and are building up a body of experience to then go on to train professionally. Our volunteers come to us with different levels of experience and we cater the work to make sure we offer them the best placement possible, and to ensure we get the best use out of their freely-given time!

Our volunteers have been students, members of the public and Edinburgh University or NHS Lothian staff. They have come to us as they see the opportunity to volunteer with LHSA as a means of getting a place on a postgraduate archive studies programme, making a career change or establishing their career path in the archive sector. This year we’ve been very pleased to work with Real Jobs and NHS Lothian to offer placements for users of the mental health service wishing to get back into work.

We are able to offer volunteers placements to develop archive or conservation skills depending on the individual's particular interests. In the case of the latter our volunteers this year have treated a significant number of architectural plans that would otherwise be too fragile to use, and helped re-house new accessions before they are transferred to the store.

Trimming a repair to an architectural plan

One of our conservation volunteers, Fiona, behind some recently re-housed accessions

We will continue our volunteer programme throughout 2013, with the addition of two internships with a small stipend attached. We will be offering one archive internship and one conservation internship, full-time for 10 weeks. We’re excited about the new possibilities this will open up to the individuals who secure the internships as well as the work they will undertake to preserve the collections and enhance accessibility.

Our volunteers often post to the LHSA blog, so regular progress reports will be available throughout 2013!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

On the tenth day of Christmas... true gave to me...the piper at Craig House.

I know there is only one piper, and not ten, in this image but it fits in with the song! The caption for this picture from 1951 reads, "Well Known Character at Craig House”. It is not clear what he was piping in celebration of but it was on a lovely sunny spring day.

In April, LHSA staff were privileged to be given a tour of the Craig House campus by a member of Napier University Press Office staff, and took a selection of current photographs of the estate before new developments take place. Craig House was opened in 1894 for paying private patients, as part of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital and in the style of a large country house. This was a very interesting visit, as some of the most popular records in our collection are from this Hospital and it was exciting to see where many of these records were produced, and also to see that so many of the interiors and fittings in the buildings have changed little from their original use.

The piper at Craig House, 1951

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

On the ninth day of Christmas... true love gave to me...nine types of diagnosis entered into a Royal Edinburgh Hospital database.

A very useful piece of work started this year: the creation of a database of patients and basic information relating to them found in the nineteenth-century casebooks of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital (REH). This is an invaluable resource for LHSA as it can be used to quickly find if a patient was in the Hospital, making the casebooks easily accessible and reducing handling of this unique material. There are now 1977 entries in the database! During the nineteenth century psychiatry was not a very precise science and this is highlighted by no fewer than nine types of diagnosis recorded in the REH database already: Mania, Mania (Chronic), Mania (of masturbation), Mania (Phthisical, i.e. related to Tuberculosis), Acute Mania, Epileptic Mania, General Paralysis, Melancholia and Melancholia (traumatic).

The REH database is part of a wide range of cataloguing work that has been carried out throughout 2012 to help open up the collections for research. We have catalogued new accessions, personal papers, photographs and material relating to NHS Lothian Board, but there has also been a focus of activity on the REH in light of its bicentenary next year...we've completed the listing of all REH casebook enclosures too. These enclosures consist of patient letters, charts and other information regarding patients put inside the casebooks by medical staff. The patient letters, in particular, provide a rare window into their thoughts and feelings. Since the enclosures are often loose they have been stored separately for safe-keeping, and now that they are listed as well we can be confident that all the information is preserved for future generations.

A few of LHSA's Royal Edinburgh Hospital casebooks

Monday, 17 December 2012

On the eighth day of Christmas... true love sent to me…eight(y) metres of accessions.

Not the traditional gift from a loved one at Christmas, but for an archivist, a welcome one! Throughout 2012 LHSA has continued to take in new material for the collections with over 50 accessions amounting to c.80 linear metres added to the Archive. As ever, the new items have ranged from the small (one postcard of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh) to the large (77 metres of Bangour Village Hospital case notes).

Before an accession is accepted, it must be vetted to ensure that it fits with our collecting policy: “Lothian Health Services Archive primarily collects records of long-term legal, administrative, epidemiological and historical value produced by the NHS within the Lothian area, including those of predecessor bodies. In addition, non-NHS institutional records and personal papers related to the local history of health care and the history of Scottish medicine are also collected”. Once the accession has arrived, it is assigned a unique accession number and then goes to the Conservation Studio to be checked for bugs or mould, and re-housed in archival standard boxes, before being transferred to the stores. It is then added to our Priority Cataloguing List, to our online list of accessions (available at: and catalogued in due course.

This image is a detail from one of our accessions this year, a page from an "Autographs and Sketches" scrapbook, which is part of Ethel Miller’s nursing papers. The scrapbook contains drawings and poems by military personnel treated at Craigleith Military Hospital, c.1919.

Friday, 14 December 2012

On the seventh day of Christmas... true love sent to me…seven seminars.

As part of our outreach and education programme, LHSA provides seminars to groups who are interested in learning more about our collections, and the research possibilities associated with them. In 2012 we’ve continued to provide a seminar series in association with Dr Gayle Davis of the University of Edinburgh’s Economic and Social History Department, entitled ‘History in Practice’, over three sessions. Students are able to get up close to the collection items and discuss issues such as archival appraisal and the reliability of historical sources to challenge ideas of how history is written. 

Students on the MSc Medicine and Society in Modern Britain
Masters students on two other University of Edinburgh programmes in ‘Working with Collections’ and ‘Medicine and Society in Modern Britain’ were also provided with practical sessions on how to preserve collection items, and how to conduct research in the Archive. Masters students from a nursing course in Germany were also welcomed to LHSA in the autumn to learn about the rich history of medicine collections available in Edinburgh, whilst members of staff from Artlink were treated to a display of material from the Royal Edinburgh Hospital to help focus their research for exhibitions in 2013. In all, about 80 participants have been involved in 2012 and we have bookings in place for 2013 already!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

On the sixth day of Christmas...

... my true love sent to me... a Christmas card from six years of pioneering neurosurgery.

From 1939 to the end of the Second World War in 1945, Edinburgh neurosurgeon Professor Norman Dott spent six years performing life-saving surgery on military personnel and civilians in Bangour General Hospital near Broxburn, West Lothian. Bangour General was built in 1939 as an Emergency Medical Service hospital (one of seven in Scotland) in response to the outbreak of the war; it was an annexe to the existing Bangour Village Hospital, a psychiatric hospital opened in 1906.

Dott was given space for a Brain Injuries Unit in Bangour staffed with two neurosurgical teams – one headed by Dott himself, and the other led by G.L Alexander. In this period, Norman Dott was a member of the wartime Brain Injuries Committee, Consultant in Neurosurgery to the Army in Scotland and Consultant Neurosurgeon to the Emergency Medical Service. He was awarded a C.B.E for this outstanding wartime service in 1948.

The records of the unit’s work will be catalogued as part of a current LHSA Wellcome Trust project, and they are some of the most interesting case notes in the Dott collections. Dott’s teams treated serving soldiers, sailors and airmen, women from the auxiliary services and civilians. At the start of the war, military patients suffered from injuries sustained in their camps in Scotland (as a result of road accidents in the blackout or mishaps and illnesses during training, for example) – although as the war went on casualties from battlefields in Europe and North Africa were treated in increasing numbers, as well as a considerable number of men from the Polish army and German prisoners of war.

Dott undertook ground-breaking procedures during the war years, including an operation to treat aneurysms in the delicate anterior communicating artery of the brain by clamping the more accessible larger vessel that feeds it, avoiding the need for direct and risk-heavy surgery. However, what make these case notes particularly fascinating are the stories of wartime lives that emerge from them, such as the tale of an army officer who was a prisoner of war in northern France, but “managed to get hold of civilian clothes and ducked over a wall between guards…” The officer eventually made it back to Great Britain to re-join his unit – via Cannes, Switzerland, Spain and Portugal!

You can find out more about the progress that our Project Archivist Louise is making on the cataloguing of Norman Dott's case notes here.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

On the fifth day of Christmas... true love sent to me…five archivists.
This year has seen some re-structuring in the LHSA service and the appointment of the fifth archivist in LHSA’s (and its predecessor bodies’) history. Laura Gould became Archivist in May, after holding the post of Assistant Archivist since 2007. Ruth Honeybone, who had been acting Manager of LHSA since December 2009, assumed this post formally, and Stephen Willis continued to work as Archive Assistant.

2012 also saw a ‘Wellcome’ addition to our staff in the form of Louise Williams, a Project Archivist on a Wellcome Trust-funded 2-year project (but more from Louise in tomorrow’s blog!).

The LHSA team

The four of us are all qualified to postgraduate level: three specialising in archive, records and information management and an accredited paper conservator. Although we’re a small team, we’re well placed to deliver LHSA’s core services to our present day audience and care for the collection so that it is available for future generations.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

On the fourth day of Christmas...

my true love sent to me...four social media forums. 

LHSA on Twitter

February 2012 saw the creation of a Twitter account to complement the three existing LHSA social media forums (a blog, Facebook and Flickr accounts). The format lends itself to quick updates, with a maximum of 140 characters, and has allowed us to open up our collections and services to an even wider online audience.
We’ve picked up over 180 followers in less than 10 months, and enjoyed making links with our users, other archives and libraries, history organisations and those who are just interested in what we have to say! Popular topics have included tweets about our volunteers and their work (also known as ‘Volunteerwatch’!), images of new accessions as they arrive , and of course the invalid fruit tart which trended on Twitter following its appearance on The Great British Bake Off! 

Image of Accession 12/030 which appeared on Twitter when it arrived
Twitter allows us to direct followers to our website, blog, Flickr and Facebook pages, and is a great way to advertise events and projects. It’s also been an opportunity to link with the wider heritage sector: we can publicise events held by other archives to our followers, and through participating in the #archday12 event, in which archives from across the world tweeted using this hashtag, to highlight items from their collections to a global audience.

On Twitter? Follow us @lhsaeul


Monday, 10 December 2012

On the third day of Christmas... true love sent to me…three reciprocal visits to Lothian council archives.

To find out about other archival collections within the Lothian region, especially those with closely-related archive material, to forge links, and to find out how other archive professionals do their jobs, in 2012 we have visited:

·         West Lothian Council Archives and Records Centre, Livingston (January)
·         Midlothian Archives, Loanhead (May)
·         East Lothian Archives, Haddington (August)

We gained an insight into the exciting resources which are provided in parts of the region such as the new John Gray Centre which contains the East Lothian Archives, opened in March 2012. We also learned how archives employ different work practices regarding records management, and make use of dedicated volunteers to add value to their resources.

During our visits we learned about the Council archives’ holdings such as parish records, Poor Law records, court records, school records and cemetery records. LHSA’s medical records form a picture of just one part of people’s lives and it is useful to be aware of other collections which provide details of their lives outside of hospitals, and to be able to direct researchers to them. Those of particular significance are those related to the District Asylums including Rosslynlee and Haddington, and also poorhouse records such as those of Linlithgow Poorhouse, later St Michael’s Hospital. 

Laura and Stephen with Ken Bogle at Midlothian Council Archives
We were delighted to welcome staff from the Council Archives back to LHSA, to provide information about our collections which they can share with their users, and to talk about our working practices.

Friday, 7 December 2012

On the second day of Christmas... true love sent to me...two centuries of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital.

Throughout 2012 we’ve been taking part in the preparations for the Royal Edinburgh Hospital’s bicentenary celebrations. Most of the events are organised for next year, the 200-year anniversary of the first patient admitted to this important hospital, but the eight-part lecture series that we helped put together started in autumn of this year. We’ve had two great lectures so far, one providing context to the building of hospitals like the Royal Edinburgh and the other about sporting activities in the Hospital (and the third, which will look at patient letters, is next Wednesday). The lectures have attracted some media attention and we were able to supplement the articles with anecdotes from the Archive. The series is free and a good opportunity to find out more about the Hospital's fascinating history. For more information please see:

We also helped Artlink, a charity which aims to provide access to the arts for all members of the community, secure a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund in late 2012 by contributing to the application process. In 2013 Artlink will lead an exciting bicentenary project called ‘Ever Present Past’, which will also be funded by Creative Scotland. A series of workshops for patients and staff will be held to explore the Hospital’s story – the people and the buildings – which will culminate with an exhibition in the Talbot Rice Gallery to showcase the artistic outputs of those workshops. We’re delighted to be involved, and looking forward to seeing how the Archive collection will be used in new and creative ways through the workshop programme.

As well as collaborating with other groups for the bicentenary, we’ve also set up an archive appeal as our own way of celebrating this important anniversary. We’re hoping to add lots of historically important items related to the hospital to the Archive. We need your help, so please have a look at our website to find out more!

Our involvement with the Royal Edinburgh Hospital this year hasn’t stopped with the bicentenary. We’ve had visits from staff to find out more about LHSA and to transfer material to the collection, and in August we took part in the fete held at the Hospital. We set up a stall and talked to staff and patients about the history of the Hospital and the services we provide.

The LHSA stall at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital fete

We’re looking forward to continuing to work with the patients and staff of this hospital, and others in the Lothian region, throughout 2013!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

LHSA's Twelve Days of Christmas

Welcome to LHSA’s twelve days of Christmas.

In the countdown to this year’s festive season we’ll be bringing you a new blog post each working day until the 21st, showcasing items from the collections, our core services and some of our activities this year, all with the twelve days of Christmas in mind (although we have taken a few liberties with the original lyrics!).

On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me…one invalid fruit tart.

This year, a recipe for invalid fruit tart from LHSA’s Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh collection was a surprise TV and Twitter star. After featuring in the Scottish Council on Archives’ 2011 archives awareness raising campaign 'The Edible Archive', it caught the eye of a BBC production team and was included in ‘The Great British Bake Off’ in August. ‘Invalid fruit tart’ trended on Twitter the evening the show was aired, we saw a spike in visitors to the LHSA website in the days that followed, and we hope to include it in the University’s ‘Masterpieces III’ exhibition in early 2013.

We were delighted that the tart’s success meant that we were able to raise our profile and widen our audience, and having tasted the tart at an ‘Edible Archive’ event last year, we can confirm it is as delicious as it is popular!

For more information about the recipe and the collection it belongs to please see and the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh catalogue.

To enlarge the image please click on it, and for more recipes from the Royal Infirmary please click here.

Friday, 30 November 2012

From visiting to visited

In last week’s blog we posted about a recent visit to our sister archive service in Glasgow, and this week we’ve turned the tables and it’s all about visitors to LHSA. Just as our trips to other archives have strengthened professional relationships and forged links between our related collections, we are keen to use these visits to us to help widen the Archive’s audience and help spread the word about the material we hold and the work that we do.

November has been a busy month for visitors to LHSA. We have given tours to members of NHS Lothian staff, Edinburgh University students, potential volunteers, fellow professionals and a postgraduate student on the University of Glasgow Information Management and Preservation MSc course, who then went on to stay with us for a two-week work placement. (Sharon blogged about this on 9 November.) Sharon has been joined by seven other volunteers this month and, of course, we’ve had visitors to the CRC reading room to consult LHSA material for their research.

Our visitors all came to find out more about LHSA – its collections and services – but some have also used the visit to draw on the experience of our archive and conservation-trained staff. If you would like to follow in their footsteps, please get in touch.

While all our visitors have different reasons behind their interest in the Archive, most agree that the view from our office and the reading room (a perk of an in-person visit) is pretty spectacular!
The last of the sunrise over the Pentland Hills this morning

Friday, 23 November 2012

A meeting of NHS archives staff

This week’s blog reports on a visit by LHSA staff to the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Archives earlier this month. This was perhaps a meeting close in significance to Livingstone and Stanley (!) - between them these archives look after historical medical records for the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh and their surrounding areas.

The NHSGGC Archives' reading room facilities are in the Mitchell Library, as are their stores, and we were welcomed there by the Archivist, Alistair Tough, who introduced us to his two colleagues, Assistant Archivist, Emma, and a records trainee, Fiona. We were shown some gems from the Archive, including pioneering ultrasound scans and plans of the equipment which made them. Alistair explained that it is common to find olive oil on some of these records as this was put on the surface of the patients' skin to obtain better results.

For more information about the NHSGGC Archives please see their website:

It was very interesting to visit this Archive as many famous medical people have worked both in Glasgow and Edinburgh during their careers, so there is much crossover between the records here and at LHSA. We look forward to hosting a return visit soon.

Friday, 16 November 2012

The Life of Norman Dott examined

This week, we delve a little deeper into the life of Professor Norman McOmish Dott (1897-1973) whose neurosurgical case notes are being catalogued by our Project Archivist, Louise, in a two year project funded by the Wellcome Trust. To better understand the case notes, Louise has been finding out about Norman Dott’s life…

Dott was born in Edinburgh in 1897 to art dealer Peter McOmish Dott and his wife, Rebecca, and was the third of five children. Norman showed considerable flair for design and engineering and was apprenticed to the local engineering firm of McTaggart Scott & Co after he left George Heriot’s School. However, a motorcycle accident in Lothian Road in 1913 (just outside what is now the HMV Picturehouse!) led to a leg injury and a spell in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. Although the injury was to affect him for the rest of his life, Dott became fascinated by hospital life and entered the University of Edinburgh to study medicine, where he graduated M.D Ch.B. in 1919. 

Following impressive surgical appointments, teaching and research, Dott was awarded a Rockefeller Travelling Fellowship in 1923, spending a year with American neurosurgery pioneer Professor Harvey Williams Cushing (1869-1939) in Boston. In the same year (1923), he was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. The next stage in Dott’s career saw him become Honorary Surgeon at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children whilst at the same time working in private practice as a neurosurgeon. Dott used a nursing home in Edinburgh’s New Town for neurosurgery on private patients, to which he and his team had to transport their instruments by taxi or private car!

Dott worked throughout his life for neurosurgery to be recognised and funded as a medical specialism in Scotland. Finally, 1938 saw the first patients enter Scotland’s first dedicated neurosurgical ward, the Department of Surgical Neurology in Ward 20 of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, where Dott had been based since 1931. During the Second World War, Dott set up the Brain Injuries Unit in Bangour General Emergency Service Hospital in Broxburn, West Lothian. Working with two neurology teams to treat both civilian and service casualties, he was awarded a C.B.E for this work in 1948. 

Postcard of Norman Dott’s neurosurgical ward (Ward 32) in Bangour General Emergency Service Hospital during the Second World War (LHB44/26/6)
 Never giving up on his medical ambitions, Dott helped to establish the Department of Surgical Neurology at the Western General Hospital in 1960, taking a leading role in the design of operating theatres, notably including a reflector vaulted roof that avoided shadow falling on patient and surgeon. Dott spent only a brief time in the Western General before he retired in 1963. In the previous year, he was honoured as a Freeman of the City of Edinburgh and was made Emeritus Professor at the University of Edinburgh. He died in the city in December 1973 survived by his wife, Peggy, and only daughter, Jean.

Norman Dott was one of medicine’s remarkable characters, remembered for his generosity towards his patients, worn mackintosh coat, and high expectations of junior medical colleagues as much as for his many clinical achievements and tireless commitment to his specialism. The case notes that Dott left behind record his impressions of triumphs (and failures) as he performed pioneering intracranial surgeries in the 1920s and 1930s, tell the wartime stories of the service men and women who were treated by the neurological teams at Bangour, and document the sheer variety and volume of conditions treated in Ward 20 of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.  As the research and development phase of our Norman Dott case note cataloguing project reaches its completion and cataloguing begins, these remarkable records are one step closer to becoming more accessible to researchers.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Remembrance Sunday: WW1 Female Medics and 2012 Student Placement

This week’s blog is written by Sharon Boyle who has been with us on placement for the past two weeks. The collection she has worked on is fitting for Remembrance Sunday as it focuses on the work of Dr. Elsie Inglis who was instrumental in setting up the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Foreign Service Committee. During World War One, the Committee sent teams to France, Serbia and Russia where all-female staffed hospitals treated the wounded. Dr.  Inglis worked in Serbia until she was captured and sent home in 1915, only to return to mainland Europe as head of the Scottish Women's Hospital team in Russia from 1916 – 1917. Sharon shares some thoughts on the collection, and her placement.

“I’ve spent the last two weeks working at LHSA on a placement. I’m currently eight weeks into the Information Management and Preservation course at Glasgow University; all students have do a cataloguing placement, and I thought that LHSA would be an interesting place to do mine.
Dr Elsie Inglis
My task was to catalogue the papers of Dr. Anne McLeod Shepherd, an Edinburgh doctor. During her lifetime, she developed an interest in the work of Dr. Elsie Inglis. She established a maternity hospital for poor women, which would later become the Elsie Inglis Memorial Hospital, and then went to Serbia during World War One, to run and organise field hospitals. Dr. Shepherd’s interest in the life of Dr. Inglis was clearly reflected in her papers; she spent time campaigning to have the Elsie Inglis Memorial Hospital listed as a historical building, creating an Elsie Inglis Heritage Trail, and commissioning a plaque in her memory in Edinburgh’s High Street.

I arrived with a reasonably clear of how to approach the task, having been prepared by lectures at university, but the practical work I’ve done over the last fortnight has really helped me to see how an archivist catalogues a collection. From the initial task of ‘box-listing’, making a note of what the collection contains , to making decisions about how to arrange the collection and recording that, to numbering the items in the collection and ‘re-housing’ them in suitable containers, has been extremely helpful for me. In my last few days I’m going to complete recording the details of the collection and finally make a note of any items I’m going to dispose of, e.g. duplicates and unannotated envelopes.
Learning the cataloguing process has been interesting, but so has finding out about a part of history that I previously only knew a little about. The challenges faced by the early female medical graduates of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and the personal sacrifices they made to serve in the War have been fascinating to discover. 
Sharon working on Dr Shepherd's papers
 I’ve also enjoyed being shown the Digital Imaging Unit and Conservation Suite and finding out what happens there and how the work in those areas intersects with the archives. It’s also been very useful to observe the day to day routines of an archive office and the tea and cake breaks when I was beginning to feel a little overwhelmed by the contents of my collection were very welcome!”