Friday, 24 August 2012

Volunteer perspective

This week’s blog comes from Sara Cranston, the Edinburgh University Records Management trainee, who spent last week on a volunteer placement with us at LHSA.
“I have been visiting LHSA this week to get an insight into the world of archiving. My main tasks have been working on the on-going volunteer project to index the case books of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, and cataloguing some NHS staff newsletters.
My task with the Royal Edinburgh Hospital casebooks has been to input details of each patient to create an index for each admission. When this is finished it will be much easier to locate records of individuals in the Case Books, which should be of great help to family historians and researchers.  Although I believe there are still around 20,000 patient records to input.
I have found these Case Books really fascinating. The volume I have been working on dates from 1878 – 1879 and contains remarkably detailed information about each patient. It definitely makes me want to find out more about nineteenth century perceptions and approaches to mental illness. Some of the pressures felt by the patients admitted to the Hospital are ones still present in society today. For example the causes of some patients’ illnesses are attributed to stress over lack of work, grief over the death of a loved one, and even the result of banking crises.  One patient is a metal merchant who stops speaking due to ‘mental anxiety’ after losing all his money due to the collapse of Glasgow City Bank. Others are admitted after drinking bouts, or more physically manifest symptoms such as epileptic fits.
Sara with a Royal Edinburgh Hospital case book
As well as this, I have been organising copies of the Messenger internal staff newsletter of the Lothian University Hospital NHS Trust into acid free folders, and cataloguing them. These are much more modern documents dating from between 1999 and 2003. My instinct would be to think that an internal staff newsletter probably wouldn’t be that interesting, but from reading the headlines as I catalogued I notice they contain lots of information and opinions about the changes taking place in the NHS and document the move of the Royal Infirmary out to Little France. 
I’ve also been getting an insight into the wider work that LHSA does, from dealing with enquiries, to outreach (including blogging like this), to receiving records from the NHS, and I am looking forward to learning more about conservation tomorrow afternoon. “

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