Friday, 20 December 2013

A year with Norman Dott...

This week, Project Archivist Louise talks about the last year in the company of neurosurgeon Norman Dott…
LHB1 CC/20/PR1.1563 Norman Dott, 1937 - on the steps of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh
2013 is quickly drawing to a close, and it’s been an especially busy year for the Norman Dott case note cataloguing project. As well as my core role of cataloguing, I’ve also been making sure that the project is well publicised, from participating in University seminars to writing articles and presenting conference papers.
The highlight of 2013 for me has to be the extension of project funding given by the Wellcome Trust. After the initial scoping period of the project in Autumn 2012, it became clear that it would not be possible to create a catalogue entry that would be of real value to different groups of researchers inside the original timescale of the project. After submitting a report to the Wellcome Trust, we were delighted that they accepted our proposal to extend the project by nine months to June 2015 and include a contribution from volunteers. This means that we can catalogue all four Dott case note collections with thorough and meaningful descriptions and that the Dott project has become a team effort instead of a solo one.

Not only have the four volunteers that have participated in the project this year given their valuable time, but they have also offered fresh perspectives on the case notes and the methods that I’ve devised to catalogue them. Working with volunteers also means that more people know about the aims of the project and why cataloguing case notes in this way is so important (not to mention labour intensive!). Without this volunteer contribution, future researchers would find it near impossible to pinpoint individual patients, neurological conditions and social groups in the forest of case files facing them – so thank you Kirsty, Mahesh, Eleanor and Iain!

So what’s to come in 2014? Next summer, the Dott project will become truly international, having been accepted to present a panel at the International Council on Archives conference in Paris in July 2014 along with Wellcome-funded colleagues from the Towards Dolly and Godfrey Thomson cataloguing projects.

However, the most exciting update for the new year is that LHSA has been able to offer a paid internship in 2014 focusing on the Dott collections. For eight weeks, I’ll be working with the successful candidate to share the work that LHSA has been doing to catalogue case notes to item-level and introduce them to the method that I use, Encoded Archival Description, which is often taught to student archivists in theory, but not always in practice.
In the past month, we’ve sadly said goodbye to our current archive intern, Sharon, our research intern, Kirstin, and our conservation intern, Sarah. They’ve both made a great contribution to the work of LHSA (as you’ll see from their last blog post!), and if our 2014 internship starts as well as the 2013 internship programme ended, we’ll begin the new year in style! Merry Christmas, everybody!

LHB1 CC/24/PR2.1968 - Personalised New Year card from a relieved patient!

Friday, 13 December 2013

Santa Claus is coming to town…

He’s certainly visited the LHSA offices early this year with confirmation from the Wellcome Trust (WT) of funding for a new cataloguing project. Under the Research Resources funding stream, a grant of £90,497 for ‘RVH v TB: a project to catalogue LHSA’s Royal Victoria Hospital Tuberculosis and Diseases of the Chest Case Notes and Registers (c.1920 – 2000)’ will see the creation of a 29 month Project Archivist post due to begin in autumn 2014. The catalogues will be created in Encoded Archival Description (EAD), building on the methodology developed as part of the current WT-funded Norman Dott case note cataloguing project, enabling dissemination to researchers worldwide.
Royal Victoria Hospital, c.1910
The case note collections relate to the fight against pulmonary TB and Diseases of the Chest in twentieth-century Edinburgh and Lothian, a particularly prevalent and severe threat to public health. TB is one of the long-standing and ubiquitous infectious diseases of the world. With the first TB dispensary in the world (founded by Dr Robert Philip in 1887 at Bank Street), Edinburgh has a long-established record in attempting to prevent, detect, and treat it. Its resurgence worldwide provides impetus for the interpretation of long runs of patient clinical data, and historical public health policy for its treatment and eradication.
This latest funding news comes on top of the award of Wellcome Trust funding for a project to catalogue and conserve LHSA’s UNESCO-awarded HIV/AIDS collections which is due to get underway next month. 2014 promises to be a year with lots of project activity, and we look forward to welcoming new project staff to the LHSA team.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Case note conclusion

This week there is an update on the long running task to re-order and produce finding aids for all of LHSA’s 1 million plus patient case notes. The good news is that the work, which started in 2007, has now been completed. 

Details of all of the case note collections have been described and entered into a spreadsheet including hospital, consultant, ward, sequence, date range, number of case notes and links with other collections. An identification card has also been written up and placed at the start of each collection on the shelves. The case note collection data has been entered into an Access database finding aid, with additional information such as locations of relevant index card finding aids and cross-referring them to descriptions on the Finding the Right Clinical Notes webpage Shown is a collection entry in the form view on the database, which has images of the first and last case notes of collections added so that Archive staff looking for a case note collection in future could identify it visually on the shelf.
Case note database entry
The spreadsheet and database together are a great resource of information which will help LHSA staff to respond more quickly and successfully to enquiries (for which it has already been put into use), and to plan future project funding bids for cataloguing and conservation. Two images below give examples of some of the variety that can be found in the case note collections: a medical drawing of tuberculosis in an elbow joint from Alexander Miles’ collection, 1919, and a mechanically readable patient card from the Western General Hospital, 1970.
Drawing from Alexander Miles case note collection, 1919

Mechanically readable card, WGH collection, 1970

Friday, 29 November 2013

Internships update

This week's blog is longer than usual as we hear from each of our three interns. They've each presented their work to a packed CRC seminar room earlier this week and now they've written down their thoughts to share with a wider audience. Kirstin, the Research Intern finishes today and sums up her research and achievements during her time with us. Sharon, the Archive Intern and Sarah, the Conservation Intern are now eight weeks into their respective projects and update us on their work to date.

Five weeks ago I was very lucky to be chosen as the first Research Intern at LHSA. I was so surprised when the phone rang offering me the position, and I am so happy that I have been given such a fantastic opportunity which I have gained a wealth of skills and knowledge from, which I can take with me throughout my career.  I should start by telling you how I got here, and why the Research Internship at LHSA appealed to me so much. 

I graduated in May last year with a BA Honours in Photography and Film, with my dissertation focusing on the artistic influences on the first photographic images of 19th Century male hysteria, opposed to its highly researched female counterpart. Like many people, it was my dissertation that really sparked my interest in researching historical topics, and I found I really enjoyed it, and much to my family’s disappointment I enjoyed telling them every detail I found out along the way! So when the opportunity to be the Hospital Community Intern for Artlink’s 200 Years 200 Objects exhibition, commemorating the Royal Edinburgh Hospital’s bicentenary came up, I knew I had to apply, and fortunately I was offered the position. My role involved talking to the staff and patients at the REH to unearth interesting stories and objects which told the Hospital's 200 year history. I loved talking to the Hospital community, and having the chance to share stories from one person to the next. Once I had completed the voluntary internship at Artlink, it really confirmed to me how much I wanted to pursue a career within research, particularly in a way which would benefit others, and allow them to enjoy its findings as much as I did.  So when I discovered LHSA were advertising for a new paid Research Internship, which focused on developing its WW1 collection into educational resources, it caught my attention immediately. So, to be been given this incredible opportunity and be part of the LHSA team for 5 weeks has been an amazing experience.

In the first few weeks of the internship I began this project by selecting and choosing some of the material from LHSA’s WW1 collection to develop for school children.  This initial task was very difficult, as there is so much interesting material to choose from. I knew I had to find something which would appeal to my chosen target audience of school children, but could also be adapted to fit in with the requirements of the Curriculum of Excellence and National qualifications. With this in mind, I knew I had struck gold when I opened both Nurse Ethel Millar’s autograph book and the Craigleith Chronicle Hospital Magazine. 

Nurse Ethel Millar’s autograph book contains incredible drawings, sketches and poems dedicated to her by wounded soldiers she nursed in her ward at Craigleith Hospital, now the Western General Hospital. The Craigleith Chronicle is equally as rich in content, containing 36 issues filled with stories, diary extracts, poems, sketches and artwork from various members of the Hospital community throughout the duration of the War. Both are unique in their own right, and if I am honest I find it very difficult to choose which is my favourite, but what I love most is how both offer a more personal insight into life during the War. It was a pleasure to go through both materials finding the gems which could be developed further into online resources. One of my favourites, which I have chosen to be part of the Schools Educational Package on LHSA’s website is ‘War Time Wooing’, a short poem from the Craigleith Chronicle explaining how due to rationing and the shortage of flowers, it became acceptable to woo a woman with bacon! (Which I think, some may agree could be considered a great strategy, even today!) 
War Time Wooing from the Craigleith Chronicle
What I absolutely loved throughout the research phase of the project was having the opportunity to be a detective, and find the same individuals mentioned throughout both sources.  I have found some extremely interesting characters such as Nurse Helm, who is congratulated in the Chronicle for “surviving her escape of a very unpleasant experience” after the hospital war ship she worked on was torpedoed and incredibly she survived.  She is also mentioned in Ethel Millar's autograph book in a tiny scribble of a short poem titled ‘To Nurse Helm’ by a Private in the ward, which gives the impression she was a force to be reckoned with. Very fitting when comparing both sources! She will also be part of the online educational package for schools, as she is a great example of women’s changing roles throughout the Great War. 
Illustrated page from Ethel Millar's autograph book
The internship has prepared me well in selecting my final edit for schools educational resources. I have met with teachers and education officers to get their opinions on how my chosen material can be developed, which has been invaluable throughout the final selection phase of the project.  I have also met professionals from The National Records of Scotland (NRS) and the National Library of Scotland to find out how they develop their own archive material into online educational resources for schools, which has also been extremely beneficial for the project and for my own personal knowledge. 

I have had the opportunity to see how archive material can also be developed for use in the classroom, by taking part in a Drama based education workshop at NRS. The workshop was absolutely fantastic, something I am quite surprised to say as I hated drama at school.  But having the chance to be a kid for the day and take part in the same drama based activities primary school children experience, truly was a brilliant way to see how archive material can be used in such a creative way for learning.

I am sad to say that I am now in my final week of the internship…. But I will leave on a high note as I will spend the last week physically making a replica of Ethel Millar's autograph book in aid of the ‘Explore your Archive’ campaign which aims to promote the amazing things which can be found in archives to the public.  I am very excited to make this so that many others can physically handle such a beautiful and insightful object again and again…

I have loved every minute of the internship, and look forward to using the skills I have gained from it in my future career.

Kirstin Cunningham


My name is Sharon Boyle and I’m the Archive Intern at LHSA. I completed the MSc in Information Management and Preservation at the University of Glasgow in August of this year. I did my course cataloguing placement at LHSA last year, so it’s been exciting to return there to start my career as an archivist.

My internship has afforded three very important opportunities; further cataloguing experience, involvement in the range of activities that are carried out in any busy archive and a chance to find out more about the use of archival material in education. This last subject is of real interest to me as it was the focus of my MSc dissertation

My main task was to continue cataloguing LHSA’s collection of photographs into the database, so my first week was spent assessing them and creating a hand list of our holdings. After three weeks this list had been completed and Archivist Laura advised me which series they fitted into. It was necessary, however to create some new series as my search had uncovered groups of photos that did not readily fit into existing ones. I found, for example, a number of photos of hospitals abroad and individual portrait shots of notable physicians and medical staff. Some series were so large that creation of sub-series was also needed; there are a huge number of items relating to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (RIE), so photographs will comprise different sub-series within this large series, including one of residents (junior doctors), one of cliniques (medical teams responsible for the care of patients on wards headed by a senior member of medical staff) and others, including buildings and other staff members. I’m currently at the stage where I have begun to enter items into our photographic database.

I have also had chances to work with our Conservation and Research Interns, Sarah and Kirsten. Sarah and I worked on an accession from the Edinburgh solicitors Gillespie Macandrew which contained title deeds and legal papers relating to the RIE. From this I was able to gain further experience of hand listing a collection and as each item was listed, Sarah explained possible approaches to cleaning that could be applied to the beautiful, fragile and in some cases, very, very dirty documents!
Research Intern Kirsten has been examining materials from LHSA’s collections that are related to WWI and thinking about ways in which they can be used as an educational resource. We discussed some ideas together, and I was able to take along digital images of materials she had selected to the SCA ‘Enquiry Based’ Education Workshop held at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. There we learned about techniques that enable students to engage with the archival material and how to direct further research projects based on it. The educational consultant running the event has kindly agreed to create a resource for us, so the autograph book created by Nurse Ethel Millar of Craigleith Military Hospital and the poems, verses and cartoons written within by the soldiers she nursed, will soon have a wider audience.

When I haven’t been focusing on cataloguing the photographic collection, I’ve been involved in learning about other aspects of running an archive service. Sarah, the Conservation Intern and I helped Archive Assistant Stephen research some enquiries from the public by looking through the Royal Edinburgh Hospital Register of Deaths and the Casebooks. I helped Archivist Laura evaluate and complete the loan papers for objects and papers from our collection which form part of the exhibition ‘200 years 200 Objects’ which commemorates the bicentennial of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. I also assisted the student from the University of Glasgow who carried out her cataloguing placement at LHSA. She continued cataloguing the same material I began work on last year, so I was able to provide her with some contextual information about the collection.

The internship has been a fantastic opportunity; I have handled some wonderful materials and been given the opportunity to carry out many interesting and practical tasks. Since my main undertaking has been cataloguing photographs, I thought I would end my blog post with a few gems from LHSA’s collection. It’s been a real joy and privilege for a fan of photography like myself to handle so many beautiful images and research the stories that lie behind them.