Friday, 8 August 2014

An introduction to our latest intern

The blog this week comes from Stephen, our Archive (Projects) Intern:

Hi, I am Stephen Bournadet, a 26 year old intern with LHSA. I will be working for 10 weeks on various ongoing projects, involving cataloguing, conservation, outreach and fundraising. First a bit about myself: born between Bordeaux and Cognac in France, I graduated 3 years ago with a Master’s degree in Archives / Records Management from Aix-en-Provence. Then, after spending one year working in various places, I felt that I needed to travel while young and I came to Edinburgh where I secured a job as a language assistant. Falling in love with the city and my girlfriend (ah l’amour!) I want to stay here so I’ve started a MSc in Records Management and Digital Preservation at the University of Dundee (which I will complete by the end of 2015). Since arriving I have also been volunteering in various places, such as the National Library of Scotland and the Records Management Section (RMS) of the University of Edinburgh. The RMS is mainly involved in providing the university staff with guidance on record keeping and on handling Freedom of Information requests. From an archive point of view the RMS manages and prepares the records prior to their transfer to the University archives when they are no longer of business value. From a personal point of view, whilst I’ve really enjoyed my work there I must acknowledge that LHSA’s large windows on the 5th floor of the Main Library with views of the Pentland Hills are leading in the best office match!

Stephen hard at work with the Dott case notes

So far after two weeks working on the Norman Dott case note cataloguing project, I have to say that I haven’t been bored for a second. Luckily I haven’t been affected by some very detailed descriptions of patient’s conditions and I quite enjoyed trawling through poetic Latin and Greek medical terms (such as ataxia, hemiparesis or diplopia). Before working with LHSA I already had several forays into medical archives. Three years ago I classified and catalogued archives of a French local health board during WWII, discovering how life under German occupation was harsh (when Jewish doctors were banned from practice, even if hundreds of thousands of refugees had arrived). Last year, while on an internship at the University of Dundee archives, I worked with the Tayside asylums’ archives, carrying out research for relatives from as far away as Australia. 

My current work with LHSA is part of a wider project funded by the Wellcome Trust and involves cataloguing around 26,500 patient case files from collections relating to Norman Dott (1897-1973). Dott was a pioneering Edinburgh neurosurgeon and his records, spanning 40 years (1920-1960), are an invaluable source for history of medicine and genealogic research. The LHSA team and I (modestly) are gathering information on each case (for example patient age, profession and medical conditions) to create an online publically accessible catalogue.  We work with EAD-XML (Encoded Archive Description), an informatics language standard. EAD is widely used by the archive community and allows standardization of digital catalogues.

What has most struck me in this work is how developed surgery was in the 1950s and how efficient. In the case notes we find numerous examples of people who are severely incapacitated by conditions such as back pain or brain tumours. Patient care and surgical treatment could bring a huge relief and allow them to return to a normal life.

Overall a very good experience so far, see you in three weeks for an update on my job here!

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