Friday, 27 June 2014

The Pelican and its importance

This week, we explore the origins and importance of the pelican to medicine in Edinburgh and particularly to nursing.

The heraldic symbol of the pelican in her piety appears on the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (RIE) coat of arms, which comes from a pre-NHS fundraising appeal card from the 1930s (our reference LHB1/37/6 (9)).

 The RIE coat of arms, with the pelican imagery to the top middle

The pelican is feeding its young using its own blood and represents charity. There is also a suggestion in the 1941 edition of 'The Pelican' magazine (our reference LHB1/109A/17) that the bird may have been mistaken for a flamingo which feeds its young a blood-red secretion from its mouth. The symbol had been used for several centuries previously and in medieval times would have been interpreted as symbolic of the Eucharist.

The RIE School of Nursing introduced the pelican as a symbol for its badge in 1917, only given to students who had completed a fourth year of training in addition to their initial three years to become Registered General Nurses, presumably to emphasise the level of self-sacrifice required in their work. Holders of the badge have become known worldwide as ‘Pelicans’. LHSA contains a number of nurses’ badges gifted to us over the years including examples of the Pelican badge.

 The Pelican badge

'The Pelican' magazine was introduced from 1927 as a means of bringing together and keeping the older and younger nurses in touch with each other. In 1936, the RIE Nurses’ League was established to form a link between all the nurses. From this year, the magazine was renamed ‘The Pelican and Nurses’ League Journal’ and it is still published today. The image shows the cover of the first edition (LHB1/109A/1). With such a rich heritage, it is no wonder that the symbol of the pelican still evokes a sense of pride among those who have trained as nurses in Edinburgh.

The front cover of 'The Pelican' magazine

Friday, 20 June 2014

Preparing to repair

The staff at LHSA are all specialists in their own fields, but best practice changes over time so we have to make sure we keep up-to-date. Sometimes that means going to a conference or course (our Archivist went to Perth last week to find out about new developments in copyright legislation), while other times we share skills amongst colleagues without having to leave the comfort of the Centre for Research Collections!

Caroline Scharfenberg, an accredited and very experienced book conservator, who is based in the Centre for Research Collections conservation studio two days a week, recently provided a couple of half-day training sessions to teach basic repair to bound volumes. These are the kind of repairs that can be carried out without taking a book apart, so are quick and easy but help stabilise the condition of the item so it can continue to be read without causing further damage.

These are really useful skills to have within LHSA, so that items that are in high demand can be treated promptly, and in-house, whilst making sure they are available for use in the future.

From left to right: Caroline shows Ruth (LHSA Manager) and Emily (LHSA Project Conservator) how to repair damaged corners

Friday, 13 June 2014

Innovative Storage Solutions for Mixed Collections

This week, our project conservator Emily, describes some of the storage solutions she has designed to deal with the diverse material found in the HIV/AIDS collections….

Over the past few months, I have been blogging about the conservation of different items, such as modern papers, plastics and media, in the HIV/AIDS collections. Each has unique conservation problems and can be treated in isolation. However, mixed collections such as these often need to be kept together in the original order to maintain the primary function or intent of the material. This can be problematic as differently sized objects made from different materials can potentially cause damage to each other when stored in close proximity. Alternative storage conditions may also be required for different objects.

The storage environment is of vital importance for the longevity of the archives. Ideally, paper should be stored at 50% (+/- 5%) relative humidity and 18°C (+/- 2°C). Plastics and media items, however, prefer a cooler, drier environment. While it possible to move some items to different storage conditions, this is not always suitable as it breaks up the order of the collections and may alter interpretation of it. The British Standard Institute suggests that mixed archival material can be stored between 13⁰C to 20⁰C and 35% – 50% relative humidity (PD5454:2012), which matches the conditions found in the LHSA stores. Although the conditions may not be ideal for all items, there is an emphasis on keeping temperature low and humidity moderate which will slow the rate of deterioration of all archival materials.

The LHSA store room showing GD24 before treatment. Conditions match those stipulated by PD5454:2012 
In the HIV/AIDS collections, small items such as condoms, balloons and badges are frequently found between paper documents. Having differently sized objects between sheets may result in planar distortion of the paper and potentially cause tearing. As such, these need to be removed while still retaining their originally meaning within the collection. To do this, I have made shallow trays that can fit at the top of the archival box which contains the paper material from which the 3D items were taken from. The tray has two flaps that can be used to easily lift the objects out of the box and keep them together if the researcher does not wish to look at them. Each object is wrapped in acid free tissue paper and clearly labelled to show where it originally came from. A sheet of paper with a notice stating that an item has been removed is also inserted at the item’s initial location, so that the original order can be recreated if needed.
A shallow tray created to house 3D objects found within paper sheets, placed at the top of an archival box.

Plastics used to house paper materials, such as ring binders and poly-pockets can also cause damage as they can release acids as they degrade, which can then migrate to the paper. However, in some cases the plastic storage system is integral to the object. For example, some ring binders form part of a health promotion pack that may have been taken to schools or community groups. This type of object should be kept as it represents a part of the object’s history and without it the original intent of the pack may be lost. In cases such as this I have removed the paper material from the ring binder and placed it in a triptych folder.  The ring binder is then placed in a custom made triptych folder. Often, when the papers are removed, the ring binder lies at an extreme angle which may result in papers placed above it becoming bunched together at one edge, causing curling. Therefore, a void-filler created from mount board is used to even out the level of the ring binder. These two triptych folders are then labelled appropriately and tied together with cotton tape, so it is obvious that they belong together.
A ring binder integral to the paper materials after conservation treatment. Paper materials have been removed and a void-filler inserted to avoid extreme angle.
Creative storage solutions such as this ensure that items are stored in the best possible way, while retaining the original intent of the collections and avoiding complex referencing systems.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Keeping the memory alive...

This week's blog comes from our Project Cataloguing Archivist, Karyn, working with LHSA's HIV and AIDS collections:

If you are an avid reader of the LHSA blog, you may have spotted a previous blog post by Project Conservator Emily Hick describing her role in preserving several of the HIV/ AIDS collections held in our archive, or Emily’s more recent posts on the preservation of plastic material and the digitisation of audiovisual material.

My role in this new and exciting project began three weeks ago when I began working to catalogue and make available four of LHSA’s HIV/AIDS collections. Over the next eight months I will be box listing, ordering and cataloguing:
  • GD21 - Crusaid Scotland collection
  • GD22 - Take Care campaign collection
  • GD25 - Papers of Helen Zealley, Director of Public Health, Lothian Health Board
  • LHB45 - Lothian Health Board AIDS papers

Promotional slogan for the World AIDS campaign

LHSA also holds several more collections relating to the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the late eighties and the nineties. Edinburgh was at one point described as the ‘AIDS capital of Europe’ and while many cities across the UK were refusing to take action against the viral epidemic of HIV and AIDS, Edinburgh was at the centre of policy establishment, aiming to tackling the disease head on, and promotional campaigns, designed to educate the public around the dangers of unsafe sex, helping to slow the spread of infection and hopefully to eventually eradicate the illness altogether.

The story documented in these collections is so important that they were added to the UNESCOUK Memory of the World Register  in 2011, LHSA’s only inscription on the register to date. Although the epidemic may be over, the fight against HIV/AIDS is still very much alive and these collections are instrumental in documenting the battle.

The CRUSAID Scotland logo and letterhead (GD21)
My cataloguing journey begins with GD21- The Crusaid Scotland collection. Crusaid Scotland was part of Crusaid, a nationwide charity  founded in 1986 with the aim of giving support and a better quality of life to those affected by the HIV/AIDS virus. The charity also supported research into treatment and possible vaccination against AIDS. In association with the Terence Higgins Trust, Crusaid also set up the National Hardship Fund, which gave financial help to HIV/AIDS sufferers.
Although a relatively small collection, it not only highlights Crusaid Scotland’s involvement in local campaigns like the Take Care campaign, but also describes their work on national and worldwide campaigns like ‘World Aids Day’ and  ‘The Names Project UK’, both aimed at raising awareness of HIV/AIDS. The collection is interesting as it provides a comprehensive overview of what was being done to raise awareness across Scotland - and not just by the charity.


The Crusaid collection (GD21)

Over the next eight months I’ll be writing more about both these campaigns and various other treasures I uncover while working with these collections. It is exciting to be working on fairly modern collections with such an eclectic range of record types. The element of surprise is always present and I look forward to seeing what I uncover next!

A selection of materials from the Crusaid collection promoting the Take Care HIV awareness campaign (GD21)