Friday, 3 July 2015

Summer of.. Well, research, really!

It’s been busy in the last few weeks in the Centre for Research Collections reading room. This week, Archivist Louise looks at what LHSA readers have been up to...

It (finally!) seems to be summer time again. You’d think that the sun would signal a quiet time in university archives – most of the students are on their summer breaks and genealogists’ thoughts are perhaps turning more to the lilo than lineage…. However, judging by the last few weeks at LHSA, that’s not at all the case!
Summer time means that academics are released from their teaching and finally have some time to do their research and postgraduates enjoy the relative quiet of the campus outside semester time. They’re certainly doing that in the Centre for Research Collections reading room, with this past week rarely seeing a spare table on the sixth floor. LHSA readers, for example, are researching control of infectious disease in the early twentieth century, late eighteenth and early nineteenth century fever medicine, child psychiatry, public health policy in Edinburgh and the relationship between physicians and patients at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital.
To this end, we’ve been searching out items from the stores, including items from our fascinating City of Edinburgh public health collection:

LHB16/2/31 – extract from the 1930 Annual Report of the Public Health Department of the City of Edinburgh

We’ve been finding copies of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital magazine, the Morningside Mirror, for a postgraduate researcher looking at the relationship between doctors and patients at the institution:

Pages from the Morningside Mirror (LHB7/13/5)

And we’re going to search out our oldest Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh case notes for our visitor researching early fever medicine….

Page from a volume from physician John Gregory, documenting cases from 1771 - 1772 (GD1/66)
… as well as polishing our collection of brass plaques to help another researcher to investigate the history of modern infectious disease nursing:

Bed plaque from LHSA hospital plaque collection (Q86)

In addition to these wider topics, academic researchers have also been looking more closely at individual lives. One reader found a trace of a literary academic and intelligence corps. officer as a patient in Craigleith Military Hospital during the First World War, and another searched inside the papers of the Edinburgh Society for the Relief of the Destitute Sick for a mention of ballads donated by James Bertram to Walter Scott and William Laidlaw:

Letter from William Bertram to his brother James (1801) that helped to shed new light on one reader's research (GD10/13/7). William Bertram left a bequest in his will to the Edinburgh Society for the Relief of the Destitute Sick, which accounts for his papers' presence in our collections.
The breadth of the research taking place this summer is a reminder that the archives that we hold are relevant to academics from a wide spectrum of disciplines, not only in the history of medicine – showing how medicine and its institutions were an integral part of both individual life histories and larger social and cultural currents.

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