Friday, 4 December 2015

An Invitation to the History of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital

In this week’s blog Paul highlights some of the interesting items he has uncovered during his first month converting the Royal Edinburgh Hospital Catalogue (LHB7).

For my second blog as a Catalogue Conversion Assistant at LHSA I thought that I would use the opportunity to highlight some of the items which I have found interesting when consulting the Royal Edinburgh Hospital (REH) collection. Now that I have crossed the halfway point of this rather large catalogue I have had the chance to look at quite a broad section of different material relating to the hospital. However, one box of items really stood out in particular, that being Hospital Pamphlets and Brochures, 1866 - 1999 (LHB7/16).

At first, this small collection of invitations, programmes, posters and brochures caught my attention due to their visual appeal and how these items changed aesthetically from the middle of the 19th century to the end of the 20th. However, after closer inspection I started to think about how items such as these can provide us with snapshots of the history of institutions such as REH. They cover important events such as the opening of new buildings and departments, lectures from influential practitioners in the field of psychiatry and celebrate the careers of key members of staff in the development of the hospital.

A programme and invitation from the Royal Edinburgh Hospital Collection (LHB7/16/7/1 & 4).

One of the earliest programmes which relates to a significant event in the history of the hospital lays out the day’s events for the “Laying of Commemoration Stone of New Craig House” on the 16th of July 1890 (LHB7/16/7/1). The company were to meet in front of Old Craig House and then, rather symbolically, “proceed to the platform on the new building where the stone is to be placed.” The stone was to be laid by the Earl of Stair using a silver trowel and a casket containing memorabilia from the period was to be buried under the stone. The programme itself reflects the elegance and grandeur of the new building, which was intentionally designed to be more like a country hotel than a hospital in order to house the asylum’s wealthier patients.

The next item I would like to highlight is an invitation to the “Royal Edinburgh Asylum Centenary Celebrations, 1807 – 1907” (LHB7/16/4). The invitation gives a small summary history of the asylum, noting important events from the first 100 years of its existence (including the laying of the New Craig House commemoration stone and the opening of the building itself in 1894). However, one of the more notable features of this invite for me, is the way in which it leaves a blank space for the name of the invited guest with the printed words “and Lady”. Looked at in this way items such as these remind us of the gender and class inequality which permeated British Society at the time.

Complimentary Dinner and Presentation to T.S. Clouston (LHB7/16/7/6).

There is also a rather striking menu for a “Complimentary Dinner and Presentation to T.S. Clouston” from 1908 (LHB7/16/7/6), which unfolds to reveal a picture of the celebrated Physician Superintended with the signatures of subscribers both present and not present at the dinner. Guest where not only to be served a fine selection of food and drink but also an assortment of cigars and cigarettes.

Focus on Change, The Royal Edinburgh Hospital brochure (LHB7/16/1).

In contrast to the grandeur of the late 19th and early 20th centuries is the modernism and efficiency of the 1960s. This decade played another pivotal role in the development of REH with a stream of new buildings and departments opening by its close. These included The Andrew Duncan Clinic, The Professorial Unit and the Department of Psychiatry of Edinburgh University in 1965, the Young People’s Unit in 1968, and the Unit for the Treatment of Alcoholism in 1969.

The programme for the “Opening of The Andrew Duncan Clinic…” by the Queen Mother (LHB716/3) tells us that this was still quite a grand affair with a number of distinguished guests including the Lord Provost of Edinburgh and the Joint Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State.  It also includes a printed sheet of “General Information”, noting exhibitions on display and other points of interest for the guests, as well as asking them “to refrain from smoking in the Lecture Theatres” or “in the staff dining room until Her Majesty has left the hospital”!
Programmes for the openings of The Andrew Duncan Clinic and Young People’s Unit (LHB7/16/3-4).
I would like to end this blog by sharing another few items from the collection. There is a poster advertising a lecture by Anna Freud, a programme for the 1966 REH sports day and, I know it’s a bit early but, a very minimalist Christmas card from the REH.




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