Friday, 26 February 2016

To Protect and (Con)serve

In this week’s blog, Ruth talks about how the LHSA collection has been used to help postgraduate students get to grips with the basic principles of conservation and preservation.

This morning I ran a session for the University’s MSc Material Cultures module, ‘Working with Collections’ - each week for 10 weeks the students look at different aspects of collections development and access. And today it was the turn of conservation and preservation! The first half of the session looked at the different factors that impact on the condition of rare and unique material – from the building structure and the environment to handling and exhibition. The second half concentrated on interventive treatment, helping the students understand the complex decision-making behind whether, and how, to address an object’s damage. Several items from the LHSA collection were shown that have been through the conservation studio recently, and they were accompanied by a short description of the treatment that was carried out. The image below shows one of the objects that was used in the seminar – an early Royal Edinburgh Hospital case book and its enclosures.

The whole series of case books (121 volumes) were treated a few years ago: the wear and tear of decades of hospital use had meant the original binding was very badly deteriorated, to the point at which it was no longer protecting the pages inside. We had to find a solution that protected the information inside those volumes but that was manageable enough to be applied to all 121 volumes. The binding was replaced (with the original labels transferred to the new cloth-covered cases and samples of the originals kept for reference), the pages were surface cleaned, and the enclosures, or inserts (letters, drawings, charts etc. that related to each patient entry), were carefully removed and stored separately. It was a long and involved treatment designed to ensure that this frequently consulted material would be available for generations to come.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable seminar, but a little different from those in which LHSA material is used for research based on the information held within it. Here collection items were able to demonstrate the dialogue between curator and conservator to ensure that historically significant items are conserved appropriately.

PS. I’ve shamelessly plagiarised the title for this post from the conservation blog here at the CRC (if you fancy a read, it’s at


Friday, 19 February 2016

Improving access through ArchivesSpace...

Catalogue Conversion Assistant Paul has come to the end of his time with LHSA. In this week's blog, he discusses how he's been updating LHSA catalogues:

For my final blog at LHSA I thought that it would be a good idea to talk about what I have achieved during my four months working here as a Catalogue Conversion Assistant.

The challenge was to transfer existing LHSA finding aids from Microsoft Word format into the University’s archive management system ArchivesSpace, to improve access to the collections for LHSA users.

As this had never been attempted on such a scale before, there was no guide or system in place to know how long this process would take, or the best way to go about it. However, once I started to work my way through the first catalogue I developed new techniques and more efficient ways of doing things. This in turn increased the pace I could work at, whilst still ensuring that I was highly accurate and meticulous in my approach (there really wasn’t any room for mistakes).

I have now managed to work my way through five catalogues: Royal Edinburgh Hospital (LHB7); Rosslynlee Hospital (LHB33); Bangour Village Hospital (LHB44); Royal Victoria and Associated Hospitals (LHB10); and Royal Victoria Dispensary, Hospital and Tuberculosis Trust (LHB41). Put together these total 343 pages converted from Word format into ArchivesSpace.

By far the most epic, and challenging, catalogue I converted into ArchivesSpace was that of the the Royal Edinburgh Hospital (REH), LHB7. Not only is it the first catalogue I worked on, at 254 pages long it was most definitely the largest. After its completion, I had entered a total of 3269 individual descriptions and created 124 index terms which will be used to link LHSA collections, and material, together. Additionally, these can also be used to link records with others held at the University in order to provide a much richer online experience for our users.One series of records which stands out above all others from my time converting the REH catalogue has to be files containing the Certification Papers. At almost 1,300 individual entries, this was a real test of endurance. However, the sense of achievement I felt after its completion was highly rewarding - although my index finger was involuntary twitching for days after.

Boxes of REH certification papers (LHB7/52) in the stores
Another highlight from my time at LHSA has to be getting the opportunity to pass on my knowledge and experience of ArchivesSpace and the catalogue conversion process to other members of the team, both old and new. I have compiled a beginner’s guide to the process, which should hopefully make the experience a little less daunting to those who come after me.

Although I am sad to be leaving LHSA, I feel extremely privileged to have played a small role in improving online access to the wonderful collections held there. I would like to thank everyone at LHSA and the CRC for making me feel so welcome, and for all the help and advice.  It truly is an amazing place to work and I still can’t quite get over the fact that I have had the opportunity to do so.

Friday, 12 February 2016

"His majesty the baby"

In this week’s blog, Archivist Louise has been looking into how maternity care developed in Edinburgh:

At the end of last year, I promised to write more about another pioneering development in public health that was ‘born’ in our city. Time flies, but a visit from the newest member of the extended LHSA team last week (in the shape of Project Cataloguing Archivist Clair’s new-born) has reminded me to fulfil my promises!

A Maternity and Child Welfare Scheme health visitor gives one Edinburgh mother a helping hand (LHB16/38/19)

The beginning of the twentieth century in Edinburgh saw considerable progress in public health that carried forward the work of the first Medical Officer of Health, Henry Littlejohn. The introduction of pieces of legislation (in particular, of notification regulations) acted as catalysts to these changes. These laws included the 1907 and 1915 Notification of Births Acts, which required the local Medical Officer of Health to be notified as soon as possible after any birth. LHSA has records of these notifications from 1916 to 1962 in a series of registers in our public health collection (LHB16/47), which record basic details (including the mother’s name, sex of the child and place of birth). The 1915 (Extension) Act also gave local authorities the power to found schemes for monitoring mothers before and after birth and to take responsibility for the care of children under five years old.

In his report on the need for a Maternity and Child Welfare Scheme (MCWS) for Edinburgh, the then Medical Officer of Health, A Maxwell Williamson, recognised that, despite the considerable financial strain being put on the City during the First World War, such a scheme was necessary on account of high child mortality, particularly in poorer districts. In 1911 to 1915, the death rate of children under five throughout Edinburgh was 38.2 per thousand. However, by district the figures were much starker: in the same period, 112 under-fives in the southwest suburb of Morningside died, whilst 797 died in St Giles’ district (which was around the High Street area, extending north to Princes Street and south to Tollcross).

The Edinburgh MCWS was launched in 1917. It was described by Williamson as having essentially  ‘preventative’ and ‘curative’ aims – medical supervision would attempt to combat infectious diseases in children, whilst provision of care before, during and following birth would try to arrest deaths from poor maternity conditions. Maternity and child clinics were set up, with the centres of these being the existing Edinburgh Royal Maternity Hospital (ERMH) and the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for Sick Children. The centres were supported by a series of local dispensaries. The female-staffed maternity Hospice (run by Elsie Inglis for poor mothers) and Bruntsfield Hospital were also incorporated, along with kindergartens, open-air play centres and provision for ‘mothercraft’ classes. Ante-natal classes were also started in the ERMH to identify potential concerns prior to birth.

A 1917 Public Health Department circular, outlining the key provisions of the Scheme (LHB3/25/2).

In addition, a children’s convalescent home was set up in Gogarburn House, later to be turned into Gogarburn Hospital, an institution for those with learning difficulties:

Gogarburn Convalescent Home, 1919 (LHB16/2/1).

By the 1950s, MCWS was in full swing, with three ante-natal clinics, nine mothercraft clubs, playgrounds and child welfare clinics. The only annual report that we have for the scheme (LHB16/43/1) covers the range of its activities in 1954, including vaccinations, nurseries, mother and baby homes and food distribution.

Maternity and Child Welfare Scheme exhibition, Craigmillar School, 1947 (LHB16/38/19).

Medical Officer of Health Dr H E Seilar (centre) during the Welfare Foods campaign, 1953 (LHB16/38/19).

Although Edinburgh had offered free medical facilities for poorer women and children since the eighteenth century, MCWS provided status, stability and guaranteed funds for the care of mothers and babies. It is now recognised as a step on the way to the medicalisation of maternity care in the years that followed. 

Friday, 5 February 2016

The Impact of Patronage in the First Few Decades of the Creation of the Victorian Hospital

This week's blog comes from Colin Smith, a part-time volunteer at LHSA. He is currently pursuing an MSc in Book History and Material Culture at the University of Edinburgh. Recently, he has been revising the administrative history of the Royal Victoria Dispensary, Hospital, and Tuberculosis Trust (LHB41) and the Royal Victoria and Associated Hospitals Board of Management (LHB10), which will soon be appearing on the LHSA website. This blog on patronage stems from his research he uncovered while volunteering:

History credits Robert William Phillip with founding the Victoria Dispensary for Consumption and Diseases of the Chest in 1887, the first ever clinic dedicated to helping patients fight Tuberculosis. Yet the clinic could not have gotten its first start without the generous backing of financial benefactors. What this blog post seeks to outline is the story of the Royal Victoria Hospital from the end of the 19th into the early 20th-century and how it inextricably was connected to local, noble and royal patronage.

The first patrons of the Tuberculosis Hospital were local and close. They were, in fact, personal acquaintances of Robert William Philip. This local and familiar patronage follows in line with the modest beginnings of the hospital. Both, that is, were small proceedings. The reputation and mission, however, of the clinic began to expand. Seven years later in 1894, the Victoria Hospital for Consumption at Craigleith House was opened with the help of Lord Stormonth Darling, former Member of Parliament of University of St. Andrews and Edinburgh. Unlike the initial benefactors, this patron was part of Scottish politics and law. During 1894, for example, Stormonth was part of the Senators of the College of Justice. He attained this position after undertaking the role of the Solicitor General of Scotland, deputy to the Lord Advocate. Political backing by a former Parliament Member and Solicitor General suggested that the hospital was beginning to make a name for itself in Edinburgh. In a 1897-8 ‘’Report for Year,’’ there lists six patrons and patronesses connected to the Victoria Hospital For Consumption and Diseases of the Chest including: the Duke of Argyll; the Earl of Aberdeen; Lady Susan Grant Suttie; Hon. Lord Kinnear; Hon. Lord Kyllachy; and, the Lady Mary Hope.   
Front page of the 1897/98 Annual Report, listing the patrons and patronesses of the (then) Victoria Hospital for Consumption (P/PL41/TB/060)

 In 1903, another prominent patron supported the hospital. Archibald Philip Primrose also known as Lord Rosebery supported the expansion of the Victoria Hospital. He was joined by Lord Provost Sir James Steel in the proceedings. Lord Rosebery was 5th Earl of Primrose and by 1903 was formerly a Prime Minister for the Liberal Imperialist sector. Repeated invitations by notable politicians no doubt improved the recognition of the Hospital and reinforced its mission to fight Tuberculosis.

These two respected patrons were matched, however, by a royal patronage given to the hospital one year later (in 1904) by King Edward VII. To pay homage to the royal benefactor, the hospital changed its name and officially adopted the more familiar title that we know today called the Royal Victoria Hospital for Consumption. According to the Fifteenth Annual Report of 1904-5 for the Royal Victoria Hospital for Consumption, included in the patronage list next to the King is (excluding the Duke of Argyll) the five patrons of 1897-8 again.

Front page of the 1904/05 Annual Report, reflecting the royal patronage bestowed on the hospital. (P/PL41/TB/061)
The reappearance of patrons and patronesses show a continued support for the fight against Tuberculosis. Three years after the royal patronage, the Right Honourable Mr. Arthur Balfour helped open new extensions to the hospital on 25th October 1907. Like Lord Rosebery, Balfour too was an Earl and former Prime Minister.

What the patronage of the Hospital signals therefore from the end of the 19th and into the early 20th-century is a willingness of a community and a nation to back a righteous cause to fight Tuberculosis. It points to the effectiveness of how Philip’s small movement to end Tuberculosis gained esteem with the generous help of financial benefactors.  

 Source List:
Sturdy, Steve. “Philip, Sir Robert William (1857–1939).” Steve Sturdy. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Ed. Lawrence Goldman. Jan. 2011. 2 Nov. 2015 . Web.