Friday, 18 November 2016

Out and about with LHSA

Those of you who follow our Twitter feed will know that the last few weeks have involved a lot of travel for the LHSA team! Alice gives an overview of what she’s been up to…

On the 4th of November, Samar, Aline, Becky and Alice travelled up to Perth for the ScottishRecords Association conference. This year’s conference was focused on the use of archival records to research the provision of healthcare before the NHS – so naturally we were all very interested! As LHSA’s records are predominantly focused on healthcare in the Lothian area (the clue is in the name!), it was useful to situate our collections, approaches and practices into a wider context, and consider how they inform and are informed by Scottish healthcare in other areas.

This really struck me when listening to Caroline Brown present Dr Patricia Whatley’s paper on the provision of healthcare in the Highlands and Islands. She explained how an 1852 enquiry found that many doctors were working for salaries that were small and insecure, and how this was exacerbated by the physical environment they were working in. Doctors might have to travel great distances over several days (in often treacherous weather) to reach their patients, with no guarantee of remuneration afterwards. This meant that doctors could find themselves penniless as a consequence of the profession they had entered into, unable to save for a pension and professionally isolated. Based as we are in Edinburgh, it’s hard for me to imagine a similar fate befalling the doctors that are found in our records – on the contrary, they were in the heart of the medical world with resources, peers and opportunities on their doorstep. This was just one of the excellent talks we heard – you can read the full twitter coverage on our Storify page.

Craigleith Chronicle, March 1916
The following week saw me approach archival materials not from a research point of view, but using them as springboards to discussion instead. I took part in a workshop at Glasgow’s beautiful Mitchell Library that was run by Scottish Council on Archives, and was centred on using WWI records in education in creative ways. We were asked to take along a selection of WWI records from our collections and then explore as a group how they might be used. As the attendees ranged from archives, to libraries, to heritage centres, there was quite a selection of resources to consider, and a whole range of backgrounds that informed our discussion! I was particularly interested in how WWI records can be used to explore the domestic experience of war – although we tend to think of those on the front line as being the ones affected, there are glimpses in the records of the impact that war had on life at home. For example, this article from a Craigleith Chronicle describes how the Hospital was set up and staffed by volunteers – some of whom didn’t have particularly strong stomachs when they began their new medical careers!

This Monday Aline, Samar and I were treated to a behind the scenes glimpse at the collections in the RoyalCollege of Surgeons of Edinburgh archives. Their collections date back to the 1460s, and include a continuous run of Minute Books from 1581. Like LHSA, their collections are vast, ranging from institutional records to the papers of notable individuals and organisation involved with medicine and surgery. A particular highlight for me was the photo album of Craigleith Hospital – I got very excited when I saw that there were names written in the album! Although we hold a lot of photographs relating to Craigleith, few have names, so hopefully we can one day identify some of the men and women in our collection.

A huge thank you to the Scottish Records Association, the Scottish Council on Archives and the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh for hosting some brilliant events this last month!

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