Friday, 25 November 2016

Sharing ideas at the Scottish Records Association conference.

     As you may know if you follow LHSA blog, three weeks ago part of our team went up to Perth to attend the Scottish Records Association conference about healthcare in Scotland before the NHS. As Alice has outlined, it was a very enriching experience and today I would like to expand a bit on our contribution and what I got out of the conference.
     The projects I have been working on for almost a year, along with my co-worker Becky, were relevant to the subject of the conference: indeed, both the Norman Dott project and the RVH v TB project deal with medical case notes which partly predate the creation of the NHS. Moreover, the cataloguing methodologies we use could be of interest for anyone working with medical archives of a similar nature. We therefore took the opportunity of this conference to disseminate and explain our projects. For this purpose, we created two leaflets presenting the scopes, aims and methodologies of the projects for the delegate packs, and we put together a 10-minute long PowerPoint that was shown during the breaks. We were also available for any questions or enquiries about the projects and/or LHSA – I did receive an enquiry about Norman Dott from a lady whose relative had worked with him several decades ago, and it made me glad to know that this great surgeon was still remembered and talked about in Scotland more than 40 years after his death.

The LHSA PowerPoint at the conference.

     All talks were very interesting and covered different subjects that helped to understand the theme from different points of view. One in particular caught my attention: the talk of Sarah Bromage and Alison Scott about the archives of the Royal Scottish National Hospital, held by the University of Stirling. The Royal Scottish National Hospital was established in 1862 and provided education and medical care for mentally impaired children in Scotland in the 19th and 20th centuries. Their collection consists of case notes, correspondence, reports and registers as well as a little over 3000 applications for admission. The latter contain information on the family’s circumstances, the child’s health, behaviour and educational abilities. The format of these documents reminded me of the case summaries we find in the Dott and TB collections: a high number of short, standardised forms with biographical and medical information on each individual. I found it interesting to see how they were being catalogued, to spot any difference and/or similarity with our own method: for example, the use of index terms for medical information, and the closure period of 100 years for clinical records. It also made me wonder how our own cataloguing methodology could be adapted and applied to such a collection, which is slightly different but also deal with sensitive data, a high volume of personal information, and medical records. Indeed, one of the objectives of the Dott and TB projects was to develop a methodology that could be used for similar medical archive collections.

The programme of the conference.

     Overall, it was very interesting to hear about archives to which our methodology could potentially be applied. It is exciting to think about the sheer volume of information that could be made accessible to the public, and the opportunities for research and family history this represents. This is why going to conferences and learning about other projects, in addition to being really educational and enjoyable, is essential.

     To find out more about the Scottish Records Association, click here .

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