Friday, 22 December 2017

Merry Christmas from LHSA

As we are approaching the Christmas break here at LHSA, the team would like to wish our colleagues, readers and social media followers a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We have had another very busy 12 months, but look forward to returning in 2018, when we begin the year participating in the exciting NHS Roadshow!

LHSA will be joining the Roadshow, hosted by the People's History of the NHS, at Edinburgh Central Library between 1pm and 4pm on 8th January 2018. This is a chance to see NHS objects over time, learn about hospital histories, share stories and memories of the NHS and much more. You can sign up to the free event on Facebook here.

We will be out of the office from 22nd December, returning on 3rd January 2018. Until then, here are a selection of historical festive Christmas cards from various hospitals across Edinburgh. Merry Christmas!

Friday, 1 December 2017

Archive internship 2017: looking back

This week we say goodbye to our most recent archive intern, Claire.

So that’s it; my internship is over. It’s been such a great eight weeks and I feel like I’ve learned so much in my time here. Before I go on to give you a final update on what I’ve been up to I would just like to say a massive thank you to the team here at LHSA. Everyone has been so welcoming, and willing to offer help and guidance and to share their experiences with me, and I hope this isn’t the last time that I get to work with them.

In my first ever LHSA blog post, Hello to new intern, Claire!, I talked about the photograph cataloguing project I was going to be working on. The project initially involved working with several series of photographs that are currently catalogued in a legacy system and re-cataloguing them into a new system based on where the photographs came from. I was also tasked with establishing how much material there was and how much housing would be required to house the photographs in a more effective and efficient way.

Over the last six weeks or so I have focused mainly on my medical illustrations project, which I completed last week, and listing new donations that the archive has acquired over the last couple of years. This meant that the aim of the photograph cataloguing project changed slightly to describe and rehouse as many groups of photographs as possible in the remaining time.

The challenge with this project has been the fact that I knew it wasn’t going to be completed. This meant that I had to approach the task in such a way that I could round my work off when it came to the end of my final week, leaving it in a state that it could easily be picked up by someone in the future, but also in a way that didn’t require any immediate action.

The photographs I have been working with are in one of two forms: individually listed, housed and labelled, like the photograph of the Thomas Clouston Clinic below; or bundled together with anywhere from 10 to 50 photographs and negatives in one sleeve. The bundle below is one of the smaller examples.
P/PG1/60/B/C/063 – Thomas Clouston Clinic Tower [1], individually housed.

A bundle of photographs and negatives that require re-cataloguing and rehousing.

I decided that the best option would be to start with the individually housed and listed photographs as these could be easily transferred, one group at a time, into the new cataloguing system and I could skip the rehousing step if necessary, as the photographs are currently suitably housed. Over the last two weeks I’ve managed to get two series of photographs catalogued into the new system and relabelled with their new identifiers, and I’ve left details of the work I’ve done and decisions I made. Hopefully this is enough for someone else to come along and finish off the project, which would benefit both staff and future researchers.
Screenshot of the new catalogue P/PG1/60. Please note that this catalogue is not yet publicly available.
When I started my internship with LHSA it was my aim to gain as much experience as I could, in as many aspects of working in an archive as possible. After eight weeks I can safely say that I’ve achieved that: I’ve completed an entire cataloguing project from start to finish; I’ve appraised and listed new accessions; I’ve given a presentation on my work; I’ve learnt basic conservation techniques; I’ve visited other institutions and learnt how they function; I’ve learnt about the cataloguing software I’ve been using; I’ve added to the team’s outreach functions through social media; I’ve contributed to the service’s long-term planning. The list goes on.

Although it is my aspiration to be an archivist, the next step of my journey takes me back to my records management roots. I will be working with Historic Environment Scotland as an Assistant Records Manager and, after all, without good records management archives would be patchy, disorganised and a poor representation of the organisation they recorded. The archival skills and knowledge I have obtained and refined over the last few weeks will be invaluable in my new role and, I hope, will help me immeasurably in the years to come. 

Friday, 24 November 2017

Exploring our archive

This week our interns Claire and Judith give you an update on what they’ve been doing with their projects, and what they’ve managed to find in the Archive as part of the Explore Your Archive Campaign.

First up: Claire …

When I last wrote a blog post I had been out and about in Edinburgh, but since then I’ve gotten back to my desk and managed to complete one of the projects I’ve been working on over the last six weeks. You’ll maybe have seen a blog post by Judith, our conservation intern, about the collection of medical illustrations, demonstration boards, sketches and photographs generated through the practice of the Edinburgh neurosurgeon, Professor Norman Dott (1897-1973) that LHSA holds and while Judith has been working on rehousing these beautiful illustrations I’ve been working on cataloguing them.

Initially I made a listing of each individual illustration so that we knew what we had, and what they were all of. From there it was easy to identify the four different types of material we had: drawings and illustrations, demonstration boards used for teaching purposes, material relating to a speech on aneurysms given by Professor Dott at an international conference in 1953, and loose notes and photographs that appear to have been used to create the rest of the material.

I went through each item entering it into our cataloguing system with the relevant extra bits of information like whether it contained any sensitive patient information and the name of the artist where we knew it, and had some fun dragging and dropping all the entries until they were in the order I’d decided on. Then it was time to start the sizeable task of physically rearranging all 213 drawings! It took a whole day, and a whole lot of space but I got it done, and we ended up with a much neater looking trolley of material than when I started.

Now that I’ve finished my part of this mini project I’ve handed the material over to Judith to rehouse them and make them look even neater than they did when I gave them to her!

Trolley holding the Dott illustrations collection after cataloguing and rearranging.

Judith hasn’t just been sitting around waiting for Claire though…

This week I have been working with the Special Collections Conservator Emily on some of the bound volumes belonging to LHSA. We have been treating a series of registers belonging to midwives, which were used to record their cases. The collection is frequently used by LHSA staff and so needs to withstand repeated handling.

We began by surface cleaning the registers using smoke sponge before moving onto repairing any tears to the spines or pages using wheat starch paste and a thin Japanese kozo paper. A number of the volumes had structural problems, where the stitching along the spine had broken or slackened and pages were working loose. To try to solve several problems with one treatment (and save time!) we decided to strengthen the exposed spines with kozo paper linings and use a stippling brush to ensure good contact between the lining and the contours of the spine, thereby simultaneously securing the loose leaves.

A close-up shot of Judith applying a spine lining in sections

The volumes were then rehoused into custom made 'book shoes' to afford extra protection during storage and use. We lured Claire into the studio on Tuesday afternoon to help make these! It is hoped that these treatments will ensure safe use of these registers for many years to come.

A midwife’s register that has been placed in a book shoe made by Claire


Explore Your Archive is a campaign designed for archives of all kinds throughout the UK and Ireland, co-ordinated by The National Archives and the Archives and Records Association (UK and Ireland), to increase public awareness of the essential role of archives in our society, to celebrate our network of collections and emphasise the skills and professionalism of the sector. Between 18 and 26 November 2017 LHSA, and archives across the country, have been contributing to the campaign through the use of hashtags, letting Twitter know what we’ve found by exploring our own archive. Some of the themes we’ve covered include food, fashion and love. A particular favourite of ours is part of #HairyArchives ( an advert for John Atkinsons’s Marvellous American Formula which should help with your weak eyelashes! Advertising seems to have fewer standards in those days as the ‘after use’ shot is a drawing of a bearded gentleman! 

You can see more of what we’ve been tweeting about on our Twitter feed at, and you can share your own discoveries with us using the hashtag #ExploreArchives.

Friday, 17 November 2017

TB through the Lens

Throughout our on-going TBv.RVH cataloguing project here at LHSA, we have been blogging about various aspects of the history of the disease particular in the context of our TB patient case notes. Find out more about diagnosing and treating TB, the Edinburgh Scheme, the Royal Victoria Dispensary and Hospital (RVD and RVH) the BCG vaccination, Mass Miniature Radiography, TB case notes and even more at our blog site. TB was a major public health threat but throughout the twentieth century there were lots of interesting developments in preventing the spread of the disease. This is conveyed in case notes that I am cataloguing from the late 1950s but we are also lucky to have a fantastic collection of slides and photographs relating to TB. They provide another insight into the history of the disease and can take us even further back in time ...

Image 1 c.1902

Image 2 c.1908
These first two images show the block plan for the extension of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Edinburgh and a view of the building. The RVH was founded in 1894 and formed part of the foundation for Robert William Philip's 'Edinburgh Scheme' to combat TB through prevention, detection and treatment. The hospital started with 76 beds and patients were sent here for x-rays and treatment. This scheme was an early success in the fight against TB, reflected in a decline in mortality rates, and paved the way for a legislative drive to notify those with the infectious disease.

Image 3 c.1923

Image 4 c.1900
Images 3, 4 and 5 demonstrate TB patients in what was the only method of treatment prior to the antibiotic treatment of the 1940s and 50s. Fresh air and bed rest was recommended as we can see from these pictures, that come from Edinburgh hospitals and Southfield Santorum. Establishments were well set up to provide exposure to the open air for patients, with outdoor beds and shelters. As a patient's condition gradually improved, exercise and occupational therapy was introduced, or as we see in image 5 children received lessons on the roof garden. 

Image 5 c.1930

Image 7 c.1952

Image 6 1952

Work began to develop a vaccination against TB in the early 1900s but it was not used on a wider scale in Scotland until the early 1950s, known as the BCG vaccination. It worked by injecting the body with a weakened form of the disease so the immune system could recognise and defend against it. BCG vaccinations were given to children and young adults in close contact to TB sufferers, providing they themselves had not been infected with the disease. Mass campaigns were brought to communities to educate people on protecting their families with the vaccination, an example of which, in image 7, shows a BCG exhibition. Amongst the TB patient case notes that I am cataloguing I have come across many pregnant women notified as having active or inactive TB. Many comments are made by the doctors on the birth of healthy babies but it was clear that vaccinating them against TB was a priority as early as possible, shown in image 6.

Image 7 c.1920

Most commonly we associate TB as an infectious disease that most often affects the lungs and respiratory system. However, amongst the case notes we have found many instances of TB infection in other parts of the body. Thankfully we use a very helpful resource called MeSH (Medical Subject Headings), a controlled vocabulary thesaurus for medical terminology. We not only use this for indexing but it is also useful to inform the 'non-medical archivist' about complex medical conditions and treatments. It has been particularly useful to differentiate unfamiliar types of TB. So far we have uncovered 18 differed types of TB throughout the case notes, such as: tuberculosis of the skin, called cutaneous TB; laryngeal TB, involving the larynx which can produce ulcers on the vocal cords; ocular TB, an infection of tuberculosis in the eye; and genital TB which can affect both the male and female reproductive tract. In image 7 we see a patient suffering form long term spinal TB. This usually occurred because of a complication of lung TB moving through in to the vertebrae.       

These are just a few snapshots that I have picked out form our collections that allow us to focus on different events and developments, specifically in Edinburgh’s fight against TB. Even more LHSA TB images can be accessed through online platform SCRAN. Here you can also search through various Scottish perspectives in the history of TB from many other contributors.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Interns out and about...

This week, LHSA interns Claire and Judith have had a couple of afternoons out, to visit Edinburgh University Anatomical Museum, housed within the Medical School Building on Teviot Place and the Royal College of Nursing Archive, on South Oswald Road.

On Tuesday afternoon, together with musical instrument interns Luca and Michela, we were fortunate to be given a behind the scenes tour of the Anatomical Museum, by curator Malcolm MacCallum. Home to an impressive collection of historical and anatomical specimens, the Museum was originally founded and developed by the Monro dynasty. The collection grew significantly in the late 19th and early 20th century, under Sir William Turner who was both Professor of Anatomy from 1867 to 1903 and Principal of the University from 1903 to 1917. Today, the Museum houses newer acquisitions alongside objects from the original Museum, with the whole collection comprising around 12,000 objects, illustrating the story of 300 years of Anatomy teaching at the University. More information on the history and collections of the museum can be found here, where you can also download an app for a virtual tour!

The entrance hall to the Anatomical Museum, image taken from the website above

This visit afforded a new perspective on the curatorial and conservation challenges of maintaining such a collection. In conversation with Malcolm, we were able to get an insight into some of the ethical challenges of caring for a collection which includes human remains. Human remains have a unique status within museum collections. They have the potential to make a contribution to the public good, through research, teaching and, when appropriate, display. However, because of their origin, there is a particular responsibility on the Museum to consider the way they are acquired, curated and displayed. Today, a number of interested parties may claim rights over some human remains. These include genealogical descendants, cultural communities and scientists. Institutions holding remains have to evaluate these potentially competing interests and acknowledge the complex legal and moral considerations. There is a need to deal sensitively with these issues and to draw a careful balance between the attitudes and beliefs of different groups. It was fascinating to be able to talk to Malcolm about these challenges.   

On Thursday afternoon we visited the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Archive, which is based in Edinburgh. The Archive holds collections for the entire UK organisation and includes corporate records dating back to 1916, as well as a wealth of personal papers, oral histories, photographs and objects.

It was a pleasure to meet Fiona Bourne and Neasa Roughan, the Archivists at the RCN, and get an insight into what they do and see some of the treasures they hold. The RCN is run by members and the decisions taken at a governance level reflect what members have asked for. The corporate archive ensures that these decisions, along with all the work undertaken to implement them, is recorded and is an immensely important collection. Our favourite part of the archive though is definitely the personal archive, including the personal papers of individual nurses from 1822 to the present day and over 700 oral history interviews with nurses.

Personal archives are a wealth of information on day-to-day life. Corporate archives might show high level institutional history but personal stories, whether on paper or audio-tape, allow historians, researchers and curious individuals to really know what life was like for a nurse. These archives give us an insight into what their work involved, how they lived, what they did in their spare time, and what life was like in different hospitals and different wards across the country. For an organisation such as RCN, their personal archives can help them show how the work they do has affected the working lives of nurses over the last 100 years.

The RCN archive is a great example of how diverse collections can be, and how important each type of collection is. Without the corporate archive the RCN would lack accountability, and would have no reference to when or why past decisions had been made or actions taken, and without the personal collections the RCN would have less information on how their decisions or actions had affected the lives of the nurses they aim to support. We really enjoyed our visit to the RCN and are looking forward to learning even more about the history of nursing through the coming weeks with LHSA.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Rehousing carbon dust surgical drawings

Hello! I’m Judith and I’ve recently joined the LHSA team as a conservation intern. I’ve moved to Edinburgh for 8 weeks from Newcastle, where I recently completed a two-year MA in conservation of works of art on paper at Northumbria University. During my internship I will be working with a range of material from the archive, including photographic materials, architectural plans and bound volumes, as well as rehousing several collections. This is my first real foray into a large archive and the past two weeks have been an eye-opener!

In preparation for rehousing, together with Claire (LHSA archive intern) I have been surveying the collection of medical illustrations, demonstration boards, sketches and photographs generated through the practice of the great Edinburgh neurosurgeon, Professor Norman Dott (1897-1973). Dott emphasised the importance of good medical illustration and used professional medical artists to document his work and publications. Medical artists were held in high regard during this period; in more recently years this has largely been superseded by photography. Amongst the fascinating range of illustrations in the archive are 70 carbon dust drawings of clinical procedures. Having never come across drawings like these before I thought I would share some of what I have been discovering.

Pioneered in the early 1900s by Max Brödel (1870-1941), medical artist at the John Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, carbon dust drawing was used to produce clinical images representing anatomical detail. The technique allows for a wide variation in tone, shading and highlights, to display a range of textures, making grey-scale, tonal illustrations look like living tissue.
Small board with three drawings of details of the brain. The carbon dust drawing is top left, demonstrating the tonal variations possible compared to the line drawings in pen below. Artist: B. Craig, 1939.  
In the early twentieth century the Philadelphia lithographer Charles J. Ross invented Ross Board, which was a board consisting of a paper or cardboard substrate with a thin layer of approximately 1/32 of an inch of finely ground white chalk (often gypsum) mixed with a binder. The chalk mixture was applied to the cardboard under pressure. To produce a drawing, typically an artist makes a preliminary drawing on paper using a carbon pencil, which is then reversed and traced onto a second sheet. This second sheet is placed face down on the board and the image outline transferred to the board by carefully rubbing along the lines using a flat tool or thumb nail. This ‘double transfer’ method leaves an outline image to which tone, shading and depth can be then added by brushing on thin layers of fine carbon powder. Layers of powder can be built up to produce detail or rubbed away to give highlights, and coloured details can be added in pencil or ink.

Carbon dust drawings showing surgical procedures. Artist unknown.
The technique began to make its way to Edinburgh when Audrey Arnott (1901–1974), an artist based at the London Hospital, visited Brödel in 1932. On returning to England, she passed on the new technique to colleague Margaret McLarty (1908–1996), a freelance artist who had originally trained under Professor Dott. Hester Thom, a Canadian artist and another of Brödel’s students, was Dott’s personal artist until 1939; she taught the technique to Clifford Shepley (1908–1980) who was appointed as medical artist at Edinburgh University in 1934. The drawings in the archive are by a number of different artists, including Thom and Shepley.

A carbon dust drawing showing a brain prior to impact with a wall, with coloured highlights. Artist: Clifford Shepley, 1960. 
Over the coming weeks I will be rehousing these, to better protect the delicate surfaces of the drawings and make them more easily accessible. The drawings are currently stored in folders in plan chest drawers, one on top of the other. This has allowed movement within the drawers as works were removed for production to readers, leading to some abrasion to the surfaces and loss of gypsum at the corners and edges.
A carbon dust drawing of a brain from above. One of the main conservation risks to the drawings is mechanical damage to the fragile, smooth surface of the gypsum, which is susceptible to scuffing, burnishing, cracks and losses. In this case, the missing corner of the black supporting board has resulted in cracks developing from the bottom left corner. Artist: Ann Brown, 1956. 
If you’d like to know more about these unique drawings or the progress of the project, do get in touch!

Friday, 13 October 2017

Hello to new intern, Claire!

As part of a commitment to offer valuable experience to very recent archive and conservation graduates, LHSA has been offering a number of short-term, paid internships for a while now. We've seen our interns go on to bigger things over the years (often coming back to work for us in professional posts!), so it's great that we've been able to offer two internships again this year, one centred on archive cataloguing and another in conservation. This week, we hear from Claire Boyle, who's joined the team as our 2017 archive intern:

Hello! I’m Claire and I’m the new archive intern working with the Lothian Health Services Archive (LHSA). I’ve volunteered with the Centre for Research Collections before, working on the Towards Dolly project, but this is my first foray into the medical collections that LHSA hold and I’m really excited to get started.

For the past year I’ve been completing an archive traineeship in the Historical Search Room of the National Records of Scotland (NRS), which has given me a great grounding in the customer-facing side of archives; and I am also well-versed in the ways of family history research. I graduated in June from the University of Dundee with a Postgraduate Diploma in Archives and Records Management, and, when I finished my traineeship at NRS in September, I decided that I needed to round off my archival training with some cataloguing experience. The LHSA cataloguing internship came up and I was lucky enough to be selected to work on LHSA’s photographic collection for a period of eight weeks. With my first week drawing to a close, and some initial scoping work done, I thought it would be useful to look ahead at what I’ll be doing while I’m here. LHSA’s photographic collection is made up of around 40,000 images and includes, not just photographs, but films, glass plate negatives, slides and digital photographs. My work on the collection will focus mainly on photographic prints and their associated negatives, and slides. 

An example of the type of photograph I will be working with. This is a double exposed image of a group photo of staff at Pinkieburn House, and a portrait of Aunt Hannah and Uncle Willie, c.1885 to 1910. Pinkieburn House, originally a family home, was gifted as Edenhall Hospital in 1917 and became a hostel for limbless ex-servicemen from 1918. By 1920 it was also a convalescent home and during WWII it then became the main Ministry of Pensions Hospital in Scotland providing general medical and surgical treatment for war pensioners. This image shows the staff and members of family of Pinkieburn House while it was still occupied as a family home. (Staff at Pinkieburn Uncle Willie & Aunt Hannah superimposed, PH36/58) 

It will be my job over the coming weeks to work with a selection of LHSA photographic material, some of which is uncatalogued and some of which is catalogued in a legacy cataloguing system and needs updating (like the photograph above). I’ll hopefully be establishing what is held, cataloguing the material using the current cataloguing system and rehousing the material into archive-friendly sleeves and boxes. I will also be undertaking a myriad of tasks that I’ve yet to find out about, but that I’m sure will be equally fascinating given the rich history that LHSA holds. In completing this work, I will be helping LHSA make its photographic collections more accessible to researchers (students, academics and the public alike) and increasing my skill-set to help me develop my career within the record-keeping sector.

Over the next seven weeks I will be helping to contribute to LHSA’s social media, so no doubt you will hear from me again and I can update you on how I’m getting on, and what interesting things I’ve discovered. Until then, you can find out a little more about the archive and our collections on our website, and if you want to see more of what we get up to in the office, take a look at some of our previous blogs. 
Claire working in the office

Friday, 29 September 2017

Scrap metal?

This week’s blog is from our newest volunteer, Danai.

My name is Danai and I am a conservation technician from Greece. I have lived in the UK for the past five years, and this is my first time volunteering here. I moved to Edinburgh because I want to learn more about the history and heritage of Scotland, and I now volunteer in the Conservation Studio at the Centre for Research Collections, University of Edinburgh, treating heath archive material in particular. 

In the past, I have worked with, and conserved, many different materials and objects, and have also spent time as an exhibition assistant, where my main responsibilities were the correct packing and storage of items. I hope to extend my experience through volunteering at the University, and to meet new people. 

My volunteer role is to treat and rehouse loose sheet material and I have been removing metal fasteners (see the picture below of all the fasteners that have been removed so that they don’t damage the paper), unfolding creases, surface cleaning, placing papers in new, labelled, folders and then putting those folders in boxes. 

I have already learnt a lot about how to care for archive material. This is very important to me as it is a completely new field, and with the help of conservation and archive staff here I am extending my knowledge to the next level. Once my current work is complete I am hoping to move on to new projects and learn more.