Friday, 24 February 2017

Time to say goodbye to LHSA!

     Time has flown by and today is my last blog as a project cataloguing archivist at LHSA, so I thought I would write something a bit more personal about my experience here, including my favourite items and the skills I’ve gained!

     I started working as a project cataloguing archivist here exactly one year and one month ago, but I was actually already familiar with LHSA thanks to my 10-week internship in Spring 2015. This is when I started working on the Norman Dott project: I catalogued 1200 case notes from the Brain Injuries Unit in Bangour General Emergency Service Hospital in Broxburn, dating from 1943 to 1949. It was the first time I was working on records from the Second World War, and it was truly fascinating to read all the tales of war and life stories – I will always remember, for example, this Polish patient who lost all her family in the Warsaw Ghetto, was sent to the concentration camp at Dachau where she actually fell in love with a man, whom she met again and married in Paris after the liberation. It was amazing to read her story and to realise that it wasn’t a movie or a book – it was a real woman whom Norman Dott had examined and listened to 60 years ago. Which just goes to show that medical case notes are far from containing only technical documents and abstruse descriptions!

Aline working on a case note.

    The knowledge and skills I had gained during the internship made me the right person to finish cataloguing the Dott case notes as a project cataloguing archivist LHSA a few months later. I catalogued 4944 case notes in just over six months. I felt very honoured to be the person to catalogue the very last one of the 28313 case notes of the collection, as it had been such an impressive team effort that had started more than four years ago. This time the case notes I had catalogued didn’t date from the war, but were just as interesting: I particularly enjoyed finding clinical drawings and learning more about the use of the leucotomy procedure in the 50s.

Clinical drawings of an acoustic neuroma operation (PR2.21345) (all personal details have been redacted)

     I also had the opportunity to work on another LHSA case note cataloguing project, RVH v TB, alongside the other project cataloguing archivist Becky.  The case notes were a bit different; they were often shorter and covered less medical conditions, and didn’t always delve into patients’ lives so extensively. However I enjoyed cataloguing them as well – they’ve made me smile, wince, or sigh with sadness. I have also been able to participate in a number of activities related to both projects, which has been an excellent way for me to gain dissemination skills. It was also very gratifying to be able to share my enthusiasm and knowledge on something I had worked on for several months. A good example would be our day at the Scottish Records Association conference in Perth on the 4th of November 2016, on the subject ‘Public Healthcare in Scotland before the NHS’. Both LHSA project cataloguing archivists, accompanied by LHSA access officer Alice Doyle and SFF intern Samar Ziadat, attended this conference. We created dissemination material about LHSA cataloguing projects for the delegate packs, and prepared a PowerPoint presenting the projects that was shown during breaks. We also openly requested feedback and were available to answer any questions. It was a very interesting day where we learnt a lot about other medical archives projects, and got to talk about our own!

The very last box of the norman Dott case notes.

Next Tuesday will be my last day at LHSA, but I am happy to say that I am not going very far: on Monday 6th of March I will start my new job as cataloguing archivist at the CRC, here in the Main Library of the University of Edinburgh. From CRC intern to project cataloguing archivist at LHSA, and soon cataloguing archivist, I feel like this has been a very enriching and continual progression and I am delighted to be starting this challenging new role soon! I have really enjoyed my time working at LHSA; I am certain the skills and experience I have gained will help me to do my very best in my new role, and I am very grateful for all the opportunities and support I have received.  

Aline Brodin, Project Cataloguing Archivist.