Friday, 31 March 2017

Basecamp without the mountain

In this week’s blog, Ruth reflects on her visit to the Skills for the Future trainees’ basecamp held over three days last week in Edinburgh (so no mountain but seven hills instead!).

Samar, our Skills for the Future (SFF) trainee, has been with LHSA since the autumn, and as part of her programme the trainees in the Scotland and England cohorts get together twice over the year to re-group, reflect and participate in some intensive training to set them up for their archive placements (hence the basecamp analogy that the SFF programme has adopted). The London basecamp was early on in their respective traineeships, and the Edinburgh basecamp at around the half-way point.

I was invited to attend part of the Edinburgh basecamp as one of Samar’s supervisors for her traineeship, and I spent an interesting and informative morning at the National Records of Scotland. I sat in on a session about action learning sets: using a particular methodology to utilise a group of people’s shared expertise and support to help each individual in that group achieve personal and/or professional goals or overcome challenges. It’s a technique that I hadn’t come across before and from the relatively short period of time we could experience it in the basecamp context, it looked like it could have real benefit to the trainees for their next steps after their placements.

I really enjoyed the second part of the morning’s session – two previous trainees gave presentations on their placements and what they had gone on to do afterwards, and then a panel question and answer session where the current trainees could find out more. It was inspiring to see what these past trainees had gained from the programme and how it had contributed to their subsequent career paths. And that very different cultural heritage paths can be followed from this shared traineeship experience (a post in a university archive and a PhD on sound archives). I also got some great hints and tips to bring back to LHSA, primarily to help Samar get the most out of the second half of her traineeship but also to contribute to our wider LHSA work (primarily in collecting oral histories and in developing activities that use our collections in new ways).

I didn’t take any photos at the basecamp, but since it was all about Skills for the Future I wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate Samar’s award-winning zine-making workshop pictured below!

Samar is in the bottom left of the image, and I really like that this photo captures a group of women working together with shared purpose in front of one of the paintings in the University’s Fine Art Collection which also shows women working together (but this time beating newly-woven tweed).

Samar ran two of these workshops last month as part of the University’s Festival of Creative Learning and she won the ‘most impact’ award for them. Samar and her workshop participants looked at the under-representation of women in archives and looked to redress the balance through feminist zine making. Samar will be digitising the zines to make them available online soon so watch this space, and you can find out more about zine making in one of Samar’s earlier blogs at

Friday, 24 March 2017

Looking at TB - World Tuberculosis Day

Since it's World TB Day today, Archivist Louise shares some of the stand-out images from the archive and gives a preview into work to make our catalogue entries more visual, too...

We've had a lot of posts about our work to catalogue records from the Royal Victoria Hospital recently as part of our major Wellcome Trust-funded project - from the early days of treatment under the pioneering Edinburgh Scheme to the wonders of Mass Miniature Radiography.

As well as our case notes, we have a set of slides recording TB treatments in the first half of the twentieth century, and these are some of my favourite images in our collections. They show the early days of TB nurses coming into families' homes (which were often over-crowded and un-sanitised, though notably not in this early publicity image):

Royal Victoria Dispensary nurse visiting a 'consumptive's home', 1900s (P/PL41/TB/001)

and the open, airy wards that were eventually opened in institutions like the Royal Victoria Hospital and City Hospital:

Ward in Royal Victoria Hospital, c. 1910s (P/PL41/TB/023)

There are also records of the physical exercise that was promoted as essential in the final stage of recovery:

'Respiratory drill' in the Royal Victoria Hospital grounds, 1910s (P/PL41/TB/071)
Our case note cataloguing is going on a small break, but work on information from the cases still very much goes on in another form. Intern, Kiersten Hay (through funding from University of Edinburgh Information Services), is taking on the challenge of turning our case note catalogue descriptions into charts, word maps and graphs to help researchers really get to grips with the information our cases present as a whole. She's working with the Library Digital Development Team on these data visualisations, using the same redacted information (through which patients can't be identified) that we'll feed into our public TB case note online catalogue when the project is complete.

A redacted TB case note catalogue entry, showing the type of  XML data Kiersten will be working with. - and the basis of our forthcoming public online catalogues
We'll update you with more news of how Kiersten is making our case note data more visual and accessible as the weeks go on - showing that images in archives aren't always black and white...

Friday, 17 March 2017

Edinburgh Dental Hospital and School

This coming Monday 20th March sees the dental industry celebrate World Oral Health Day. In this week’s blog, Alice looks back at the history of the Edinburgh Dental Hospital and School.

Visiting the dentist now may still be a scary prospect for some, but prior to the 1878 Dentists Act it was undoubtedly more terrifying. Dentistry had traditionally been carried out by ‘barber-surgeons’, and generally took the form of ‘drawing’ or removing teeth. As surgeons and physicians moved away from being seen as traders and became recognised as professionals (through the founding of the Royal Colleges, for example), so did dental surgeons. By the late 1870s the profession had begun to organise and regulate itself, and in 1878 the Dental Reform Committee was successful in campaigning for the titles of “dentist” and “dental surgeon” to be restricted to registered practitioners. Furthermore, registration was reserved for those who could show they had practiced dentistry for at least five years.

Given Edinburgh’s established role at the forefront of medical education, it was only a matter of time before a dental school was opened in which to train the dental surgeons of the future, and the Edinburgh Dental Dispensary was an obvious choice. The Dispensary had first opened in January 1860 at 1 Drummond Street, and by 1862 it was “agreed that the success of which had attended the experiment of opening such an institution seemed to warrant an extension to its arrangement and support” and a move was made to new premises in Cockburn Street.

LHB25/1/1 - Minute book of the Edinburgh Dental Dispensary, 14 Jan 1862

Branching further into education, the Dispensary joined forces with the Scottish Dental Education Committee and on 30th October 1878 a Dental Hospital and School was established at 30 Chambers Street (known then as Brown Square). Due to a high demand and increase in student numbers, the School moved briefly to Lauriston Lane in 1889. LilianLindsay (the first qualified female dentist in Britain and first female president of the British Dental Association) described the Lauriston Lane hospital in glowing terms as one of the best in the country: “I entered the school at the end of 1892, and had visited those in Leicester Square and Great Portland Street, London, which were greatly inferior”.

A further influx of students again required the School to find larger premises, and on 13th December 1894 the Lord Provost opened a new School at 31 Chambers Street, next to the original site.
LHB25/5 - Prospecti showing the different locations of the School

The Edinburgh Dental Students’ Society dates back to the Lauriston Lane days of the School, and produced a number of different publications. My favourite of these, White Jacket, began in 1933, and provide a colourful insight into student life. As with most student publications, they’re tongue-in-cheek and often fall on the frivolous side, and were sold just to cover the costs of publishing. On occasion, ‘charity numbers’ were produced with slightly more lavish designs, and the proceeds donated to deserving causes:


As well as providing its resident artists a chance to shine, White Jacket also provided regular sporting commentary, albeit in its own mischievous way…
LHB25/12/26 - This recurring joke appears in at least 4 issues that I've found....
…and the adverts for dental equipment, clothing and other items (such as sporting attire) really stand out as being both beautifully composed and rather of their time:
Today’s advice for World Oral Health Day couldn’t be more different – tobacco is definitely a no-no! Check out the FDI World Dental Federation’s website for more advice and guidance on how to Live Mouth Smart:

Friday, 10 March 2017

Food for thought

This week, Archivist Louise has been looking at just what was on the menu for patients in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh:

We’ve recently been in contact with the team behind the People’s History of the NHS resource  -  part of a Wellcome Trust-funded project based at the University of Warwick to research the cultural history of the NHS in time for its 70th anniversary in 2018. The project aims to delve into the meaning of the National Health Service in all our lives, exploring how the Service has impacted on our ideas, health and identities.

Because the team are looking into hospital food at the moment (including tea!), I couldn’t help but mention the evidence we have of how patients were fed at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (RIE), a national leader in the science and practice of dietetics.

Badge from the RIE School of Dietetics, c. 1930s (LHSA object collection, O225)
The first Dietetic Department in the whole of the United Kingdom opened in the RIE in 1924. Thanks to the Department, by the dawn of the NHS in 1948, patient diets in the hospital had moved on considerably since its foundation in the eighteenth century, when principle foodstuffs were oatmeal, barley, milk and baps. In 1920, the RIE Board of Management appointed a special committee to consider diet in the hospital, recommending the appointment of a dietician with general responsibility for patient diets. As a result, Sister Ruth Pybus became the Senior Dietician in the new department. Dietetics was a growing strand of science around the world, and this infant department reflected this new interest in the chemistry of patients’ food. It also roughly co-incided with the first use of insulin to treat diabetes (in Canada in 1922), which was prescribed along with special diets in an attempt to keep the disease in check.
A diet leaflet for diabetics produced by Lothian Health Board, 1980s (LHB1/89/5/5)
In 1925, Pybus won a Rockefeller Foundation grant to observe kitchens in the United States – the Rockefeller Foundation also funded the building of the Infirmary’s metabolic unit with a diet kitchen.

RIE diet kitchen, c. 1950s (P/PL1/S/395)
Some of the diets prescribed by the kitchen would turn modern stomachs – the ‘spleen diet’ for example, involved serving pulp scraped from the fibrous part of the spleen, tossed in oatmeal and fried! Great care was taken with meal plans for diabetics, with fats and carbohydrates strictly calculated. This kitchen soon reached beyond the specialist wards attached to it, supplying food across the hospital – and continued to do so until a larger kitchen was eventually opened in 1966.
Nurses in the RIE diet kitchen, 1960s (LHB1/89/6/1)
In 1934, the first School of Dietetics was opened in the Infirmary, offering specialist training in clinical diets for the first time in the United Kingdom. The School offered a Diploma, open to State Registered Nurses, students with domestic science qualifications or with a BSc. in Household and Social Science. From our syllabuses and prospectuses, we know that the course consisted of lectures and practical elements, covering cookery, biochemistry and chemistry, ward work, anatomy, patient observation, medicine, physiology, dietetics and bacteriology. Students were also tested on social and environmental aspects of nutrition, including the impact of poverty on health. The School operated until the 1950s – perhaps a victim of its own success, since dietetics was by then routinely included in nurse training.

Prospectuses from the School of Dietetics, 1930s (LHB1/89/3/2)
Some of the most popular material that our archive users ask for from the Dietetic Department is undoubtedly evidence of special diets. We have a quite a number of recipes from the 1950s for savoury dishes:

Selection of diet sheets, 1950s (LHB1/89/4/1)
And some for sweet:

Diet sheets for sweet foods, c. 1950s (LHB1/89/4/1)
Even the making of drinks had strict rules attached:

The first rule of beef tea club is.... (LHB1/89/4/1)
The kitchens also shared their expertise beyond their own dietetic wards. There were diets formulated for expectant and new mothers in the Infirmary’s maternity section, for example:

Diet formulated for use in the Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion (LHB1/89/4/2)
Some of the sources in the collection reflect attitudes to food education at home, including this 1946 leaflet used in the Department, produced by the Ministry of Food:

Ministry of Food public information leaflet, 1946 (LHB1/89/5/5)
An American influence (probably since dieticians from the Infirmary were awarded scholarships to research in the States) is also represented in the information collected by the Department. A particular “favourite” (please note inverted commas) of mine is this small booklet on weight control for women:
An 'introduction to slenderness' from across the Atlantic, 1950s (LHB1/89/5/1)
But my highlights from the Dietetic Department archive tell us about recommended food for older members of the community, shared outside hospital walls for the benefit of everyone. This 1956 edition of Old People’s Welfare Scottish Bulletin reprints a diet table for the elderly from the Infirmary:

Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh diet table for the elderly, and cover of Old People's Welfare Scottish Bulletin, 1956 (LHB1/89/7/6)
Whilst the People’s Journal in the same year published Infirmary diets given to the Edinburgh and Leith Old People’s Welfare Council, with recommendations for those with or without an oven… and with or without teeth!

Infirmary diet tables reprinted in People's Journal, 1956 (LHB1/89/7/11)
If you’d like to know more about diet in the Royal Infirmary, you can search our collections (for LHB1/89) online here or here

Friday, 3 March 2017

From LA to the UCF

Though the blog title may suggest that we’ve been off to the west coast of America, the content of this blog will be a little closer to home – this week, Ruth will be concentrating on developments in one of our stores…

The Library Annexe (formerly abbreviated to LA) is getting a lot of good attention at the moment, and is transforming itself into the University Collections Facility (UCF). Material held there is being reviewed to make sure that it is in good condition, stored well and accessible for use now and in the future: a collections spring clean if you will!

While a lot of the work will concentrate on the University’s fine art, musical instruments, rare books and archives, here at LHSA we wanted to make sure that we’re in on the action too. We’re very pleased to have Clair (who you will know from blogging on our Dott and TB projects) stay on a little longer with us to take part in some of this rationalisation work in the UCF. We’re boxing clever and making sure we use Clair’s expertise to best effect – she’ll be continuing her case note cataloguing work on another series that has previously received Wellcome Trust funding to conserve it. We also hope to look at some of our other collections in the UCF and make improvements to storage to help preserve the collections for the long term and make best use of available shelf space. We’ll be working with Helen (the UCF Rationalisation Project conservator) to do some rehousing and re-organisation. So keep an eye out for future blogs from Clair (on these page) and Helen where you will see more of this rationalisation work in action.