This afternoon, we'll be launching the results of our neurosurgery cataloguing project. Not only are we celebrating by holding a public launch, but a case note catalogue will be released online. We've been cataloguing case notes from Edinburgh neurosurgeon Norman Dott since autumn 2012 with funds from the Wellcome Trust and, although we've had some pauses along the way (as staff have changed), it's wonderful to see the effort of all those involved in the project realised. The project could not have been completed without the hard work of cataloguing archivists, staff from LHSA and the Centre For Research Collections, interns, volunteers, University staff, project advisors and the help of the Wellcome Trust Research Resources team.
Cataloguing Norman Dott's Neurosurgical Case Notes (1920-1960) has produced a public, online catalogue to Dott's case notes (which hides patient identities in these mostly-confidential records) and a full catalogue, which includes identifying details and can only be seen in the LHSA reading room by legitimate researchers with special permissions from NHS Lothian. It's the first time that medical case files have been catalogued like this in a UK medical archive (in fact, I can't find a precedent anywhere else in the world!).
The Dott case notes are particularly special to me because I started my LHSA career as the Project Archivist cataloguing them. With the help of a Project Steering Group and LHSA staff, I was tasked with developing a methodology to catalogue the cases as well as doing the actual cataloguing- so deciding what would be recorded in a catalogue entry, how the entry would be structured, and how long it would take to describe each case note. I remember how overwhelmed I felt looking at the cases for the first time in the University Collections Facility - shelves filled floor to ceiling with blue boxes! Not only did the sheer number of records seem scary at first, but the case notes were written in very specialised medical language, with clinical abbreviations and terminologies from more than half a century ago!
|Do you understand what this means? I didn't when I started cataloguing....|
However, after getting to grips with the cases, I developed a way of describing them that conveyed their key content in language that could not risk identifying patients, whilst using 'labels' to mark details for redaction that we wanted to record but couldn't be revealed to the general public (like patient names, for example). After this, cataloguing began in earnest...
Although I became Archivist at LHSA in early 2014, I went on to supervise the day-to-day work of the project, so I've been lucky enough to be 'working with' Norman Dott for nearly five years now! My job lately has involved redacting the 28,000+ catalogue entries so colleagues in the CRC Archives and Learning and Development teams can work on developing a web presence for the catalogue.
So I'll be sad to say goodbye to Norman Dott, who's been a bit of an obsession for five years (I try to diagnose neurological conditions on TV medical documentaries, it's gone that far..), but over-the-moon to see the catalogue online for the first time!
You can try the catalogue for yourself here. We're also cataloguing case notes from other specialisms (including our tuberculosis and diseases of the chest case notes), which will appear on the site as catalogues are completed and redacted.