Friday, 21 December 2018

Archive Advent Calendar!

It’s finally here, the most anticipated event of the year… it’s the LHSA Christmas Blog!

This festive season we have been participating in the ARA Scotland #ArchiveAdventCalendar. Each day of December from the 1st to the 24th was assigned a topic and our task was to Tweet a picture and ask people to guess what was behind the #ArchiveAdventDoor.

Although medical archives are possibly not your first thought when you think of Christmas we were able to find images for the majority of the topics throughout the month from our photograph collections, hospital magazines and Christmas cards and in this blog we will show off some of our favourites.

Craigleith in the Snow, GD1/62/3

In this picture you can see a snow covered Craigleith. In 1917 Craigleith would have been home to the Second General Military Hospital after Craigleith Hospital was requisitioned by the army during the First World War.

The image comes from Alice Grant’s photo album:

Curling at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, GD16

Next is an image which comes from our Physician Superintendents of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital collection (GD16) and shows a game of curling on the grounds of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. Both patients and staff played curling together and references to the games can be found in editions of the hospital magazine the Morningside Mirror:

Bruntsfield ward with Christmas decorations, LHB8/17/3/4

From our Bruntsfield Hospital collection we found a photograph showing staff and patients in a ward full of Christmas decorations. In the foreground is a snowman that scared a few people on Twitter!

Group of nurses holding Christmas drinks and sweets, LHB4/4/7/11

Last of all is a photograph of nurses from Chalmers Hospital holding a selection of Christmas treats. If you can manage to move your eyes away from the chocolate and drinks you can see that there was still a chance to get one of your five a day from the bowl of fruit on offer.

We hope you enjoyed the selection of some of our favourite Christmas images from across our collections.

Make sure you follow #ArchiveAdventCalendar and #ArchiveAdventDoor for more from LHSA and archives across Scotland!

And most importantly of all the LHSA team would like to wish you all a wonderful Christmas and New Year!

Friday, 14 December 2018

Catching up with Nat and Vannis...

As we  near Christmas, we are coming to the end of our time with Natalia Vladinova, our Conservation Intern, and Vannis Jones, our Archives Intern. You can learn more about them here: and here:

We have loved having Vannis and Nat with us, and they have been a pleasure to have as part of the team. Furthermore, they have done invaluable work, both on our Ernst Levin collection (about which we'll be hosting a PhD in 2019 - more next year!) and in finally tidying up our photograph collection, meaning that we have only one way of referencing them (instead of - sometimes - three!).

First of all, it's over to Vannis:

Hi again! As you may remember from my previous blog post (see link above), I have spent the last eight weeks cataloguing and rehousing LHSA’s rich photographic collections. I am delighted to report that I have catalogued and rehoused a total of 2331 photographs and have completely eliminated the legacy numbering system, bringing that ongoing project to a close. Hooray! Whilst there still remain some uncatalogued photographs across the collections, this rationalisation of numbering systems allows our cataloguing focus to now be centred on these unlisted/uncatalogued materials as well as new accessions, thereby significantly reducing our photographic backlog.

In between cataloguing photographs, I have had numerous other opportunities for professional development, from outreach, to reading room supervision, to answering reader enquiries. A real highlight was a commemorative World War I exhibition at Leith Library centred on the Leith Roll of Honour, held at LHSA. The Roll of Honour is a set of five volumes that list the names of all Leithers who fell during the First World War. It was originally held in the war memorial at Leith Hospital, but was transferred to LHSA on the hospital’s closure. I was tasked with creating a display revolving around the Roll of Honour and Leith Hospital. This involved selecting materials, arranging the materials, mitigating risk of damage in transport and display, and invigilating the display along with Louise Williams and Ruth Honeybone on the day of the exhibition. In addition to three volumes of the Roll of Honour, I chose to include Leith Hospital minute books, annual reports, a letter book, and photographs all relating to the impact World War I had on Leith Hospital. With the help of Natalia, I found suitable book cradles and supports for all materials, created melinex covers for the items, and packed them for transport.

Leith Library display
Visitor with the page of the Roll of Honour mentioning his father's military honours

On the day, the exhibition attracted a considerable amount of attention from the local community, particularly those whose relatives had fought in the First World War. One gentleman was so lucky as to find his father’s name in a list of those who had not fallen but had received special honours on the very page I chose to display in the fifth volume—what are the odds? From a professional development standpoint, this was an excellent opportunity for me to speak to members of the public about our archive and its holdings, give an informal presentation on the display to an English as a foreign language class, and to really be involved in the full scope of a public engagement event. It is so special to see people engaging and identifying with the materials, telling their own stories of Leith Hospital and the war, and their delight on finding a personal connection with our holdings. In all, this was an exceptionally rewarding day and one of the most valuable experiences I have had during my time at LHSA.
The Leith Roll of Honour is digitised and available to view online. Volume 1 is available at the following link:

Nat has also been more than busy, as you can read below:

The aim of myproject is for a collection that makes up the family papers of Ernst Levin, neurologist to be surveyed and rehoused in a safe way that makes it very accessible for an upcoming PhD. The collection consists of many loose letters and ones that are still in their original envelopes, lots of greeting cards and postcards, some art sketches, many photographs of the family, and even a sword with a harness. This personal collection is quite unusual for LHSA, and the varied media it consists of makes it a challenging one for rehousing.

A spreadsheet was created that gave me a pretty good idea on the amount of boxes, folders etc. I would need. My predictions on quantity of materials needed for rehousing turned out pretty accurate, but I was in for a surprise with the time I thought each box would take.

Survey table for the collection

The nature of the documents in the collections – letters and personal correspondence between spouses, close friends and family - suggests that people did not just send some information on paper, but small tokens of intimate nature as well, such as photographs, post cards and quite a lot of pressed flowers (even some small packets of sugar). All of these objects require careful handling, as they are fragile and you cannot really tell if an envelope will have any of these or not. That meant that some boxes took a couple of hours, while other could take up to three or four days.

The method for rehousing that was chosen was for each enveloped letter to have its own single crease folder, and larger manila folder would contain a couple of single folders. All of these are stacked and put into an archival box made of acid free cardboard.

Box 5 before rehousing....
And after...

Rehoused box 3 - note housing for notebooks

It did take the full eight weeks of internship for the rehousing project. It also took more than 60 archival boxes and more than 3200 folders to rehouse the 24 boxes of varied materials. That would mean that there are more than 3200 individual letters and documents that need to be catalogued – quite a task for an archivist!

Friday, 7 December 2018

Western General Hospital Oral Histories

In this month’s blog we will be hearing from two of our volunteers who have been cataloguing and part transcribing our
Western General Hospital oral histories as part of the hospitals 150th anniversary!

Western General Hospital, Main Entrance and Driveway, LHSA photographic collection

First let’s hear from Mila who discusses working with oral histories and what she enjoyed most about the experience…

My name is Mila Daskalova, and I am a former student of the University of Edinburgh. I graduated from my MSc in Book History and Material Culture in 2017, and currently I am doing a PhD at the University of Strathclyde, exploring the history of periodicals published by patients in nineteenth-century mental institutions. I’ve been volunteering at the LHSA since September this year.

As a student, I’ve worked with various historical sources. I’ve deciphered impossible handwriting and marginal notes in dusty books, frantically opened tab after tab of digitised documents in my Internet browser and sifted through thick volumes of archival records in search of a single familiar name. I’d dealt little with oral histories because most of the people whose stories I’ve been interested in had lived and died before the invention of sound recording devices. Helping with the archiving of the recordings held at the LHSA has been a fascinating experience.

The first oral history I worked with was an interview with Dr Wilma Jack whose experience at the NHS Cancer Services and the Edinburgh Breast Unit make her a particularly valuable source of information about the history of the Western General Hospital and the development of cancer treatment in Edinburgh and Scotland. Prior to the project, I had little knowledge of the institution and its role in the history of cancer services. In the process of cataloguing the interview, I learned a lot, but this first formal encounter with oral histories was much more than another lesson in history.

There is something about oral history that is often missing in written historical narratives: oral histories are emphatically personal. Even when the speaker tries to speak generally, the listener is always aware that the information is rooted in personal experience. I believe that is what makes oral histories particularly powerful and interesting. When historians write history, they often try to detach themselves from the events they describe, even if they happened in their lifetime. Oral histories demand speakers to position themselves in the events, in history.

The most interesting moments of Wilma’s interview are those where she offers her personal reflections on issues such as when she talks about her ways of dealing with the frequent encounters with pain, fear and loss in the cancer services. Listening to her talk about her experience and views makes me curious about all the people who have passed through that place over the 150 years since its establishment in 1868. What would they have to say about witnessing or experiencing illness or the building where they worked or went with the hope of recovery? It’s amazing to think about the possibility of someone listening to Wilma’s voice 150 years from now.

Perhaps my favourite bit is her reflection on her patient notes. Throughout her career she developed a system of keeping track of patients’ medical histories by writing down any relevant information on small reference cards. She says that, despite the computerisation of medical practice in the past years, she still relies on her own handwritten notes. As someone who is also reluctant to let go of old-school note-taking, I could relate to her preference for paper over the screen.

Next is Ellen who was interested to discover the history that links the Western General and Poland…

llustration of the Paderewski Hospital, Edinburgh, 1940s (GD28/8/1/1)

Cataloguing and transcribing the oral histories of doctors and nurses who have worked at the Western General Hospital has been an exciting project. As an Edinburgh native, the Western has been my local hospital since I was a child and listening to the anecdotes of the staff who worked there has made me realise how little I knew about the hospital and the work conducted there. In particular, I was interested in hearing about the work of Polish doctors during WW2 in the Paderewski hospital. I had not realised there was such strong links between Poland and the Edinburgh University Medical School, or indeed the Western General. There was an entire Polish school of medicine established in 1941 at Edinburgh University, which taught over 336 students out of the Paderewski wing at the Western General. Although the school closed in 1949, its legacy will continue to be discussed and re-discovered (as I did) throughout the future.

Friday, 30 November 2018

Cataloguing women and health...

This week's blog comes from placement student, Emma Mitchell. Emma is a student on the MSc in Information Management and Preservation course at the University of Glasgow, one of seven recognized study programmes in the UK and Ireland that qualify people to become archivists. As part of their 'Discovery, Cataloguing and Navigation' module, students are placed in a real-world archive environment for two weeks to hone their cataloguing skills. We were delighted to have Emma as part of the LHSA team for the first two weeks of November, and she's certainly carried out some valuable work in making our collections more accessible, as you'll hear below:

Working with LHSA for my two week placement (a mandatory requirement for the MSc Information Management and Preservation programme at the University of Glasgow) has been such an amazing opportunity! Before starting, I had never considered working in a health archive, but these past two weeks have shown me how interesting it is! Being able to contextualise the theory I have been learning in my programme with practical experience has been incredibly rewarding, and I know the skills I learned through cataloguing my collections will be invaluable as I move forward in this profession.

Over the past two weeks, I catalogued two very different collections; the first one being a more career-related collection, while the second was more personal. The first collection belonged to Dr Jacqueline Mok, and I had such a great time learning about her work and her story. This collection is comprised of more professional documents such as research and research funding, however, getting to learn more about the work she did for the Lothian community was incredible! 

Dr Mok was responsible for the care and treatment of children with HIV and those affected by HIV through mother to child transmission, and she started this particular job in 1985, during the time of the HIV outbreak in Edinburgh. Learning about all of the adversities Dr Mok faced at the beginning of her position makes her accomplishments even more unbelievable; she dealt with funding cuts and the displacement of her family clinic, all while trying to treat children and educate the public on HIV. To this day, Dr Mok is a valued medical authority (even in retirement) and the impact she has had on the lives of young mothers and children affected by HIV has been remarkable.

Jacqueline Moq's papers catalogued and neatly  rehoused (GD59)
The second collection I worked on was more personal, and dealt with the notes, qualifications, and photographs of Maryann Urquhart; a magnificent woman who gained three different nursing qualifications, and worked as the state district nurse for the parish of Ceres in Fife for a number of years. I found this collection to be extremely fascinating, especially when I got to looking through some of her old lecture notes and discovered hospital recipes from the 1940s! That was a fun surprise! 

Maryann Urquhart's Dietetic lecture notes from the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, with recipes and nutrition notes, 1941 - 1942 (GD1/149/1/2/1/4)
While this collection had its challenges in trying to date the photographs, it allowed me to do some detective work in order to figure it out:

Maryann Urquhart with her car as a district nurse, 1940s (P/PG1/149/004)

Overall, these past two weeks have been incredibly rewarding and gaining experience in cataloguing will definitely be useful in the future. I had never done any cataloguing up until this point, but I can guarantee the skills I learned here will stay with me throughout my career!

If you want to learn more about the work of Jacqueline Mok, you can view Emma's catalogue to her collection (GD59) here. Look out for the catalogue to Maryann Urquhart's papers in the near future!

Friday, 16 November 2018

A crocodile in the collections!

This week's blog comes from Natalia Vladinova, this year's Conservation Intern and the newest addition to the LHSA team - and she's found a rather strange creature in the collections...

I’m Natalia Vladinova, and I’m a graduate of a five-year Master's Degree in restoration and conservation in Bulgaria at the National Academy of Arts. Guided by my interest in the conservation of objects on paper, I went on to specialize in San Gemini, Italy, gaining in-depth knowledge about the conservation and technology of paper and ink production used in various historical periods and in different social-cultural communities. This experience helped me gain a permanent position as a paper conservator in the largest specialized conservation laboratory for objects on paper and parchment in Bulgaria - the conservation department of the National Library "St. St. Cyril and Methodius".

My experience with the internship has been fantastic. I like the way that it is organized, and I think that so far the two most memorable experiences have been the visit to St Cecilia’s Hall and to the Surgeon’s Hall Museum conservation studios. So far, it has been a great learning and networking experience.

The personal collection of German emigre neurologist Ernst Levin is being rehoused! This is my main task during my internship. My aim is for the collection to be surveyed and rehoused in way that makes it easily accessible for use and cataloguing as part of an upcoming PhD, starting in January 2019.

The collection consists of many loose letters and ones that are still in their original envelopes, lots of greetings cards and postcards, some art sketches, many photographs of the Levin family, and even a sword with a harness! This personal collection is quite unusual for LHSA, and the varied media it consists of makes it a challenging one for rehousing.

If you are interested in the project keep an eye for upcoming peculiarities, such as this postcard:

It depicts a poem from one of the most popular Russian children's poets – Korney Chukovsky. An excerpt from the poem is depicted – a long crocodile putting out a fire in the blue sea with the help of pierogi (filled dumplings), blini and dried mushroom! If you are interested in finding more about the poet check out this research by Anna Vaninskaya.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Archive Internship, 2018

This week, we welcome a new Archive Intern to the LHSA team and, if you're a regular follower of the blog, you may recognise her!

Hi there! I am Vannis Jones, the latest LHSA archive intern, and like many before me, I too have just completed my MSc in Information Management and Preservation at the University of Glasgow. I have been a weekly volunteer in LHSA for a year and ten months (!), so I am delighted to make the jump to an official member of staff, albeit temporarily. My past projects at LHSA have been extremely varied and have included cataloguing small personal collections, oral histories, drawings of surgical instruments (for more about this, see my previous blog post), administrative haematology records, and more. I have also had the opportunity to use Encoded Archival Description, an XML-based standard for encoding archival finding aids, to catalogue tuberculosis case notes.

At my desk in the office
This internship, however, focuses on a medium with which I have little professional experience—photographs. I have catalogued and rehoused the odd photograph in various smaller general deposit collections at LHSA, but I have never had the opportunity to work with a large body of photographs. In this internship, I will be addressing the photograph cataloguing backlog, beginning first with photographs that have been assigned identifiers using a legacy numbering system. Once these photographs are fully catalogued in line with LHSA’s current practices, I will move on to the body of photographs that are entirely uncatalogued. The fun of photograph cataloguing is that photographs tend to be a bit more challenging to decipher than other documentary evidence. It is not at all uncommon for photographs to have no label, date, or any other contextual information to assist in determining its provenance or writing an archival description. This requires a great deal of resourcefulness and creative thinking in order to interpret any visual clues that are present in the photograph. An example from past projects would be photographs of Red Cross nurses—the designs of their uniforms have changed over time, and by comparing photographs of the nurses with online Red Cross resources, it is possible to date these photographs to a relatively high degree of accuracy. I believe this detective work will be one of the greatest (and most exciting) challenges of this project.

Nurses and male staff member from the Edinburgh Royal Maternity Hospital, 1900s (P/PL3/S/061)
An example from this past week of visual clues – the photograph above portrays staff from the Edinburgh Royal Maternity Hospital and Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion, and was found by a member of the public during a house move. It is not labelled in any way, but the nurses’ clothing can provide indications as to their roles. The woman seated in black is a matron, and the other three are nurses. You may notice, however, that one of the nurses has a distinctive belt. Whilst we have not decoded the meaning of this belt, it may indicate that she holds a higher rank or different role from the other nurses. 

Throughout my internship I will also have some exciting professional development opportunities, including liaising with the conservation intern (who you'll hear from next week) on a smaller project or two, visiting other Edinburgh and Lothian repositories, and attending talks related to archives and conservation, to name a few. I am looking forward to further honing my skills I have developed over the past two years during this internship, and I can’t wait to see what fun, quirky, puzzling, and unique photographs await me!

Friday, 12 October 2018

LHSA's LGBT Source List

This week our Access Officer Louise is introducing our new LGBT Source List. 

Over the summer I worked to identify and list LGBT related resources that are held within LHSA in order to create a source list for those interested in the LGBT community in the Lothian area. The result can be found on our website:

Although this list is in no way exhaustive it provides a snapshot of the types of LGBT material we have and which collections they can be found within.

The majority of the LGBT material held by LHSA can be found in our HIV/AIDS collection which spans from 1983 to the 21st century. Although the high rate of HIV transmission in Edinburgh in the 1980s was due largely to needle sharing through intravenous drug use, LGBTQ+ groups were also affected and the community was heavily involved in HIV prevention, treatment and care.

Safe Sex leaflet from LHB45/2/5/1/4

We hold the archive of the Lothian Gay and Lesbian Switchboard and the collection covers thirty years of LGBTQ+ history in Edinburgh and beyond. There are restrictions on access to call logs, however the collection also contains magazines and publicity materials that provide stories of support, community and activism.

Front cover of Gay Scotland, Nov 2002

Within the Take Care Campaign collection there are LGBT related materials including operational and administrative papers, educational resources and promotional material including posters, badges, balloons and condoms.  The campaign began in the late 1980s as a response to the high rates of HIV and AIDS within the Lothian area and it worked to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS across all communities. The campaign was jointly launched by Lothian Health Board and Lothian Regional Council and was considered ground-breaking and occasionally controversial. This collection thoroughly documents the entire campaign and includes a wealth of visual material, an impressive reminder of the visual aspect of the response to HIV.

Take Care Campaign Postcard (GD22)

In our Lothian Health Board HIV/AIDS Management Team and Health Promotion Department (LHB45) and Take Care Campaign (GD22) collections we hold material from the Scottish AIDS Monitor (also known as SAM). SAM was a Scottish national HIV charity that was launched in 1983 to help tackle the HIV problem in Scotland by providing preventative HIV education as well as offering both emotional and practical support to those with HIV and those close to them. We have leaflets, reports and correspondence that detail the important work of the charity.

Lothian Gay Men’s Project Half Yearly Report. SAM report by L Devlin, S Ross and N Walbran

We do hope that people find this source list useful and if you would like to book an appointment to view any of the material, or if you have any questions regarding any of the material listed then please get in touch. We would love to hear from you!

... and of course visit our website for details of our other available source lists.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Herdmanflat Hospital

This week, it's Archivist Louise taking a turn on the blog:

This past month has been an extremely hectic one for me in terms of outreach - I've given four talks in three weeks, for example, each one focusing on a different aspect of our work here at LHSA, and yesterday I was out and about at the Royal College of Psychiatrists History of Psychiatry Special Interest Group meeting in Glasgow telling researchers about our extensive collections on Lothian asylums and psychiatric care. 

Our collections from and related to the Royal Edinburgh Hospital certainly are popular with students, academics and genealogists: rarely a week goes by when part of the collection isn't being used in a family history enquiry, or being viewed in the reading room. We do hold fascinating records from other Lothian asylums, though (including an extensive one for the Borders), which also are more than worthy of investigating. So for this week's blog - since one of my recent talks was on the history of East Lothian hospitals - I thought that I would focus on an East Lothian psychiatric institution: Herdmanflat Hospital, once Haddington District Asylum.

More recently a psychiatric hospital serving the whole of East Lothian, Herdmanflat has had a long history, reflected in the archives we hold....

Herdmanflat Hospital, LHSA photographic collection
From reports of the General Board of Control (the committee which inspected all asylums in Scotland from 1857), we know that the hospital opened in November 1866 as Haddington District Asylum on the site of a farm called Herdmanflat. It housed just nine patients then – five male and four female – growing to around 70 the next year, and 138 by 1900.

In 1867, the report of the General Board of Control stated that: ‘The aspect of all gives indications of abundant diet, good management, and constant attention to cleanliness, tidiness and comfort.’ and the inspectors were very happy that ‘each patient is bathed once a fortnight.’ As a district asylum, it served mostly paupers. The report goes on to mention that patients were kept busy: women in sewing, knitting, cleaning or laundry work, men in the gardens, stable and grounds.

People often imagine the Victorian asylum as a grim place – a Bedlam type institution with little joy. Our records from psychiatric hospitals have evidence to dispel this, though – in Haddington District Asylum, we know there were evening amusements, dancing, public readings, a library, exercise within and outside the grounds, and even excursions. Herdmanflat was brought into the NHS in 1948, managed by different local boards until it came under the larger umbrella of Lothian Health Board in 1974 (the predecessor to NHS Lothian)

So what records do we hold for Herdmanflat? We do have some administrative records, like this 1869 booklet of rules and regulations...
Haddingtonshire District Lunatic Asylum: Rules and Regulations, 1869 (LHB47)
But we have most records from Herdmanflat for its patients, in the form of registers, admission papers and cases. These span 1866 to 1993 in all, with some types of records being better represented than others. One of the most interesting groups of records for genealogists, though, are the patient case books that we hold, which record each patient admitted to the hospital from 1866 to 1915. Here’s one for Alexander Tulloch, for example:

Casebook entry: Alexander Tulloch, 1890 (LHB47/1)
Aged just 34 in March 1890, Alexander  had emigrated to Florida from Haddington, but came home to East Lothian since his wife noticed him becoming forgetful and getting himself lost. When this continued on his return to Haddington, Alexander was admitted to the asylum, where he was found to be suffering from general paralysis of the insane, final stage syphilis causing physical paralysis and dementia – a common diagnosis then. He died in the asylum two years later.

We also have some letters written by patients, which were found in the case books. It was common practice in the nineteenth century that, authorised by Lunacy Acts, letters from patients could be confiscated by head of asylums. There were several possible reasons for this: to avoid distressing relatives, to avoid giving a potentially bad name for the hospital, to head-off any warnings of dangerous intent or suicide or because the letters simply did not make sense. This one is from W A Swales writing in 1893, describing Haddington District Asylum as a ‘living grave’, and protesting his sanity:
Letter from W A Swales, 1889 (LHB47/1)
We have over one thousand patient letters from the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, but for Herdmanflat, we don’t have many. There could be a number of explanations: that they did not survive, not many letters were written, or perhaps more letters were sent out from Herdmanflat: maybe in an institution with fewer private patients and less reliant on fees and public donations, there was less of a need to keep up appearances.

If you'd like to explore our collection from Herdmanflat, you can do so here.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Accessing accreditation

LHSA Manager, Ruth, was out and about on Monday, spending part of the afternoon at the National Records of Scotland’s General Register House, helping the Scottish Council onArchives deliver a workshop that introduced Archive Service Accreditation to a group of archivists and collection managers interested in undergoing the process.

Janice Tullock (a freelance archive consultant) led the session, providing an overview and working through the three main sections of the online application form. By the time I had arrived, she had already got the participants thinking about they did and didn’t have in place for an accreditation application (through the medium of a multi-coloured post-it note exercise!), and my contribution was a 20-minute slot in which I described why we had wanted to apply for accreditation, how we’d gone about it and what benefits we had seen from becoming accredited.  

Archive Service Accreditation is administered by a partnership of key archive sector bodies, with the National Records of Scotland and the Scottish Council on Archives representing Scotland. It is a single UK-wide accreditation scheme for archive-holding organisations across the UK: it defines good practice and identifies agreed standards within the archive sector. For more information please see The National Archives website:

LHSA was awarded Archive Service Accreditation in 2014 and we recently underwent the compulsory three-year review, retaining our accreditation until 2021 when we’ll have to re-apply. It was a substantial piece of work, but the team pulled together to contribute key elements to the application and assessment day, and we’ve enjoyed having this recognition of the high quality of our collections management and services. I hope I was able to take a little bit of the mystery and/or trepidation out of the process for the workshop attendees by sharing our experiences, and I’ll look forward to seeing the announcement of their successful accreditation applications in the future!

Friday, 31 August 2018

The humble beginnings of the Western General Hospital!

2018 is a very special year for the Western General Hospital as it celebrates its 150th anniversary! In this blog our Access Officer Louise looks at the origins of this century and a half old hospital.

The Western General has its roots in the 18th century. St Cuthbert’s Poorhouse opened in 1761 to serve the parish, however by 1865, alongside a growing dissatisfaction with the general standard of poor relief in the country, the poorhouses of the City, the Canongate, and St Cuthbert’s, were reviewed by the City’s Medical Officer. Sir Henry Littlejohn found the poorhouses of the city to be in a derelict state and proposed a controversial plan to merge the existing poorhouses to create a new and larger building. His plans were rejected and an argument for a separate poorhouse for St Cuthbert's found support. The result was the opening of the Craigleith Hospital and Poorhouse in 1868.

Craigleith Hospital and its grounds (GD28/8/1)

The building served the poor of the local parish for over four decades until 1914 when the outbreak of the First World War saw it transformed into the 2nd Scottish General Hospital. The poorhouse patients were subsequently transferred to Craiglockhart Hospital, and Craigleith became dedicated to caring for sick and wounded British service men. To cope with its new role as a Military Hospital the building saw a number of transformations and extensions with the building of a large operating theatre and recreational hut.

Craigleith Operating Theatre c.1914-1918 (GD28/8/1)

After the war ended Craigleith returned to its role as a Poor Law Hospital in 1919 and it is between then and 1939 that the origins of the Western General Hospital began. In 1928 Craigleith started being used for general hospital purposes, and after the passing of the Local Government (Scotland) Act in 1929 the Parish Councils were abolished. The hospital was then taken over by the Public Health Committee on 16 May 1930. Craigleith, Pilton and Seafield Hospitals were then renamed to Western General, Northern General, and Eastern General Hospitals in 1932 under the new banner of Municipal General Hospitals.

Preparations were then made to expand the hospital as it began to admit medical and surgical patients, as well as children. New departments were opened for a variety of different treatments including massage, dentistry, and urology, the entire drainage system was renewed, and in stark contrast to its days as a Poor Law Hospitals, patients who were able to were expected to pay for their time in the hospital.

Annual Report of the Public Health Departments and various Sub-Department for the year 1932 (GD28/7/2)

Since its beginnings as a Poor Law Hospital, the Western General has survived two world wars, enjoyed the benefits that were brought by the introduction of the National Health Service, and developed into a hospital that now hosts a number of specialist units. In the coming months we will be bringing your more blogs relating to the the history and achievements of the hospital.

To mark the anniversary here in LHSA we are working on a collection of oral histories from staff who have worked at the Western General Hospital. Our archivist Louise Williams has already recorded a number of interviews and a team of enthusiastic volunteers have been tasked with cataloguing and part transcribing the recordings. For more information on this check out our last blog! You will also hear more from our volunteers and the project in the coming months, but in the meantime take a look at what other 150th celebrations are happening by visiting:

Friday, 17 August 2018

Voices in the corridors...

This week, Archivist Louise has been creating some new content for the archive...

Back in 2011, I took a vocational course run by the University of Dundee called Sound and Vision, about how to manage audio-visual media in the archive. Before I decided to train to be an archivist, I'd worked in the cinema sector for a number of years, and I went on the course being primarily interested in visual culture. However, a major part of the syllabus involved oral history - and soon learning about the methods of and reasons behind recording individuals' personal testimonies to keep for future generations became my favourite aspect of the course. We learnt the best methods of taking an oral history, how to produce a summary of it for potential users, and how to transcribe it to make it even more accessible (the last part is a labour of love and takes hours upon hours!)

Whereas we do hold some film archives here at LHSA (like this 1930s' film of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, for example), an increasing part of my job recently has involved adding to the archive with oral testimony from those who've been closely involved in healthcare in our region in the recent past. For example, I'm currently interviewing former members of (then) Lothian Health Board staff about the challenges of fighting the 1980s HIV epidemic in Edinburgh  - we have 13 interviews to date, and more in the pipeline for the coming months.

I've also been using my oral history training in a project to celebrate the 150th birthday of the Western General Hospital, of which I'm sure you'll hear more this year. Although the Western only acquired its current name when the local authority took over the running of the old poor law infirmaries from 1930, its history as a hospital goes back to 1868, when St Cuthbert's Poorhouse relocated to the site from its former home at the West End of Princes Street.

The Clock Tower building of the Western General Hospital, when it served as a military hospital during the First World War (GD8/8/1)
As part of the commemoration of this long history, LHSA has been asked to record memories of medical staff who have worked at the Western General Hospital, in the form of longer oral history interviews to be kept in the archive. Some of the interviews have taken place here at the Main Library, but last week I was lucky enough to visit the Western on a beautiful summer day to conduct interviews with former staff who had been part of the hospital's recent past. 

One of the many lions represented in the older buildings at the Western General Hospital, taken on my visit last week.
One of my interviewees, David Boyd, is a ninety-three-year-old retired Consultant. He has worked at the Western for several stints in his career - from a student rotation in 1948, to a Registrar post in the Endocrine and Metabolic Unit from 1959 and as a Consultant in General Medicine by the 1970s. Mr Boyd's interest in general medicine means that he has had a long and varied career, covering many different specialisms, geographical locations (even Glasgow!) and has worked with some of Edinburgh's most notable medical names.

For example, in the 1950s, Mr Boyd held a Registrar post in respiratory medicine, working with Professor (later Sir) John Crofton, who pioneered the 'Edinburgh method' of treatment of tuberculosis, pairing a combination of drugs with active monitoring, which at last offered an effective cure for the disease. He describes his time working with Crofton in this excerpt.

We'll be arranging to record more interview through the rest of this commemorative year, and we're hoping to enlist the help of some volunteers from our well-established programme to catalogue the interviews and transcribe some of the key sections. As our volunteers uncover the stories about the people who have made the Western General Hospital over the years, keep your eyes (and ears!) on the blog to learn more!

Friday, 3 August 2018

New devices. New data?

LHSA is a member of the Health Archives and Records Group (HARG,, which is a forum for bringing together people who have a research interest in, or are responsible for, health records. Over the last couple of years HARG has been reinvigorated by a dynamic committee that has been providing a programme of events to explore relevant issues in the care and use of health records.

Last week, Ruth went to HARG’s most recent session, a workshop on wearable medical devices and the data generated by them. (And to prove it here’s a photo from the day taken by our colleague Clare, who organised the event, Ruth’s on the right, talking to the the woman in green!)

The day included a number of shorter presentations with a longer discussion session in the morning and afternoon. The speakers were from a wide range of backgrounds (and this diversity was evident in the attendees too): information governance professionals, developers of wearable medical devices, clinicians, researchers using data from wearables and, of course, those responsible for archive collections.  

This is a new and constantly evolving area with people regularly using wearables now, from Fitbits for fun through to clinical devices to monitor conditions. Much of the day helped those attending understand what is currently available in terms of wearable medical devices and looked at the importance of the individual knowing what data about them is being generated and how it is being used to ensure the users’ ongoing confidence. Several papers demonstrated how much benefit can be derived from appropriate use of these devices in terms of adherence to treatment/exercise regimes, and that this then translates into fewer and/or quicker appointments with clinicians, and more sustained positive outcomes for the patient. So that continued confidence in the device, and the use of the data it creates, is crucial.

But from an archival point of view, the papers that looked at the kind of data that is being collected, whether and how it can be shared and used ethically, and how to ensure the data is authentic and has the right information associated with it to be meaningful were particularly relevant. The final paper of the morning looked at these issues in detail and was the basis of the subsequent discussion session which looked at the technology, the policies, the people and the training that should be considered in this context. Does the device measure what you want it to measure? Will the data be accessible for as long as it needs to be? Does the policy generated around the use of wearable medical devices establish who is responsible for the data and for how long? In terms of the people involved, we looked at what the users of wearables need to be able to use the devices effectively and to understand what data will be collected and how it will be used, with training being a strong aspect of this.

It was a really informative day, but perhaps more importantly it was a thought-provoking one. What information on wearable medical devices should be preserved in the archive: how are we going to capture this emerging and growing facet of 21st-century healthcare?

HARG will be providing the slides from the presentations, and a report that will give an overview, on their website in due course. We will be contributing ourselves to the next HARG event, with Louise presenting on our case note catalogue and describing the methodology used.

Friday, 20 July 2018

CRC Summer School!

Last week we had the pleasure of welcoming this year’s Centre for Research Collections Summer School attendees who came to the centre to gain a sense of the different areas of work that we do here. The summer school aims to help those who are interested in a career in the heritage, museum, and libraries sectors and they were provided with a week-long schedule of activities including tours, talks, and practical exercises.

At LHSA we decided to treat them by introducing them to the world of enquiries. We receive hundreds of enquiries every year from people wishing to learn more about individuals, hospital history, local history and the history of medicine. Many of the people who contact us here at LHSA are family historians who wish to learn more about their relatives who perhaps were patients or staff in a Lothian hospital. We decided to let the group do the research for a selection of family history enquiries in order to see how much information they could find.

The Summer School group were split into four groups with each group given a set of records and an enquiry to solve.

One group was given records from the Royal Edinburgh Hospital and asked to find out as much as they could about a patient who was admitted there in 1902. From the General Register of Patients, Register of Deaths, Certification Papers and a Casebook they were able to learn about how he came to be admitted to the hospital, the nature of his illness, the cause of his death, and even details such as hair colour and weight.

Another group were asked to find information about a woman who worked as a housemaid at Rosslynlee Hospital. They were not given a specific date but were told that she stopped working there in 1908 when she married. Using the Register of Attendants Leaving and Register of Attendants Engaged and working back from 1908 they were able to find her employment record. They also read the rules and regulations for staff in order to provide the enquirer with a little background information on what it would have been like for their relative to work in the hospital.

A lot of the feedback received from the group was that they were surprised at the amount of detail in some of the records, particularly the Royal Edinburgh Hospital casebooks. Others described the difficulty in deciphering the handwriting and talked of their relief when finding some of the records were typed. Overall it was a really enjoyable afternoon and we hope that it has inspired a few people in the room to consider a career in the archive sector!

Friday, 6 July 2018

Happy Birthday to You!

This week, we've been very busy celebrating a very special birthday. Over to Archivist Louise...

Yesterday marked 70 years of the National Health Service in the UK - a health system controlled by government, funded by taxation, free at the point of use, committed to universal care and offering comprehensive coverage. When we learnt that proposals were being taken for potential displays to fill our exhibition spaces here on the 6th floor of the Main Library, we couldn't resist suggesting an exhibition highlighting how our region and the health of its people has been transformed in those 70 years.

Our exhibition - Dawn of a New Era - opened in April, and you can see it here at the Main Library until 15th August. But for the anniversary of the NHS Appointed Day yesterday, we wanted to do something extra-special by hosting a talk on why we chose what we did for the exhibition, and to give people an opportunity to see some extra archive material that didn't quite make it into the display cases.

It was wonderful to see so many people come along to hear how our collections tell stories of changing healthcare over the years, from the treatment that was available before 1948 to cutting edge breakthroughs in bioengineering. It was particularly lovely to welcome members of NHS Lothian staff past and present, including members of the Pelican League of nurses trained at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh School of Nursing, some of whom came along wearing their prized Pelican badges!

The talk covered Edinburgh's pride in its high quality voluntary hospitals, funded entirely by public donations and fundraising...

Small flag badges were sold on pageant days to raise money for the voluntary hospitals that were funded entirely by public donation before the NHS (LHB1/35, c. 1930s)
and the precedents for state control of healthcare in Scotland that made both medical staff and civil servants more prepared for 5th July 1948, particularly wartime initiatives such as the Department of Health for Scotland-run Emergency Medical Service.

Ward 32, Bangour. Formally part of Bangour Village Hospital, this villa was taken over as part of the wartime Emergency Medical Service. It offered neurosurgical specialist services to troops, but also treated civilians.

We also looked at the structure of the Health Service in Scotland...

Diagram of the National Health Service in Scotland, from a booklet posted to every Scottish household (GD1/112, 1948)
and some of the innovations of its early days, such as locally-transforming campaigns for mobile x-ray screening for tuberculosis and health visiting:

Badge given to each participant in Edinburgh's 1958 mass miniature radiography campaign, screening against tuberculosis on the move.

Health visiting, organised by local authorities in the new National Health Service structure, helped promote the good general health that was seen as essential to the success of a nationalised health service (Acc16/009, 1960s)

As we looked at the different themes represented in the exhibition, some of the attendees' favourite items were the recent donations that we've received from the Edinburgh Children's Hospital Charity. In 2016, Writer in Residence Linda Cracknell and Illustrator in Residence Cate James produced a series of books designed for child patients in the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for Sick Children. With titles like Cathy the Friendly Cannula and Edward the Nervous Medical Notes, the books are designed to make the hospital experience less intimidating for children, by helping them to understand how treatment works, pictured below:

It was a pleasure to spend an afternoon looking back at the past 70 years, and how LHSA material both marks unique local breakthroughs, and fits into narratives of healthcare in Scotland and the UK as a whole. But if you couldn’t make it to meet us yesterday, there’s plenty of time to visit Dawn of a New Era before 15th August!

Me with one of our slides!