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: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/archives-sector/archive-service-accreditation/.

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: https://westerngeneral150.blog/

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, https://healtharchives.co.uk/), 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!










Friday, 22 June 2018

NHS Scotland Event 2018


Our 70th anniversary celebrations continued this week as we attended the 2018 NHS Scotland event in the SEC Glasgow. The event is in its thirteenth year and is the ‘premier meeting place’ for those who are committed to delivering high quality health and social care services. It brings together those working for and with the NHS in Scotland and provides them with the opportunity to consider the challenges, to share best practice, to view the latest innovative approaches and to develop tools and techniques designed to support them in their various roles.
The 70th anniversary provided the event with an excuse to reflect on what the NHS has meant for people in Scotland, to recognise and thank staff for their contributions, and to celebrate the massive achievements that have been made over the past seven decades. The event theme was ‘Delivering Now, Improving for the Future’, and this flavoured many of the discussions throughout each day as people speculated on what another 70 years of the NHS could achieve.
LHSA were situated on the NHS 70th stand where alongside freelance historian Chris Holme and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Archivist Dr Alistair Tough we spoke to attendees who were passionate about the history of the NHS in Scotland. As well as sharing stories relating to our collections we listened to many people who were eager to share their personal memories and experiences too.





On day one those who visited the stand were encouraged to write down their memories of NHS Scotland and what makes them proud to work for the service. These thoughts were then taken by artists Ken Darling and Andrew Forsyth (http://www.darlingforsyth.com/) who then used them to create a large mural over the course of the day. Which was fascinated to watch develop:




Day two was focused on looking to the future and people recorded their hopes for how NHS Scotland will progress in the years to come. These thoughts were also captured in the artwork of Darling and Forsyth. The themes of funding and technology were prevalent and the idea of a robot nurse made it to the board:




The event was an excellent opportunity to engage NHS staff with the history of the health service throughout Scotland, and we found people were very excited to both learn and share stories from the past.
If you want to learn more about the past 70 years of the NHS in the Lothian area then come and visit our exhibition currently on display on the 6th floor of the Main Library, University of Edinburgh, George Square.
We also have a free event based on the exhibition on the 5th July. The event will also be held in the Main Library where as well as a chance to view our exhibition there will be a short talk alongside a display of our collections: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/celebrating-the-dawn-of-a-new-era-tickets-46649093695

Friday, 8 June 2018

70 years in pictures...


This week, Access Officer Louise has been getting to know LHSA's image collections:

5th July is fast approaching, and as the National Health Service prepares to turn 70, here at Lothian Health Services Archive we have been hard at work promoting the big day.

Our exhibition, Dawn of a New Era, has been on display in the Main Library of the University of Edinburgh since April 13 and will continue until August 15 with the addition of two further display cases arriving in late June. The exhibition uses LHSA collections to chart the journey of the NHS from pre-1948 experiments with state healthcare through 70 years of innovation, challenges and breakthroughs. The exhibition showcases a diverse range of objects, and it is definitely the first exhibition I have seen featuring both a pacemaker and a board game.




NHS objects on display inside the exhibition
As well as our preparations, I have been answering enquiries from others who are collecting images to use in their own promotion of the anniversary. Image requests have been helpful in allowing me to gain an ever broadening understanding of the collections held by LHSA and I have already compiled a long list of favourites.

While searching for images that depicted nurses at work I came across this wonderful scene from 1960s which shows nurses at Christmas with geriatric patients on a ward in Bangour Village Hospital.
Patients and nurses at Christmas, Bangour Village Hospital, c. late 1960s (P/PL44/P/088)
Another image I enjoyed was a photograph showing a classroom of nurses being taught in their new teaching department at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh which opened in 1957.
 
Nurses' classroom, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, 1957 (P/PL1/S)
I also conducted a search through our extensive collection of midwifery and nursing badges from across Scotland. My favourite is from the North Edinburgh School of Midwifery which has a dolphin arching across the centre.

North Edinburgh School of Midwifery badge, late 1970s (O467)
As well as midwifery and nursing, badges held by LHSA cover Edinburgh’s hospitals from the early twentieth century through to HIV awareness campaigns of the late 1980s and ‘90s.
For more images of our historic badges, visit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/49439570@N08/sets/72157625849589925

Friday, 25 May 2018

'To have a Blue pill & Black draught in the morning'

This week, archivist Louise has been looking into the story of a nineteenth century Edinburgh writer...

LHSA's rich history of psychiatry collections are understandably popular with researchers: with collections from the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, Midlothian and Peebles District Asylum, Haddington District Asylum, Bangour Village Hospital, and Roxburgh, Berwick and Selkirk District Asylum, we have built up a rich picture of Scottish psychiatric hospitals, their patients and their medical staff, particularly in the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries.

Of these collections, our material from the Royal Edinburgh Hospital is undoubtedly the most consulted. Of particular interest to many researchers are letters written by patients, which we originally found inserted into the pages of the hospital case books. These letters have been the subject of academic scholarship in recent years, and are also popular with history of psychiatry students (who persevere despite the fact that they can be notoriously difficult to decipher!). Letters were written to patients' relatives, friends, and some to the medical staff of the hospital. So why were they never sent?

One possible reason for their retention by the hospital staff may have been that they did not want to distress potential recipients with some of the contents of the letters, or that doctors were worried that letters may not have painted the hospital in a very positive light. The 1866 Scottish Lunacy Act allowed physicians to suspend letters they felt to be unsuitable (excepting complaints sent to the General Board of Control, the body that policed asylums in Scotland). However, a couple of years ago, I found a reference to the confiscation of patient letters in a Royal Edinburgh Hospital annual report of 1863, in which the Physician Superintendent, David Skae, defended the practice by stating..'it has long been observed that the letters of patients in many instances betray their insanity and morbid impulses much more frequently than their conversation'. Skae went on to state that he had been given authority to confiscate letters by the hospital Board of Directors (an earlier internal regulation than the 1866 Lunacy Act), but that many letters did in fact get sent out and received by patients, and that any inspection or retention of letters was always communicated to the writer.

In researching our letters for one of the many enquiries we receive about them, I came across this resource on Grace Webster, a nineteenth century Edinburgh writer (most famous for her books Ingliston and The Edinburgh Literary Album). A large bundle of her letters had been found bricked into the chimney by builders when restoring a house (presumably where she lived in St Patrick Square), and have been catalogued and transcribed by an academic. One of the letters was written by Grace from the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, and this made me keen to look up her medical case....

'Ms Webster' was admitted five times to the Royal Edinburgh Hospital between 1845 and 1873 for 'acute mania', an illness which (from her case notes) seemed to consist of erratic behaviour being interspersed with periods of relative mental well-being and calm. For example, on her first admittance,she was described as 'a native of Edinburgh and unmarried but received a good education. Is an Episcopalian and has edited & written several books.... is quiet and industrious & is fond of sorority... is generally considered a person of considerable talent' (LHB7/51/2). Her illness was attributed to 'over do of a romantic state of mind.'

First page of Grace Webster's case (LHB7/51/2)

Grace's quietness and industriousness were not to last long, however, since throughout her admissions, her illness manifested itself in 'abhorrent language' and also more physical acts: tearing her clothes, refusing to be moved, and in breaking windows. This erratic behaviour seems to have earned her a reputation with the doctors and nurses, who moved her between several galleries (wards) of the hospital (including confinement alone) during her time there. Grace seemed to have had little time for her medical attendants, who stated that 'she constantly tries to bring charges against the officers and attendants of cruelty and neglect not so much to herself as to the other patients'. Moreover, Grace is often described as 'obstinate' in her case notes, and her actions can be read as both affects of her illness, and as acts of resistance and defiance against the depersonalising regimes of the hospital (it is mentioned that 'her head was shaved', for example). Her decline is clear to trace, however, for by 1873 she is described as more and more feeble and habouring 'delusions of conspiracies against her'. She was apparently 'still very argumentative and cantankerous', though (which just makes me like her more!).

The two most interesting aspects of her case, however, were the descriptions of her medical treatment and the writing that she did whilst a patient. The enquiries we tend to get about patients at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital usually cover the late nineteenth century: since Grace's case started in the second earliest volume of the case books that we have, I found a rare excuse to look at descriptions of earlier psychiatric treatment. For example, Grace was prescribed 'a Blue pill & Black draught in the morning'.

All this sounded very strange to me, and I wondered whether I had misread the (quite difficult) handwriting. After some research, though, I found that there was indeed such a thing as a blue pill - coming from schools of thought that advocated purging as a remedy for illness, it was a mercury-based medicine with a laxative effect, with what would now be seen as dangerous levels of mercury. A 'black draught' was another laxative medicine, made of senna with magnesia and licquorice. Grace was also prescribed another form of purging: blood-letting. On her first 1845 admission, she was treated by 'four leeches applied to the temple.' You can read about nineteenth century purging medicines and their context (albeit through United States history) here.

The other factor of interest in Grace's case is mentions of her writing. In her first admission, it is reported that she 'walks about daily and has written a note to her friend'. However, when she next appears in hospital in 1856, she has written a book, which 'was penned shortly after leaving the asylum and in it she exhibited the greatest ingratitude to parties who had treated her with the most uncalled for generosity and benevolence.' Grace Webster's writing seems to be relatively little known, and it is not easy to find out which novel this was.

Grace's letter writing is often referred to in her notes, but no letters from her were inserted in the case books, which does imply that most were sent, as Dr Skae insisted that many letters were in the 1863 annual report mentioned above. Grace certainly wrote to people a lot: doctors reported that she was constantly writing to friends and medical staff saying that she wanted to leave, and this was 'almost daily'. One example of this has been retained: an 1856 'petition' she wrote 'Unto the medical gentlemen and Matrons'.
Petition 'Unto the medical gentlemen and Matrons' (LHB7/51/11)
Insisting that she has been 'greatly insulted and imposed upon by being brought into a place of this kind under false pretenses' (an 'airing for health' in a carriage), Grace goes on to describe the losses she believes that she has incurred as a result of her time in the asylum and its 'bad air': of health, of time and of goods. One thing that I particularly like about this document is the small doodle of a face on the last page: a practice that links people writing freehand across time (but also undermines the tone of officialdom she seemed to want to add to the petition).

Doodle of a face on the 1856 petition
Sadly, Grace died soon after her 1873 discharge from the hospital, but perhaps the letters found in her chimney will inspire a new interest in a much-forgotten life.







Friday, 11 May 2018

A day early...

Tomorrow is Nurses' Day (also Florence Nightingale’s birthday) and an opportunity to celebrate all the amazing work nurses do around the world!

A little closer to home and our blog this week throws a quick spotlight on the collections we hold that relate to nurses and nursing history, and that serve to record the valuable contributions of nurses to healthcare in the Lothians.

Our source list at http://www.lhsa.lib.ed.ac.uk/source/nursing_index.htm gives lots of information about the types of nursing-related material we have, from records that show individual nurses’ experiences, to papers that describe the wider nursing training programmes and their working lives. We have some wonderful photographs of nurses too and you can see a wide selection of these online via Scran: click here to see one of my favourites!

We’re also celebrating nursing as part of our current exhibition, ‘Dawn of a New Era’, to commemorate the NHS's 70th birthday. The exhibition opened in April and will run until 15 August in the Centre for Research Collections, Edinburgh University Main Library – from 22 June we’ll have an additional display case dedicated solely to nursing. 


You can follow all the nursing stories that will be told for Nurses Day on Twitter - look out for hashtags #ThisNurse #NursesDay and #HistNursing.




Friday, 27 April 2018

Saying farewell to LHSA


In this week’s blog, Project Cataloguing Archivist, Clair, shares her final blog with us.
I can’t believe this is the final time I will be blogging for LHSA after what has been an incredible time here for me. LHSA was my starting point into the world of archives when I came for a taster day to see what it was all about, way back in 2013. From then, I was not only hooked on pursuing a career in archives and records management, but I also found a particular interest in medical records.  As someone who had usually strayed away from the world of science and medicine, it surprised me how much social history can also lie within medical archives and it was this combination that made LHSA stand out for me.
After starting up my professional archives qualification in 2013, it became clear that the best way to really get to grips with the training was to gain practical experience within an archive itself. Therefore, throughout this time I also volunteered with LHSA and came here for my course cataloguing placement.
For my slightly younger self, above, this was my first cataloguing experience working on the papers of Dr Anne McLeod Shepherd, who was actively interested in the history of the female medical profession, particularly in the work of Dr Elsie Maud Inglis, to whom her papers mainly relate. From here my volunteering expanded into helping LHSA with their participation in the Royal National Institute for the Blind Scotland Seeing Our History project to index Edinburgh’s Register of the Outdoor Blind from the early 20th century. Once I had finished my professional archival qualification, I got an internship with LHSA to work on improving access to their photographic collection. This was one of my favourites: sheep grazing on the Meadows with the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in the background.
P/PL1/B/E/327




I was really grateful that before I had even started in a professional archive post with LHSA that I had already been exposed the great variations within their collections so when the opportunity came up to work at LHSA as Project Cataloguing Archivist I was in luck! Starting on the Wellcome Trust funded HIV/AIDS project Policies, Postcards and Prophylactics: a project to catalogue and conserve LHSA’s UNESCO-awarded HIV/AIDS collections (1983-2010) was perhaps a more usual start to archival cataloguing as the collections contain such modern materials from loose paper documents to balloons and condoms.
Take Care Campaign logo GD24/2


Items from the HIV/AIDS collections including condoms and information cards.

It was a real privilege to work with the LHSA HIV/AIDS collections that are inscribed to the UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register for their significance in documenting the medical and social responses in Edinburgh to fighting HIV and AIDS. Although I did not start at the beginning of this project it was really nice to take it to its end point which allowed me to move on to other LHSA cataloguing projects.



Clinical drawing from the Dott collection.
Again with thanks to Wellcome Trust funding, I have also been able to work on LHSA’s case note cataloguing projects Cataloguing Norman Dott’s neurosurgical case notes (1920-1960) and RVH vs. TB: a project to catalogue LHSA’s Royal Victoria Hospital Tuberculosis and Diseases of the Chest Case Notes and Registers (c.1920-2000). I dipped in and out of these projects, but again seeing them both to their end-point has been extremely satisfying. In terms of cataloguing skills I have learnt how to deal with complex medical data, to create a resource that is both useful to researchers and respectful of confidentially. Medical case notes are such fascinating documents, which has provided me with knowledge about medical specialisms from neuroscience and tuberculosis to sexual dysfunction. Although we are opening up these types of collections for researchers, I have also enjoyed researching their historical context myself for our blogs, a really interesting part of the job.
Example of a TB case note PR2.
LHSA has helped me go from volunteer to a professional in a career that is not only really interesting but also rewarding. It is with huge thanks to my colleagues at LHSA and everyone that I have worked with throughout the Centre for Research Collections for all the support, knowledge and opportunities that I have had along the way!