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.

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!

Friday, 13 April 2018

Welcome to Louise!

This week, we have welcomed our new Access Officer, Louise Neilson, to the LHSA team. She'll be answering quite a few of the hundreds of enquiries we get each year about our material and helping more people access health archives in new ways. It's been great having Louise in the office these past few days, and, as you'll hear below, she's certainly been busy...

My name is Louise Neilson and I am currently enjoying my first week here in my role as Access Officer at Lothian Health Services Archive.
I was born in raised in the town of Kirkintilloch, which lies 8 miles north of Glasgow. I decided not to stray too far from home and studied my undergraduate degree in History at the University of Glasgow. My passion for archives began a decade ago when I gained some voluntary experience at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. The contrast of the beautiful interior of the St Vincent Street townhouse combined with the macabre nature of the material in the collection had me hooked. I never would have guessed that learning about wet cupping would dictate my career path, but from that point on I knew what that working with archives was what I wanted to do. After that, I gained as much experience as I could in a range of archival institutions from the Glasgow Women’s Library to the Manchester Central Library. In 2013, I began my formal training and completed an MSc in Information Management and Preservation at the University of Glasgow. I then began an internship at the archive of Harper Collins Publishers before joining full time as an Archives Assistant to help prepare for their global bicentenary celebrations in 2017. During my time there, I was fortunate enough to catalogue the collections of some of the world’s most celebrated authors: most notably the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie.

Since arriving here at LHSA, I have been trying to absorb a mountain of information while simultaneously trying my best not to get lost or set off alarms. The extent of the resources available here at the Centre for Research Collections is staggering and I cannot wait to get to know the team and their roles a little better. I have been introduced to the LHSA collection and I already have a long list of items I want to pore over in time. I was particularly drawn to the patient case notes from the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. The case books date from 1840-1932 and the detailed notes that can sometimes include patient photographs help connect you to the personal and human element of medical records. Many of the stories are tinged with tragedy. The depth of information covers details such as marital status, religion, habits, historical health issues, and disposition as well as documenting patients' perceived mental and physical health during their admission.

Case Book from the Royal Edinburgh Hospital (LHB7/51/68)

I have been overwhelmed by the level of support that I have received from both LHSA and the CRC staff since arriving timidly on Monday, and I am excited to learn more about how my role can help provide access to the fantastic collections and resources on offer here.