Friday, 30 September 2011

A visit to the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh Library

This week, Stephen visited the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) Sibbald Library. Iain Milne, the Sibbald Librarian, gave a party of visitors a tour of the facilities. This was organised by Edinburgh Library and Information Services Agency (ELISA) Staff Development Group.

The RCPE was a society of medical practitioners who began meeting up to agree standards of good practice and thus improve the profession. The Library has been in existence since 1682, just one year after the RCPE’s formation, and was intended to provide a literature resource of the most current medical theory and practice.

The Library moved to its present location in Queen Street in the 19th century and continued to be a contemporary resource until the 1960s, when this status was gradually eroded by the free availability of medical journals from the United States. Since the late 20th century the Library has mainly been used as a historical resource. It is housed in an A listed building of beautiful wooden panelling, balustrades and marble statues.

Alison Scott, Archivist, explained some of the work she has been doing. The Wellcome Trust have funded a project to catalogue the archive collection, which includes international correspondence and notes regarding the diagnosis of patients by the famous 18th-century physician, William Cullen. A University of Glasgow project is digitising the Cullen papers and it is planned that they will be available online next year. Alison worked at LHSA until earlier this year so the visit was a good opportunity to see where she has moved on to.

Visits to other libraries such as these are important as it means that LHSA staff have a better awareness of what other local resources on medical history are available, and can direct archive users to exactly the information they need. Many records in LHSA were produced by Fellows of the RCPE, therefore there is considerable crossover between the collections of the RCPE and LHSA.

To find out more about the RCPE Library please see

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