Friday, 13 October 2017

Hello to new intern, Claire!

As part of a commitment to offer valuable experience to very recent archive and conservation graduates, LHSA has been offering a number of short-term, paid internships for a while now. We've seen our interns go on to bigger things over the years (often coming back to work for us in professional posts!), so it's great that we've been able to offer two internships again this year, one centred on archive cataloguing and another in conservation. This week, we hear from Claire Boyle, who's joined the team as our 2017 archive intern:

Hello! I’m Claire and I’m the new archive intern working with the Lothian Health Services Archive (LHSA). I’ve volunteered with the Centre for Research Collections before, working on the Towards Dolly project, but this is my first foray into the medical collections that LHSA hold and I’m really excited to get started.

For the past year I’ve been completing an archive traineeship in the Historical Search Room of the National Records of Scotland (NRS), which has given me a great grounding in the customer-facing side of archives; and I am also well-versed in the ways of family history research. I graduated in June from the University of Dundee with a Postgraduate Diploma in Archives and Records Management, and, when I finished my traineeship at NRS in September, I decided that I needed to round off my archival training with some cataloguing experience. The LHSA cataloguing internship came up and I was lucky enough to be selected to work on LHSA’s photographic collection for a period of eight weeks. With my first week drawing to a close, and some initial scoping work done, I thought it would be useful to look ahead at what I’ll be doing while I’m here. LHSA’s photographic collection is made up of around 40,000 images and includes, not just photographs, but films, glass plate negatives, slides and digital photographs. My work on the collection will focus mainly on photographic prints and their associated negatives, and slides. 

An example of the type of photograph I will be working with. This is a double exposed image of a group photo of staff at Pinkieburn House, and a portrait of Aunt Hannah and Uncle Willie, c.1885 to 1910. Pinkieburn House, originally a family home, was gifted as Edenhall Hospital in 1917 and became a hostel for limbless ex-servicemen from 1918. By 1920 it was also a convalescent home and during WWII it then became the main Ministry of Pensions Hospital in Scotland providing general medical and surgical treatment for war pensioners. This image shows the staff and members of family of Pinkieburn House while it was still occupied as a family home. (Staff at Pinkieburn Uncle Willie & Aunt Hannah superimposed, PH36/58) 

It will be my job over the coming weeks to work with a selection of LHSA photographic material, some of which is uncatalogued and some of which is catalogued in a legacy cataloguing system and needs updating (like the photograph above). I’ll hopefully be establishing what is held, cataloguing the material using the current cataloguing system and rehousing the material into archive-friendly sleeves and boxes. I will also be undertaking a myriad of tasks that I’ve yet to find out about, but that I’m sure will be equally fascinating given the rich history that LHSA holds. In completing this work, I will be helping LHSA make its photographic collections more accessible to researchers (students, academics and the public alike) and increasing my skill-set to help me develop my career within the record-keeping sector.

Over the next seven weeks I will be helping to contribute to LHSA’s social media, so no doubt you will hear from me again and I can update you on how I’m getting on, and what interesting things I’ve discovered. Until then, you can find out a little more about the archive and our collections on our website, and if you want to see more of what we get up to in the office, take a look at some of our previous blogs. 
Claire working in the office

Friday, 29 September 2017

Scrap metal?

This week’s blog is from our newest volunteer, Danai.

My name is Danai and I am a conservation technician from Greece. I have lived in the UK for the past five years, and this is my first time volunteering here. I moved to Edinburgh because I want to learn more about the history and heritage of Scotland, and I now volunteer in the Conservation Studio at the Centre for Research Collections, University of Edinburgh, treating heath archive material in particular. 

In the past, I have worked with, and conserved, many different materials and objects, and have also spent time as an exhibition assistant, where my main responsibilities were the correct packing and storage of items. I hope to extend my experience through volunteering at the University, and to meet new people. 

My volunteer role is to treat and rehouse loose sheet material and I have been removing metal fasteners (see the picture below of all the fasteners that have been removed so that they don’t damage the paper), unfolding creases, surface cleaning, placing papers in new, labelled, folders and then putting those folders in boxes. 

I have already learnt a lot about how to care for archive material. This is very important to me as it is a completely new field, and with the help of conservation and archive staff here I am extending my knowledge to the next level. Once my current work is complete I am hoping to move on to new projects and learn more.         

Friday, 22 September 2017

Something a little different for a Friday afternoon…

This Friday’s blog comes to you from Ruth, the LHSA Manager.

I originally trained as a fine art conservator, and as a manager of an archive I draw on that training when we repair individual items as well as when providing wider collections care for all the material in LHSA. The foundation for making sure that collections care is appropriate and to the highest standard possible is in knowing what you have in your collections, what those collections are made of and, therefore, what they may be particularly vulnerable to so you can work to ensure their stability for the future.

A couple of Fridays ago we had a demonstration of a piece of equipment that can help us understand what an object is made of by identifying the elements in it: a portable x-ray diffraction spectrometer…

We got a brief introduction into the science behind the equipment – x-rays displace inner shell electrons in the object you are analysing and that displacement is measured to identify the element(s) present. Once you know what elements are there you can start to work out what the object is made of. And we got some practical demonstrations of this….

We started on something slightly less significant – an office mousemat! – and from there we moved on to some real collection items to see how we might use the equipment in practice. Scans of a bound volume with metal decoration showed that the metal was brass and therefore not likely to be a more modern addition, and scans of a flute showed that though it had been described as crystal when it had been originally manufactured and sold, there was no lead present, so we’ll have to describe it as a glass flute from here on!

We do a lot of materials identification during the course of our work with rare and unique collections, and it was really interesting to see the options that such a sophisticated piece of equipment like this can offer.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Reading by Moon's type...

This week, Louise has been finding out about just how much reading can mean to those with sight loss, and how systems of reading for the blind are reflected in our archive...

A couple of weeks ago, we were lucky enough to receive an invitation from our friends at the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) Scotland to attend an event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival with author Graeme Macrae Burnet. The event was a recording of a special edition of Connect Radio, RNIB's online radio station, based around talking books. We've worked with RNIB Scotland before as well as holding their archive. We've participated in their Seeing Our History project by indexing Edinburgh's Register of the Outdoor Blind from the beginning of the twentieth century, and also hosted researchers around the project.

RNIB is dedicated to opening up books to people with sight loss, by providing braille and giant print editions or talking books that can be accessed by digital download or through a USB drive or CD. Titles are available free to borrow from RNIB's online library. The event started with an interview with Graeme Macrae Burnet hosted by Connect Radio presenter Robert Kirkwood. You can borrow both of Burnet's current books from the RNIB library - the first, The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau and his latest, His Bloody Project. His Bloody Project made the Man Booker Prize shortlist last year, and as such was available in accessible versions. RNIB work in partnership with prize organisers every year to make sure that the six shortlisted novels are available to those with sight loss in talking book, braille and giant print versions. His Bloody Project is based around (fictional!) 'found documents' from the archives, and the very real career of police psychiatrist and criminology pioneer James Bruce Thomson, so that immediately peaked my interest...

The interview was then followed by a panel discussion about how much having access to reading through RNIB has meant to individuals, both those born without sight, and those having to deal with progressive blindness. It brought home how reading in whatever form has the ability to lift people feeling isolated and alone, especially those coping with deteriorating vision. Reading can be a form of imaginative escapism and widening horizons, and blindness can limit access to those experiences, not to mention the possibility of being unable to participate in the way that books weave themselves into daily life and culture.

Attending the Book Festival event made me think of much earlier evidence about promoting access to reading reflected in the RNIB archive. The earliest example that we have is Moon's Type. William Moon (1818-1894) invented a simplified system of raised type (the Braille system of dots is also raised type, more familiar to us now).

William Moon, 1873 (GD52/3/1)
 Moon had lost the sight in one eye at aged four. After leaving school his sight deteriorated until he was completely blind by aged 21, scuppering his ambitions to become a missionary. Following many failed experiments dating back to as early as the sixteenth century, raised type as a system of reading for the blind started to gain ground in late eighteenth century France. Moon himself mastered reading in raised type, but was distressed to find that some people could not. There would have been a couple of different versions at the time, including Lucas's Alphabet and Alston's Alphabet. Moon instead invented a simplified form of raised type alphabet, using fourteen different shapes at different angles. 

Dr Moon's Alphabet for the Blind, c. 1850s (GD52/1/1/1)
At first, Moon printed texts himself. From the beginning, the invention of the type was tied into Moon's evangelical Christian faith - he wanted to bring scripture to those whose lack of sight meant that they couldn't read the Bible in conventional ways. Moon's Alphabet was also adaptable to many different languages (particularly helpful to the travelling evangelical mission community), as shown below.

Moon's Alphabet in different languages (GD52/3/3)
Moon not only traveled around the UK, but also in Europe and as far afield as Australia  to promote his system of reading. One list of Moon's texts in English and other languages from his own lifetime was made up solely of scripture, texts on scripture or raised maps:

A map in Moon's System (GD52/3/1)
Another more extensive catalogue does feature memoirs (of religious figures and royalty) and poetry, although'poetry' is mainly made up of hymns! However, there were also teaching materials for children in Moon's Alphabet:

Geometry taught using Moon's Alphabet (GD52/3/3)
Helped by donations from wealthy patron Charles Lowther, Moon's system spread, and was received extremely favourably compared to previous, more complicated alphabets. Moon also drove the rise of the Home Teaching Society initiative, where blind people would be encouraged to read in their own homes, spreading Moon's Alphabet to those outside the Blind Asylums (institutions to provide work and lodging to blind people). Edinburgh had a Home Teaching Society (founded in 1856), the Edinburgh Society for Promoting Reading Amongst the Blind at their Own Homes on Moon's System, reflected in the earliest reports we have in the RNIB collection.

Early reports from the Edinburgh Society (GD52/1/1/1) 

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a document that was meant to fuel charitable donations, the reports we have from the Edinburgh Society are full of praise for Moon's system. A bit more unusually, though, they cite experiences from partially sighted people themselves (albeit mediated through the testimonies of their tutors). This is one case study from the 1858 report:

"Mr. ------ has been blind for eight years. A few months ago a friend sent him Moon's Alphabet, but having no one to explain it, he could at first make nothing of it. A few weeks afterwards, however, meeting a blind member of the congregation with whom he is connected, he mentioned the circumstance. His friend happened to be a reader by Moon's system, and in one lesson had the pleasure of remving all his difficultues. Mr. ---- can now read with ease and comfort." (1858)

The 1860 report featured a direct statements from the male inmates of Edinburgh's Blind Asylum:

"The character is simple, easily felt and easily remembered. We are warranted in stating that individuals of any age can easily acquire a knowledge of it with the least possible trouble."

The sheer variety of texts, formats and ways to consume reading (without being treated as an object of pity or potential vessel for conversion) offered by RNIB shows just how far reading for partially sighted people has come since the earliest examples we hold. If you're interested in helping more people with sight loss to access the lifeline of reading, you can learn how to sponsor a talking book here.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Nights on the ward - the Night Superintendent's Report

This week, Alice has been looking at a little-used but fascinating set of records that shed light on the daily workings of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh

In order to reform nursing and nurses training at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (RIE), in the 1870s trained ‘Nightingale Nurses’ were recruited and a training program instituted. Under this new system, the nurses reported to the Lady Superintendent of Nurses, rather than individual ward doctors. In addition to the Lady Superintendent there was the Night Superintendent, who monitored staff and patients throughout the night.

As there was little cross-over in their hours, the two used small bound notebooks as a means of communication between night shift and day shift. The left-hand pages of each book contains instructions recorded by the Lady Superintendent at the end of her day; and on the corresponding page the Night Superintendent would record the happenings of the night).

These little volumes are a fascinating way to supplement some of the other records we hold. Some pages contain snippets about staff which paint a vivid picture of the differing personalities of nurses, such as this entry:

27th-28th March 1876
“I made 3 rounds, nurses all in their places but Louise of 4 M[edical] I found her twice in one hour absent from her ward. She was with the night nurse in 5 M[edical] each time. I told her I would report it to you…
Nurse McLeod was not well at 5am but thought she could do her work so I let her” - (LHB1/103/7)

LHB1/126/50 - Christopher's entry in the General Register of Patients
Others add life to the lists of patient names that are recorded in the General Registers. For example, where in the register 8 year-old Christopher Yeoman appears as one name amongst many, this small detail from the Night Superintendent’s report paints a picture:

30th – 31st March 1876
Lady Superintendent: “The mother of the child in 3 S[urgical] is staying with him tonight so Nurse Black is not there”.
Night Superintendent: “The boy has had a quiet night; he is always much better with his mother”.

 The job of nurse was a risky one; often, the Superintendents’ notes to each other either request or provide details about unwell colleagues. There are numerable instances of nurses falling ill, and and Mary Anne Barclay is one such nurse.
LHB1/97/1 - Nurse Fraser's training record shows the perils of the job
Mary Barclay entered the RIE as a probationer on 19th January 1876 having previously been employed for a time at Chalmers Hospital in Banff. According to her training record, she spent three months working in the Infirmary’s medical wards before she fell ill.

LHB1/97/1 - Nurse Barclay's training record
The first mention of Nurse Barclay’s illness in the Night Superintendent’s reports comes at the start of April 1876. As part of her general instructions for the night of the 6th April, the Lady Superintendent requested that the Night Superintendent “please visit Nurse Barclay [in] 1 lower dormitory”. The return reply records that “Nurse Barclay has not had a bad night – Nurses Brown and McLeod each gave her a fermentation”. The following days’ correspondence suggests continuing concern for her well-being:

7th - 8th April 1876
                Lady Superintendent: “Nurse McDonald will stay on duty with Nurse Barclay til Dr McLeod has seen her.”
Night Superintendent: “Nurse Barclay had some sleep but had pain when awake so I told Nurse McDonald to stay with her.”

The next night shows a further downturn as Nurse Barclay was admitted into the hospital as a patient:

8th - 9th April 1876
Lady Superintendent: “Nurse Barclay was warded in 14 M[edical]. Will you report of her in the morning.”
Night Superintendent: “Nurse Barclay has been quiet but has not slept much : she looks very bad.”

Her recovery was slow but ultimately successful, with her training record noting that she was “about ten weeks absent” before continuing her training with “nine months in surgical wards”. Ultimately, her hard work and commitment to the vocation paid off. She was described as “patient, obedient and industrious, of slow intelligence but very painstaking, high principled and kind”, and after two years working on the night staff of the RIE she left to take up the post of Matron of Wallasey Cottage Hospital in Birkenhead.

The Superintendents were also there to offer guidance and mentor the novice nurses and support them in carrying out an often difficult vocation, as can be seen from these snippets:

                19th – 20thth April 1876
Lady Superintendent: “Bad case in 3 M[edical]. The nurse there is timid, please assist as often as you can”
Night Superintendent: “3 M[edical] - The poor old man died at 3.40am”

                1st – 2nd May 1876
Lady Superintendent: “Nurse Collins being off duty, Nurse Munro is in 16 S[urgical]. Nurse Macrae is also off duty, and Nurse Wyllie is on 4 M[edical]. Both these are young nurse and will need some looking up, especially as there is a sharp typhoid case in 4 M[edical]”

                8th – 9th May 1876
                “7 M[edical] - Nurse Small is taking charge of the tracheotomy case and Nurse Callow to do the rest of the work. The latter being new to us, give good heed to this ward.”

Although intended as administrative records, these volumes are a wonderful way to experience more of life on the ward, and the nurses’ concern for their patients really comes through. 

Friday, 25 August 2017

Tuberculosis and the Health Visitor

Project Cataloguing Archivist Clair looks at the role of the health visitor in the fight against TB.
August sees the return of LHSA’s RVH vs. TB, Wellcome Trust funded cataloguing project.  The project which began in August 2015, sets out to catalogue c.25, 000 case notes from the Royal Victoria Tuberculosis Trust and associated hospitals. Covering the period of c.1920 – 2000 the records provide a detailed account of the fight against pulmonary TB at a time when the disease posed a serious threat to public health. The collection contains four series of which two have already been catalogued and I will completing the cataloguing project by the end of April 2018.

I have now worked with a few different case note collections belonging to different medical specialisms. Although we have been implementing the same methodology in order to catalogue these collections, there is always going to be some variation in the types of documents found in the case notes. The fourth series of the TB case notes holds c.2000 individual patient case files from the Royal Victoria dispensary for Diseases of the Chest. Within the case notes I have found a few different types of documents that I have not come across in other collections, in particular health visitor reports and contact sheets. Being an infectious disease, tuberculosis was deemed a matter of public health and public authorities had to take action to stop the spread of the disease. This included keeping track of all the persons who had been in contact with an infected patient, mainly their family but also their landlord and neighbours when applicable. If a person was deemed at risk they were recorded in the patients file, normally on a contact sheet or in the health visitors report.

TB Health Visitor Report 1958.  PR4.1686
The health visitor report itself provided an interesting insight into the patient’s lifestyle and social circumstances, containing data such as:

  • Demographic information  
  • Previous TB investigations
  • Milk intake (including no. of pints drunk per day)
  • Home reports (including type of housing, condition and occupancy)
  • Family history of TB
  • Work or school information
  • Leisure activities
  • Hairdresser information
  • Regular public transport used

 At the end of the report there a section which suggests the action that must be taken, in consideration of the information gathered from the report, depending on how severe the risk of infection was. Interestingly this could stem from simple hygiene changes, for example, disinfecting the home or ‘laundry disposal’, to extreme measures, including, applying for rehousing or removing children from the home.  The health visitor reports are really interesting because they reflect on the medical state of a patient in relation to the environment they and their family lived in. Moreover they lend themselves to potential social research because of their in depth analysis of standard of living and lifestyle.

TB health visitor visiting elderly lady 1952.         

Audience at TB public health campaign, New Victoria Cinema, Edinburgh 1947.
Throughout the TB project, myself and former colleagues have touched on different methods employed by public authorities to help in the fight against TB, such as, the Edinburgh scheme, Mass Miniature Radiography, BGC vaccination schemes and public health campaigns but the role of the health visitor was important too. The health visitor crossed the boundary of the medical and social worker, and therefore, their main role was to provide advice and encouragement (not judgment), to help families do the best that they possible could to prevent the spread of the disease. This could include a programme of health education and recommendations in disease prevention, such as, milk, extra nourishment and improved sleeping arrangements.  If the patient was uncooperative with the health visitor’s advice and had a chronic tuberculosis infection they were a source of danger to their families as well as the wider public. Even in extremely impoverished conditions with overcrowded homes and poorly maintained housing, the health visitor’s role to help families reach achievable habits of healthy living should be recognised in the public fight against TB. As one tuberculosis health visitor remarked:

TB health visitor visiting elderly lady 1952.  

“The chief responsibility for controlling tuberculosis lies within the community. This is a social disease.”[1]

[1] Buchanan, S. The Health Visitor and Tuberculosis (1955), p.21.

Friday, 18 August 2017

A poetic patient

In this week's blog, Archivist Louise looks at hospitals from a different angle...

The current BBC series, Trust Me, follows staff nurse Cath Hardacre from Sheffield to Edinburgh. Suspended for whistle-blowing down in Yorkshire, she seizes a chance for a new life when a job is advertised working for 'South Lothian NHS Trust' at the 'Southern General Hospital' (some death certificates actually do state this institution, which was possibly an early twentieth century name for the infirmary at Glenlockhart poorhouse). The only snag is, the post is for an A&E doctor, not a nurse - but Cath's doctor friend Ally has just left Sheffield for New Zealand, fortuitously leaving her CV prominently in the bin. Cath plucks the document out, watches a few YouTube videos, applies for the Edinburgh job under Ally's name and is soon enough installed in a very nice flat with a view of Arthur's Seat. After all, being a doctor in A&E can't be too hard, can it??

The series, filmed right here at the University (you can see the Library where LHSA is based in this week's trailer), made me think about the portrayal of hospitals by artists and writers. I've recently become aware of William Ernest Henley (1849-1903), for example, who was a patient of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (RIE) in the 1870s. Born in Gloucester, Henley developed tuberculosis as a child, leading to his left leg being amputated below the knee when he was just 16. In young adulthood, he started to write, but the tuberculosis infection returned when he was 23, and he was faced with amputation of his other leg. In a last-ditch attempt to save his leg, he traveled to Edinburgh, where he'd heard that a doctor called Joseph Lister was making great strides with aseptic surgery. Lister accepted him as a patient on a Reserved Ward of the RIE, where Henley stayed from August 1873 to May 1875, undergoing an operation that scraped out the dead bone from his infected leg, which was then packed with lint soaked in carbolic. Whilst Henley slowly recovered, he had plenty of time to write, including these lines on Lister himself:

"His brow spreads large and placid, and his eye,
Is deep and bright, with steady looks that still.
Soft lines of tranquil thought his face fulfil -
His face at once benign and proud and shy."

From A Surgeon, later The Chief)

A young Joseph Lister (sitting, centre) when a trainee doctor in the Infirmary, 1854 (LHSA photograph collection)

Henley wrote 28 poems in all during his time in the RIE; some first published in The Cornhill Magazine as Hospital Outlines: Sketches and Portraits. The poems also give a view of the other patients around Henley ('Through the loud emptiness and airy gloom,/A small, strange child, so old and yet so young!/Her little arm besplinted and beslung,/Precedes me gravely to the waiting room.'), nursing staff in the process of professionalization ('Her plain print gown, prim cap and bright steel chain/Look out of place on her'), and the general atmosphere of the hospital ('A square squat room that stinks of dust and drugs'). However, unfortunately we only have a very scant record of Henley's time in hospital in our records, with only one page of the Infirmary register filled in for his line, out of the usual two:

Henley's original admission record from 24th August, 1873 (third down). The second page of the register, which records information about medical condition and discharge date. is blank (LHB1/126/39)
One Infirmary patient mentioned in Henley's poems was 'John Gallagher', who 'Fell, some eighteen months ago/Smashing his shin'. No 1870s' case notes survive in the archive - however, from Henley's description, we get an idea of Gallagher's character that we just could not glean from institutional records:

"He like a collier swears, prays like a child,
Roars like a bison, laughs like something wild,
And makes us all like, pity, and despise him."

From A Patient 

According to his biography, Henley also went on to marry Anna Boyle, whom he'd met when she was visiting her elder brother, who occupied the next bed to Henley. Captain Boyle was in the merchant navy, son of Edward Boyle. The only Boyle I found mentioned in our records coinciding with Henley's time in hospital who could match the description was this gentleman:

Admission for an Edward Boyle, 'master mariner', admitted on 2 March 1874, bottom line (LHB1/126/40).
Henley's hospital stay inspired more new relationships - his poems prompted a visit by Robert Louis Stevenson, with Henley becoming the inspiration for Long John Silver. Henley remained a prolific writer until his death in 1903, and his obituary was even published in The Lancet, which praised the accuracy of his descriptions of general hospital life. His view of the sights, sounds and personalities of the Infirmary might not be widely known, but they provide a precious patient perspective into a changing world of hospital care:

"This is a ward in hospital. You see
The Field where Science battles with Disease,
And Hope - sweet Hope - succumbs to Death alone."

From The Ward