Friday, 25 July 2014

Looking Back and Going Forward: Experiences of Project Working

The blog this week comes from Emily, our Project Conservator.

I am now halfway through a 12-month project to conserve LHSA’s HIV/AIDS collections. Since I started in January, time has really flown by and I am very proud of what I have achieved in six months. Project based positions like this are very common for new professionals such as myself. Although it can be worrying not knowing what jobs will be available in the future, or where they may be, I believe there are many positive aspects to undertaking short fixed-term contracts. Firstly, a wide range of conservation experience can be gained from working at different posts. My current post deals with modern papers and plastics, whereas my previous role was based at an 11th century castle and I worked with maps and plans from the 18th and 19th centuries. Prior to this, I lived and worked in rural India at a Buddhist monastery to conserve its wall paintings and I’ve also worked in a high-tech conservation studio in Singapore! All very different roles, but all very enjoyable!

My first conservation placement, Tsuklahkang Temple in Sikkim, India. A wall painting mid-way through surface cleaning
 
 In the Studio at the Centre for Research Collections. Rehousing large format posters
 
Although I did not expect to be working with condoms and balloons when I graduated from a fine art conservation degree last year, I have enjoyed working with these modern objects. I had little prior knowledge of this type of material before I started, but I’ve had the chance to study this subject further in this role. Early on in this project, I was able to undertake an online course on the conservation of plastics. This was a fantastic experience as I was able to learn a great deal about plastics and discuss conservation problems with professionals from all over the world, all from the comfort of our office! This was not only beneficial to me, but I was also able to improve the housing of our plastics objects based on the knowledge gained from this class.
I have also taken advantage of other types of training available at Edinburgh University whilst in this post. The University offers many professional development classes. I was keen to take part in the ‘Presentation Skills’ course as this is something that I have always struggled with and wanted to improve. I found this day really useful and I was able to implement the advice given in presentations to tour groups and peers. Another useful class was ‘Writing for the Web’ which gave instruction on designing websites. This is something that will be really useful in the future, with more and more content being accessed online. Last week, I also attended an ‘Interview Skills’ class to prepare for the impending end of my contract!
During my time here, I have tried to take advantage of any opportunities that have come my way. Inspired by the modern materials in the collection and supported by my line manager, Ruth, I applied to the Wellcome Trust Small Grant Fund to put on a symposium. I recently found out that I was successful in this bid and plan to hold the event, which will focus on the conservation of modern plastics and funding applications, at the end of November. On the back of this, I have also been asked to present at a conference in London on the conservation of the HIV/AIDS collection – both things I never imagined I would be doing when I started this job! I’ve also had the occasion to help put on ‘Conservation Taster Day’ and work with interns. In the near future I will also be supervising volunteers and interns in the studio. Over the next six months, I am looking forward to seeing where else this project will take me, and of course actually completing the conservation work on time!

Conservation taster day at the conservation studio
My advice to others, in similar positions to me, is to jump in with both feet to whatever project you find yourself in and make the most of the chances that are available. It is surprising where they may lead you!    

Friday, 18 July 2014

Let’s Get Social - Working to Promote the HIV/AIDS Collections



Although the main objective of the HIV/AIDS project is to catalogue the records and make them available for all users who have an interest in them;  it is also important that we promote the collections as widely as possible otherwise users won’t know that the records exist. The use of various social media platforms means that project updates are now available to anyone in any country in the world, which has opened up new avenues of communication that would not be available to the project otherwise.

Social media revolutionised the way we connect with our users!


LHSA as as institution has been involved in social media communication since 2009 and currently has a Facebook page, twitter feed, Flickr gallery and this blog. Having a range of communication methods allows our users to connect with is in a way that suits them and only link to the posts and feeds that interest them.




Some of our albums listed on Flickr
In terms of the HIV/AIDS project, the visual element of the collections means that social media is an excellent way to generate interest in the collections and the work to catalogue and preserve them. The HIV/AIDS collections involved contain a large volume of promotional postcards, information leaflets, business cards, posters and photographs.  Before the invention of social media, items like these could only be displayed in exhibitions in small numbers meaning that lots of the items could go unseen by many people who may be interested in them. Uploading these images to Flickr means that anyone searching the interenet for related topics will see the images and know where to access them should they wish to in the future. 

Screenshot of our Twitter Page
Searching a catalogue on-line, making an appointment and coming in to view records on a subject of interest can be a time consuming activity. However, through regular tweets we can contact users in 140 characters or less about items of interest or exciting developments within the archive.  We can also highlight changes to opening hours or search room closures due to events to ensure no one has a wasted journey to view our collections. Facebook allows us to give short project updates and talk about items of interest without alienating those with no time to read the blog. The great thing about social media is that no one misses out and we are able to promote the archive in ways that seemed imposible 20 years ago.
Example of a post from Facebook




Using social media allows us to make the collections fully accessible to anyone, anywhere at any time. The purpose of keeping archives is to tell their story to the world in an interesting way and social media allows for a flexible communication method that focuses on the collection, the staff and the users - the most important elements of any archive!

Friday, 11 July 2014

Charting neurosurgery


As previous Dott project blog posts have discussed there is a wealth of information to be found in the individual patient case notes and they are made up of a variety of documentation from which specific details are recorded and entered into the catalogue. A lot of what we require for the catalogue entries can be found in typed case summaries or correspondence which will give details about the patient, their condition, how they were treated and the outcome of their treatment, but other documents such as clinical charts provide additional detail such as the type and dosage of medication the patient received and detailed monitoring of their physical condition.
LHB40 CC/24/PR2.9393

LHB1 CC/24/PR2.9393
The volume of material comprising each case note can vary greatly, often depending on the patient’s condition and how they were treated.  The clinical charts tend to be found at the very back of the case note and in some instances were surgical treatment has been undergone there can be a large volume of charts detailing the patient’s condition prior to and after their treatment.
LHB1 CC/24/PR2.9356
There are several different types of chart that appear in the case notes including those which record temperature, pulse, blood pressure, respiration,  fluid balance, medication administered, body charts and eye charts. I have selected some of the different clinical charts I have come across in the last few weeks from case notes of patients who were treated in the Department of Surgical Neurology in 1950 and 1951.
LHB1 CC/24/PR2.9364


LHB1 CC/24/PR2.9526
 
These records are a valuable part of the case notes as they can provide important detailed information that may not be included in case summaries about their symptoms and condition and showing how patients were treated and how they reacted to treatment.

 

Friday, 4 July 2014

Happy Birthday, NHS!


It’s the 66th birthday of the National Health Service on 5th July, and recently I’ve been finding out more about its beginnings and the healthcare that was available to ordinary people before 1948. The National Health Service was founded to provide universal healthcare to all, regardless of income or background, free at the point of use.

Your Health Service: How it will work in Scotland (HMSO: 1948)(GD1/112)
Before the arrival of the NHS, access to healthcare services largely depended upon wealth. In the case of poor patients, care could be paid for by the parish under the provisions of the 1845 Poor Law, whereas more wealthy patients would pay medical and board fees. Things changed a little in 1911 with the arrival of the National Insurance Act, an insurance scheme that paid for healthcare through contributions from employers, from government and a deduction from the salaries of male workers. However, the scheme only included those earning up to a certain amount and did not always include workers’ dependents.


Royal Edinburgh Hospital case note showing insured worker and wife under the National Insurance Act (LHB3 CC/1)
Voluntary hospitals were another option for those who could not afford high medical fees – one of the most prominent of which was our own Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. These institutions were funded by charitable donations and kept going by doctors who worked without fees, often for prestige since many (including the Infirmary) were leading teaching hospitals – as you can see from a film from our collections, The Ever Open Door. The film was made in 1938 for the Managers of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh as a spur for donations, and showcased the hospital’s specialist departments. You can see The Ever Open Door here: http://www.lhsa.lib.ed.ac.uk/exhibits/everOpen.html
Although the National Health Service transformed Britain’s social, cultural and economic landscape, there were precedents for centrally co-ordinated, subsidised health services before 1948 - and Scotland in particular was at the forefront of these initiatives. For example, the Highlands and Islands Medical Service was set up as long ago as 1913 in the country’s far north as a government-subsidised medical service to help communities to pay medical fees, to attract doctors to this remote region and to run a district nursing service. The Service was eventually joined to hospital provision, and even an air ambulance - as this film from the Wellcome Library shows:

We are lucky in LHSA to have the birth of the National Health Service charted through our collections, from this cartoon of Health Minister Nye Bevan, which depicts the fears of the British Medical Association that the NHS would end the traditions of the medical profession and turn doctors into salaried state servants:
Cartoon featuring Aneurin Bevan depicting the fears of the British Medical Association (LHSA pamphlet collection)
to this annual report from the Royal Infirmary’s League of Subscribers, which was formed in 1918 to co-ordinate voluntary contributions to the hospital, but disbanded in early 1949:


Final report of Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh League of Subscribers, 1949 (GD1/38/6)
Our photographic collection also shows the facets of the new National Health Service. For example, health centres were an integral part of the co-ordination of medical care, combining medical services and medical practitioners under one roof. The first such centre in Scotland was opened in Sighthill in 1953:


Sighthill Health Centre, 1953 (LHSA photographic collection)
Public health was a vital component of the NHS, believed to be essential to the health of the individual. Before the start of the service, free films were run to explain its dimensions. Later, films on general public health were a part of the cinema programme, like this one at the New Victoria Cinema (the old Odeon in South Clerk Street):




Audience leaving the New Victoria Cinema after a film warning of the dangers of tuberculosis, 1949 (LHSA photographic collection)
So Happy Birthday, NHS, from everyone at Lothian Health Services Archive – we’re looking forward to collecting the fascinating stories of your hospitals, nurses, doctors and (of course!) patients for many years to come!

Friday, 27 June 2014

The Pelican and its importance

This week, we explore the origins and importance of the pelican to medicine in Edinburgh and particularly to nursing.

The heraldic symbol of the pelican in her piety appears on the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (RIE) coat of arms, which comes from a pre-NHS fundraising appeal card from the 1930s (our reference LHB1/37/6 (9)).

 The RIE coat of arms, with the pelican imagery to the top middle

The pelican is feeding its young using its own blood and represents charity. There is also a suggestion in the 1941 edition of 'The Pelican' magazine (our reference LHB1/109A/17) that the bird may have been mistaken for a flamingo which feeds its young a blood-red secretion from its mouth. The symbol had been used for several centuries previously and in medieval times would have been interpreted as symbolic of the Eucharist.

The RIE School of Nursing introduced the pelican as a symbol for its badge in 1917, only given to students who had completed a fourth year of training in addition to their initial three years to become Registered General Nurses, presumably to emphasise the level of self-sacrifice required in their work. Holders of the badge have become known worldwide as ‘Pelicans’. LHSA contains a number of nurses’ badges gifted to us over the years including examples of the Pelican badge.

 The Pelican badge

'The Pelican' magazine was introduced from 1927 as a means of bringing together and keeping the older and younger nurses in touch with each other. In 1936, the RIE Nurses’ League was established to form a link between all the nurses. From this year, the magazine was renamed ‘The Pelican and Nurses’ League Journal’ and it is still published today. The image shows the cover of the first edition (LHB1/109A/1). With such a rich heritage, it is no wonder that the symbol of the pelican still evokes a sense of pride among those who have trained as nurses in Edinburgh.

The front cover of 'The Pelican' magazine

Friday, 20 June 2014

Preparing to repair

The staff at LHSA are all specialists in their own fields, but best practice changes over time so we have to make sure we keep up-to-date. Sometimes that means going to a conference or course (our Archivist went to Perth last week to find out about new developments in copyright legislation), while other times we share skills amongst colleagues without having to leave the comfort of the Centre for Research Collections!

Caroline Scharfenberg, an accredited and very experienced book conservator, who is based in the Centre for Research Collections conservation studio two days a week, recently provided a couple of half-day training sessions to teach basic repair to bound volumes. These are the kind of repairs that can be carried out without taking a book apart, so are quick and easy but help stabilise the condition of the item so it can continue to be read without causing further damage.

These are really useful skills to have within LHSA, so that items that are in high demand can be treated promptly, and in-house, whilst making sure they are available for use in the future.


From left to right: Caroline shows Ruth (LHSA Manager) and Emily (LHSA Project Conservator) how to repair damaged corners
 
 
 
 


Friday, 13 June 2014

Innovative Storage Solutions for Mixed Collections


This week, our project conservator Emily, describes some of the storage solutions she has designed to deal with the diverse material found in the HIV/AIDS collections….

Over the past few months, I have been blogging about the conservation of different items, such as modern papers, plastics and media, in the HIV/AIDS collections. Each has unique conservation problems and can be treated in isolation. However, mixed collections such as these often need to be kept together in the original order to maintain the primary function or intent of the material. This can be problematic as differently sized objects made from different materials can potentially cause damage to each other when stored in close proximity. Alternative storage conditions may also be required for different objects.

The storage environment is of vital importance for the longevity of the archives. Ideally, paper should be stored at 50% (+/- 5%) relative humidity and 18°C (+/- 2°C). Plastics and media items, however, prefer a cooler, drier environment. While it possible to move some items to different storage conditions, this is not always suitable as it breaks up the order of the collections and may alter interpretation of it. The British Standard Institute suggests that mixed archival material can be stored between 13⁰C to 20⁰C and 35% – 50% relative humidity (PD5454:2012), which matches the conditions found in the LHSA stores. Although the conditions may not be ideal for all items, there is an emphasis on keeping temperature low and humidity moderate which will slow the rate of deterioration of all archival materials.


The LHSA store room showing GD24 before treatment. Conditions match those stipulated by PD5454:2012 
In the HIV/AIDS collections, small items such as condoms, balloons and badges are frequently found between paper documents. Having differently sized objects between sheets may result in planar distortion of the paper and potentially cause tearing. As such, these need to be removed while still retaining their originally meaning within the collection. To do this, I have made shallow trays that can fit at the top of the archival box which contains the paper material from which the 3D items were taken from. The tray has two flaps that can be used to easily lift the objects out of the box and keep them together if the researcher does not wish to look at them. Each object is wrapped in acid free tissue paper and clearly labelled to show where it originally came from. A sheet of paper with a notice stating that an item has been removed is also inserted at the item’s initial location, so that the original order can be recreated if needed.
A shallow tray created to house 3D objects found within paper sheets, placed at the top of an archival box.

 
Plastics used to house paper materials, such as ring binders and poly-pockets can also cause damage as they can release acids as they degrade, which can then migrate to the paper. However, in some cases the plastic storage system is integral to the object. For example, some ring binders form part of a health promotion pack that may have been taken to schools or community groups. This type of object should be kept as it represents a part of the object’s history and without it the original intent of the pack may be lost. In cases such as this I have removed the paper material from the ring binder and placed it in a triptych folder.  The ring binder is then placed in a custom made triptych folder. Often, when the papers are removed, the ring binder lies at an extreme angle which may result in papers placed above it becoming bunched together at one edge, causing curling. Therefore, a void-filler created from mount board is used to even out the level of the ring binder. These two triptych folders are then labelled appropriately and tied together with cotton tape, so it is obvious that they belong together.
 
 
A ring binder integral to the paper materials after conservation treatment. Paper materials have been removed and a void-filler inserted to avoid extreme angle.
Creative storage solutions such as this ensure that items are stored in the best possible way, while retaining the original intent of the collections and avoiding complex referencing systems.