The John McLean Archive: A Living History of Dentistry

Posted Posted in Guest Post

Professor Stanley Gelbier

Hon Professor in the History of Dentistry

King’s College London


 As well as being an eminent dental practitioner Dr John McLean OBE (1994-95)[1], a past-President of the BDA, was a noted researcher.  He was feted in many countries and was a visiting Professor in Fixed Prosthodontics and Biomaterials at America’s Louisiana State University.  His particular research interests were in developing white filling materials.  Subsequent to being appointed Clinical Consultant to the Laboratory of the Government Chemist, John, together with Dr Alan Wilson, introduced glass-ionomer cements to dentistry.  This development opened up many new exciting possibilities for white fillings and established a new field of research and development in dental materials science.

John McLean (1925-2009)

When he died in 2009[2] John left money in his will to a number of organisations, including  the British Dental Association.  However he did not specify how it should be used, other than to promote research.  So the question was how best to spend it.

John loved his profession.  It was therefore decided to study and record the dental profession through the voices of living people, dentists and others.  The studies were to take two forms: witness seminars and oral histories.

The concept of Witness Seminars in relation to medicine and healthcare came to the fore in the early 1990s and was developed by Professor Tilli Tansey at the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine and later at Queen Mary University London.  In the Group’s 21st anniversary year they produced an excellent review booklet of the whole series.[3]  Having been at the Wellcome for eight years I learned a great deal about these seminars.  So together with Rachel Bairsto (Head of Museum Services at the BDA) and Professor Nairn Wilson (former President of the General Dental Council) we formulated a programme to examine aspects of dentistry: to collect memories and insights into the world of dentistry in the UK especially, but not only, from the time of the onset of NHS dentistry in 1948.

Following discussion with the family and the BDA it was agreed to create an Archive which the Association’s CEO, Peter Ward, stated would be “the beginning of what we hope will provide a highly authoritative and valuable asset to future generations and thereby satisfy that aspiration”.  He said the BDA intended that the Archive “will live and grow and metamorphose into a continuing story that maps the development of dentistry over years to come”.

Obviously Witness Seminars require a lot of planning.  A number of appropriate people were approached, told of the topic and asked if they would participate; also asked if they could recommend anyone else who might have something to contribute to the discussion topic.  The BDA appointed an administrative assistant to deal with all the arrangements: booking rooms and refreshments, telephone calls, letters and emails, arranging for recording equipment and typing.

On each day there were four hours of discussion, interspersed with breaks for refreshments.  There were no papers but several people took a lead for specific topics, speaking for between three and five minutes.  The chairman ensured people did not stray too far from the topic and that no one hogged the discussion.  Every word spoken at the seminars was recorded and typed up.  After initial editing by the chair for clear errors attendees were sent the typed script from their seminar to ensure accuracy and to add any afterthoughts (which could be inserted as footnotes).  They were told that any of their filed papers or documents could be added as appendices.  The documents were then revised and published in book form, with plans to make them accessible via the BDA website.

The publications are:

   The regulation of the dental profession by the General Dental Council,

   Changes in dentistry since 1948

   The changing role of dental care professionals

   The history and impact of development in dental materials over the last

   60 years

   The dental press

All were authored by NH Wilson and S Gelbier as part of the series ‘Reports of a Witness Seminar’, London: British Dental Association 2014.

Website with access to oral history transcripts and list of publications (https://bda.org/McLeanArchive)

In addition a number of oral history interviews have been recorded of both leading members of the profession, routine general dental practitioners and some ancillary workers.

So John McLean has provided the means to develop an excellent archive[4]  before so many of the people concerned are no longer alive.

For further information about the witness seminars and for access to the recordings and associated documentation please contact the BDA Dental Museum museum@bda.org​

 


[1] PM Frost, Dr John McLean: His life and times, Dental Historian 2007; 44: 5-19.

[2] Obit John Walford McLean OBE, British Dental Journal 2009; 207: 187.

[3] EM Jones and EM Tansey (eds.) for The Trustees of the Wellcome Trust, Monoclonal antibodies to migraine; an A to Z of modern biomedicine, London: Queen Mary London University, pp 223.

[4] https://www.bda.org/McLeanArchive/john-mclean

Upcoming Health Archives and Records Group AGM, University of York, 29 September 2017

Posted Posted in Meetings

Dear colleagues,

The next HARG AGM will be held at the Lifelong Learning suite, Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York, Heslington, York, YO10 5DD, 11am-4pm.

1.      10.30-11:00: Tea and coffee served.
2.      11:00:  Welcome and introductions
3.      11:05: Minutes and matters arising relating to last meeting
4.      11:10: HARG Committee report (Administration, website)
5.      11.20: HARG Projects (Sensitivity workshop/GDPR implementation/Plans for 2018)
6.      11.50: National Archives health sector update
7.      12:10: Open forum/sector and partner news
8.      12.30: Lunch
9.    14.00: ‘Digitisation. Why? How?’, Chris Webb, Keeper of Archives, Borthwick Archives
10.    14.30: ‘’The British Red Cross and the launch of the NHS’, Dr Rosemary Wall, University of Hull
11.    15.00: Questions for speakers, followed by tea and coffee
12.    15.30: Optional tour of the Archives/time to see exhibitions

The meeting is open to all, there are a few spaces to still available. Please contact me if you
would wish to attend or have any other queries (healtharchivessite@gmail.com).

‘Putting Flesh on the Bones: Unlocking the Calvin Wells Archive and Book Collection’ at the University of Bradford

Posted Posted in News

The Calvin Wells Archive Collection, created by renowned palaeopathologist Calvin Wells (1908-1978) will be the focus of a brand new cataloguing project thanks to a grant of nearly £140,000 from the Wellcome Trust.

The project which started in June 2017 and will run for 18 months, will undertake the cataloguing, digitisation and promotion of the Calvin Wells Archive and Book Collection with the intention of creating a valuable resource for the study of palaeopathology, osteology and bioarchaeology.

Once catalogued, it is anticipated that Wells’ bone reports, associated research notes, and radiographic and photographic material will inform and motivate new and on-going scientific research. The catalogue will be made available for consultation on Archives Hub and digitised items will be viewable via the University of Bradford Special Collections’ online portal.

In addition to the archive collection, the project will catalogue Wells’ significant library of medical, archaeological and anthropological texts.  The books, which date from the 17th century to the 1960s, include works on early humans, on ancient civilisations and on archaeological topics such as frost tombs.

The project is being led by Dr Jo Buckberry from the Biological Anthropology Research Centre, School of Archaeological and Forensic Sciences, and Alison Cullingford from Special Collections, both based at the University of Bradford. Delivering the project will be Project Archivist James Neill with the assistance of an Osteologist, Conservator, Librarian and Placement Student.

Please visit our project blog at: https://puttingfleshonthebones.wordpress.com/

The project recently featured in the Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/aug/11/the-bone-collector-eccentric-archaeological-treasury-to-be-digitised

A Health Archives and Records Group Survey on GDPR Readiness

Posted Posted in News

The HARG Committee would like to gather some information on how organisations have been preparing so far for the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018 and find out the most useful type of support that the committee can provide to those working with health records in a variety of workplace settings.

This quick survey should take around 5 minutes to complete and will be used for the purposes of collating information from HARG members regarding GDPR. Please fill in the form on the link below and return it via email to healtharchivessite@gmail.com. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any additional comments.

Survey form available below:

Protected Health Archives and Records Group Survey on GDPR Readiness

Life and death in 1960’s Civil Service: Whitehall Study I collection now available

Posted Posted in Guest Post

Chris Olver, Cataloguing Archivist, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine


The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine has been at the centre of excellence for epidemiology and medical statistics for 90 years. Researchers at the school have contributed to our understanding of disease outbreaks, effectiveness of drug and vaccination treatments and effect of environmental and lifestyle choices on population health. The papers of one of the most renowned longitudinal studies on population health, Whitehall Study, is now available for consultation at the School’s Archive Service.

Infographic showing clinical procedure for health screening of the Whitehall Study volunteers. 

The Whitehall Study I, also known as the ‘Health Survey of Male Civil Servants aged 40 or over’, was a longitudinal health survey of male Civil Servants, aged 40-60, based in London, conducted from 1967-1970 by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Guy’s Hospital. The study involved a mass health screening of 18300 subjects selected across 38 departments conducted in a special screening centre situated in Whitehall. The initial purpose of the study was to identify early signs of cardiovascular, respiratory and metabolic diseases and refer at risk patients onto medical services. The second phase of the study involved selecting subjects for a series of controlled studies on effectiveness of intervention methods, these included weight loss trials, exercise trials and a smoking cessation study involving 1445 men. The entire study cohort were then monitored and tracked by the survey team, through the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys (OPCS), with any deaths and certain disease diagnoses recorded.

Table showing smoking habits of Grade I (Administrators). The questionnaire asked volunteers about current smoking habits, previous smoking history along with a supplementary section for pipe and cigar smokers.

 

It was through the analysis of the resulting mortality data that the most famous finding of the study was revealed. Sir Michael Marmot noticed that lower grade employees were a third more like to die from various mortality causes than those employed at higher grades. This finding showed a clear social gradient in mortality and led to a second Whitehall Study being created that focused directly on the extent and causes of the social gradient. The Stress and Health Study, or Whitehall II, followed a new cohort of 10,308 male and female subjects, aged 35-55, from 1985 to the present day.

 

The archive collection provides an invaluable resource of the data collection, monitoring work and analysis conducted on the original Whitehall Study. The majority of the papers include raw data from the health screening, primarily questionnaires but also clinical test results including electrocardiograms, X-ray and blood results. Mortality data includes photocopies of death certificates, medical coding and computer coding forms and sickness absence reports collected from across the participating departments. Other material includes follow-up studies, primarily relating to the smoking cessation trial and graphs, tables and working papers regarding data analysis. The collection also includes a rich holding of material from preceding health surveys conducted at the School including material relating to General Post Office (GPO) health trials, 1964-1993, and the survey on the effects of air pollution on rates of chronic bronchitis in the Civil Service, 1950-1958.

 

Blank questionnaire from 1966 General Post Office health survey

The Whitehall Cataloguing Project sought to preserve, catalogue and make available the Whitehall Study collection for wider access. It was undertaken by the LSHTM Library & Archives Service between January and September 2017, with funding provided by a Wellcome Trust Research Resources grant. The catalogue description is available on the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine online catalogue and can also be viewed on the AIM25, Archive Hub and the National Archives Discovery catalogue.