Introduction to The King’s Fund Digital Archive

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By Ruth Nitkiewicz, Information Specialist, The King's Fund (r.nitkiewicz@kingsfund.org.uk)

 


 

Selection of documents that have been scanned and are available through the King's Fund Digital Archive

 

The King's Fund is a charity that works to improve health care in England. Established in 1897 as an initiative of the then Prince of Wales, the initial purpose of the Fund was to raise money for London's voluntary hospitals, which at the time offered the only health services available to poor people in the capital. The charity has been renamed over the years (firstly, King Edward's Hospital Fund for London and then later, The King's Fund) and our role has evolved accordingly, reflecting the significant and ongoing changes to health care in England.

Our digital archive records nearly 2,000 digitised King's Fund publications dating from 1898. This unique resource not only records our history and our work, but also the health of people living in the capital and the development of the NHS. The collection doesn't contain any medical records, but it does provide a rare insight into the early voluntary hospital system in London. In the early 20th century, before the NHS was established, there was no central body responsible for collecting information about hospitals, such as bed numbers, costs and expenditure. However, the considerable funding provided to London hospitals gave the Fund influence to achieve reform and improvement. For example, the Fund made it a condition of awarding grants to hospitals that they produce, for the first time, standardised accounts and hospital statistics.

While our digital archive reflects the nature of our work, I should point out that it is really a digital repository for King’s Fund publications. We don’t use the system to store any archival material (our original archive collection is kept in the safe custody of London Metropolitan Archives), so effectively it is a digital library. However, we called it a ‘digital archive’ to reflect the nature of the collection within and to differentiate it from our extensive physical library collection, which includes non-King’s Fund publications. As a former archivist, I originally found the title hard to accept, but I admit that it does have a better ring to it than ‘digital repository’.

We currently use E-Prints as the underlining repository system for the digitised images, and the Universal media viewer (originally the Wellcome digital player) for rendering the images into viewable packages on our library website. At the moment, we are investigating other digital repository systems as we want to expand the collection to include new materials, such as images and born-digital documents and files. One system we’re interested in is the open-source Hydra repository, particularly because of its ability to utilise plugins that enhance collection management and curation. It’s a new area that we are excited to explore, as it will allow the library to showcase these materials in more dynamic ways.

 

Explore The King’s Fund digital archive here: http://archive.kingsfund.org.uk

Exhibition to commemorate the centenary of the Royal Masonic Hospital

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Thought that members of the Health Archives and Records Group might like to know about our current exhibition, Healing Through Kindness, which commemorates the centenary of the founding of the Royal Masonic Hospital. For further details see: http://freemasonry.london.museum/event/exhibition-healing-through-kindness/

The exhibition will be open Monday to Friday 10am until 5pm until 7 April 2017.

Opened as a hospital for war casualties in 1916, it was conceived originally as a hospital for freemasons in 1911. The First World War led to a change it plans and the freemasons offered to run the facility for the War Office if that government body found it suitable premises. The former Chelsea Hospital for Women was secured and the freemasons met all the running costs for the Freemasons’ War Hospital at 237 Fulham Road, Chelsea. It proved so successful that a second hospital was established at Fulham Palace in 1917 and a convalescent facility in Caversham, Berks as well.

After hostilities ceased the Hospital re-opened as the Freemasons Hospital and Nursing Home in 1920 and treated freemasons, their wives and children. This was before the formation of the National Health Service, when private nursing or hospital admittance was expensive for those on average incomes but public charitable hospitals offered limited, basic care.

Funds to maintain and finance the Hospital were raised by members and it proved so successful that a new, purpose-built Hospital with over 200 beds was opened in premises at Ravenscourt Park, Hammersmith in 1933. Opened by King George V and Queen Mary, the new building was known as The Royal Masonic Hospital.

The Wakefield Wing opened in 1958 with new operating theatres, wards and a nurse training school. Nurse training began in 1948 in the hospital basement until the purpose-built school and nurses home opened. Nurses who qualified at the Hospital wore a special silver belt buckle and were well-regarded within medical circles for their expertise and training. The Percy Still Wing, named after one of the founders of the Hospital, opened in 1976, providing state of the art operating theatres and a new pathology laboratory.

Freemasons contributed to care according to their means or was funded by the Hospital charitable funds. By the 1980s the Hospital accepted non-Masonic private patients as freemasons explored private medical treatment locally or chose NHS treatment. A series of Masonic reports recommended closure of the Hospital and support of local treatment for members requiring medical care. Despite these recommendations, the Hospital remained a popular cause among members and the Hospital continued to offer innovative services, such as Neurolinguistic Therapy and a private IVF Unit run by Robert Winston and Raul Magara during the 1980s-1990s. However, rising medical and service costs led to the closure of the Hospital in 1996.

The exhibition draws on the archives of the Royal Masonic Hospital which are now catalogued to item level, with details included in our on-line catalogue, reference: GBR 1991 RMH – see http://freemasonry.london.museum/catalogue16.php