The Gwent Archives Hospital and Health Records Cataloguing Project

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In November 2017, Gwent Archives was generously awarded a Wellcome Trust Research Resources Grant to catalogue our unlisted hospital and medical collections.

Our project ‘From “A Penny in the Pound” to “Free at the Point of Delivery”: Cataloguing the pre- and post-1948 hospital records of Monmouthshire’ started in May and will run for a year. It is led by a full-time project archivist who will catalogue the unlisted medical collections and retro-convert any existing card catalogues using our collection management software.

The project archivist will be joined in the latter half of the project by a part-time preservation assistant who will clean and package the newly listed records. Our aim is that catalogues for all of our hospital and health records collections will be complete, standardised and feature on the Gwent Archives website by the end of the project.

The collections to be newly catalogued represent a broad range of archival documents that relate to the provision of hospital and health services in (old) Monmouthshire during the 20th century. They include registers; plans; statistics; minutes and staff records from various hospitals in the county. Our work will make the following collections accessible to researchers of all disciplines:

  • The Obstetric Morbidity & Mortality Reports of obstetrician Dr Leonard Alexander Ogilvie of St James Hospital, Tredegar and Nevill Hall Hospital, Abergavenny. Dr Ogilvie compiled these reports between the years of 1946-1979 and they contain a wealth of statistical information on incidents such as still-births, forceps deliveries and complicated labours.

  • Records of the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board. This large 20th century collection is representative of a number of hospitals in Monmouthshire including the Tredegar Park Cottage Hospital which had close connections with Aneurin Bevan and inspired his development of the NHS. It predominantly contains records which reflect the day to day running and activities of the hospitals, for example, ward reports; admission registers and operation books.
  • Caerphilly District Miners’ Hospital. This is a mid-late 20th century collection of maternity records which includes case registers; daily report books and birth registers.
  • A small but varied collection from Monmouth General Hospital containing some fascinating turn of the century archives including a photograph of the medical officers in 1903 and the architect’s design sketches for the new hospital building.
  • The Midwives Records 1943-1968 collection comprising of the professional records of a number of district midwives working in Monmouthshire during this period. The archive includes maternity case registers; drugs books and patient records.
  • A large collection of Hospital Plans representing a variety of Monmouthshire hospitals including the Royal Gwent Hospital and Pen y Fal asylum. The plans reveal the structural designs for the new main buildings and additional wards or departments that were built during the 20th century.

These records, alongside Gwent Archives wider hospitals and health collection are significant on both a local and national scale as they detail the administration and operational practices of hospitals in Monmouthshire during a period of great change in healthcare due to the Great War, increasing use of drugs in medical practice and the birth of the NHS. As closure periods pass, researchers will also benefit from the wealth of personal and professional information on people, places and institutions that these documents contain.
As we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the NHS, it is our hope that the improved access to these collections made possible by this project will inspire further academic and public interest in the history of hospitals and healthcare in Monmouthshire.
Please see our blog for more information and updates about the project:


Clare Jeremy
Project Archivist

Guest Post

Report on the Society for the Social History of Medicine conference, Liverpool, 11-14 July 2018

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I was very pleased to participate in the Society for the Social History of Medicine conference this year, which took place from 11-14 July at Liverpool University. This report will particularly focus on the ways in which researchers discussed accessing and using archival resources, but I wanted to start by saying that the event was extremely well organised, and had a very international and welcoming feel. The standard of the papers was excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed myself and learned a great deal, so many thanks to all the organisers.

This was a very academic conference and by far the largest contingent came from higher education institutions with consumers, rather than custodians, of historical sources presenting the majority of the papers. As you would expect presenters talked a great deal about their use of archives, and referred to, and showed, documents and items including newspaper and magazine cuttings, letters, diaries, photographs, sketches, reports and pamphlets, held in a very wide variety of international archives, in their presentations. Archives were acknowledged and archivists often thanked for their support. It was interesting to see that presenters often displayed photographs alongside details of their Creative Commons licences, suggesting they are enjoying their increased ability to display archive images free of charge.

Researchers most commonly mentioned their use of big, national, UK archives. Kew often came up in connection with Department of Health records, and the British Library was clearly being used a great deal for research involving magazines and newspapers. I sat behind one delegate who was accessing the online catalogues of both these institutions while listening to a paper, trying to locate the sources mentioned and many people acknowledged and welcomed their increased ability to access important collections remotely. Some delegates, including myself and academics from Manchester University working on the NHS at 70 project, also talked of their work developing online archival collections, particularly in the field of oral history. The Wellcome Collection was also commonly cited and thanked as a research funder. Presenters mentioned hospital and university archives less commonly, although they are clearly using these resources. Key note speaker Ruth Richardson, author of ‘Death, Dissection and the Destitute’, spoke of her experience of being locked into St George’s archives as a result of chronic understaffing. There was no one to supervise her while she worked so they simply locked the doors to safeguard the documents.

In a similar vein, interestingly, although perhaps not surprisingly, many people expressed frustration about the lack of access to certain records, particularly papers relating to clinical matters, and the need for increasingly extensive and complex ethics reviews in order to unlock potentially sensitive material. Researchers commented that their inability to access such records often prevented them from representing the voices of patients in their work. There was some dismay, also, about the ongoing threat to records, even those held in national institutions such as Kew, especially in regard to NHS paperwork which is so copious that it apparently undergoes a regular process of filtering and destruction. People also spoke of records going missing, with one particularly interesting example provided by Hannah Mawdsley, PhD student at Queen Mary University, London, in her presentation on the 1918-19 Influenza Pandemic. She traced a box of letters giving first-hand accounts of the pandemic, which should have been in the Imperial War Museum archives, to the attic of the private home of Richard Collier, who originally collected the correspondence, just before house clearers went through the property’s contents.

Image taken from the lecture, ‘The Modern Memory of a Forgotten Pandemic The Centenary of the 1918-19 Influenza’. Courtesy of Hannah Mawdsley.

One fascinating, and more surprising, revelation, was the inability to access, and sometimes even the complete lack of, private sector organisation archives, which should be key sources of information where companies have played a vital role in health related matters. For example it was shocking to hear that international consultancy firm, McKinsey, don’t have an archive at all, a policy designed to protect the privacy of their clients. Academics at Liverpool University described how this had been an issue in their attempts to research the 1974 restructuring of the NHS, and how they had tried to fill the gap in the sources by using duplicates of correspondence in government records and organising witness seminars involving former McKinsey consultants.

The panel that I attended that provided the richest information on potential audiences for medical archives focused on the campaign to secure acknowledgement for the damaging effect of Primados, a hormonal pregnancy test used from the 1950s to 1970s, on the development of foetuses. A journalist, a campaigner, a lawyer and a historian talked about their experiences of trying to access two depositaries, the Landesarchiv in Berlin and the Bayer / Schering Archives which hold the records of the pharmaceutical company that produced the drug, with varying levels of success. Although all researchers reported that the archives in Berlin had been helpful they also mentioned that at both institutions material was available very much at the archivists’ discretion, and that only the historian had had any success in accessing the records at the pharmaceutical company.

Given the nature both of delegates and of the research presented I would have thought that the SSHM conference would be an extremely fruitful event for promoting archival collections with a particular focus on health and medicine. However, with the exception of the Wellcome Collection, which was very well represented, very few archivists were present at the event. It may be useful and beneficial to both researchers and custodians to consider ways to use the conference to promote lesser known collections in future years.


Sarah Lowry
Oral History Officer, Royal College of Physicians of London


Medicine and Health in Leeds, 1760-1999: A Cataloguing Project

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Louise Piffero, Archivist (Medical Collections), Leeds University Library Special Collections and Galleries


In May 2018, Leeds University Library Special Collections celebrated the completion of a major project to catalogue our medical collections. The two-and-a-half-year project was generously funded by a Wellcome Trust Research Resources Grant. We’re very pleased to announce that all of the new catalogues are now available online, and the collections themselves can be accessed in our Reading Room.

Over the past 30 months, our small team of a Project Archivist, Project Assistant and Project Conservator have been hard at work cataloguing, digitising and preserving these archives.

We’ve created new catalogues for 13 separate archive collections, adding over 3000 new record descriptions onto our online catalogue. Digitisation has also been a large part of our project. 65 individual manuscripts totalling over 23,000 pages have been digitised and are available to view online.

Conservation needs have varied for the many different types of documents and objects in the collections. Everything has been repackaged into hundreds of standard and bespoke archive boxes and folders. Other items have also been cleaned and undergone minor paper repairs where necessary. 34 manuscripts have received conservation treatment.

The fascinating archives included in the project chart different aspects of the history of medicine and health in Leeds since the 18th century:

  • Firstly, The Leeds General Cemetery Company Archive, which consists of the administrative and burial records for the cemetery dating from its opening in 1835 up until its closure in the 1960s. The 25 burial registers have been digitised and transcribed, and are accessible to search via the Leeds General Cemetery Burial Registers Index. The online Index can be used to find details of individuals, but there are also options to browse full lists of all the recorded causes of death and occupations and view graphs of key statistics from the data.
  • The Leeds School of Medicine Archive. The records date right back to its creation in 1831 and up to the present day. The archive is not only made up of administrative material – there are also objects, records relating to individual staff and students, and a series of catalogues for the Pathological Museum.
Leeds General Cemetery Burial Registers Index: Example Entry Page. Reproduced with the permission of Special Collections, Leeds University Library.



MS 1656: Leeds General Infirmary Nurse Training Registers shelf. Reproduced with the permission of Special Collections, Leeds University Library.


  • Leeds was a centre for innovation in the fields of renal medicine and urology, and the archives of two surgeons can reveal this history. These are the Leslie Pyrah Archive and the Frank Maudsley Parsons Archive. Pyrah became director of the Medical Research Council Unit in Leeds and set up the first artificial kidney unit in the UK at the LGI. Parsons was head of the unit and performed the first kidney dialysis at the Infirmary in 1956.
  • Casebooks and papers of a number of individual surgeons, many of which have also been digitised. These include William Hey (1736-1819), Sir Berkeley G.A. Moynihan (1865-1936), and Arthur Fergusson McGill (1846-1890). In addition, we have catalogued the papers of Thomas Scattergood (1826-1900), who was the first Dean of the Yorkshire College of Science Medical Department and a forensic toxicologist. Further individual manuscripts have been listed as part of the Medical Manuscripts Collection.
  • The Bragg Family Collection contains the notebook of Sir William Henry Bragg and his son, Sir (William) Lawrence Bragg, detailing experiments made in connection with research on X-rays and the molecular structure of crystals at the University of Leeds in 1913. They were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1915.
Leeds School of Medicine Objects After Conservation. Reproduced with the permission of Special Collections, Leeds University Library.

The project has helped us to forge new relationships with academics across the University of Leeds, where we have been able to support research projects, provide student internships, and offer introductory sessions to the medical archives for specific teaching modules. We’ve also been able to showcase lots of the medical collections at different public events, including our monthly Tuesday Treasure event which is held in our Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery.

Even though the project is finished, we will continue to focus on our medical collections. To find out more, check out the Leeds University Library Blog:

HARG Members

Forthcoming symposium on exploring hospital records at the London Metropolitan Archives

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EXPLORING HOSPITAL RECORDS AND ARCHIVES: A Symposium Event for Researchers and Archivists

The event is relevant for people starting their research (undergraduate or postgraduate) or those wanting to explore new routes into academic or historical explorations

Researching hospital records offers opportunities and presents challenges. Records from the Royal Free Hospital will provide a main focus for the event, alongside other related material from the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) collections.

There will also be the opportunity to share research ideas, exchange information and network with others researching a range of topics relating to hospital records.


12.30 – 2pm
Registration and Welcome

•       Networking Lunch
•       Behind the Scenes Tour – an introduction to the archive and its work
•       Document / Collection Viewing – a chance to see and discuss original materials

Presentations and Open Forum: Accessing and Using Archive Collections

LMA staff will:

•       Introduce the range and type of collections held on site
•       Discuss ways of working with sensitive and challenging material
•       Open up ideas about how Royal Free Hospital record collections have been used to engage and inform the public


Workshop and Knowledge Share

This practical session will provide participants with an opportunity to discuss, plan and share current research or project work, discuss new proposals and consider the potential of partnership working.

4.20pm Final Round Up

Funded by The Wellcome Trust



London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road, London EC1R 0HB
Friday 28 April 2017
FREE – Booking Essential (Lunch is provided)