Archives

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: https://leedsunilibrary.wordpress.com/

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.

PROGRAMME

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

2pm
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

3.30pm
Tea

3.45pm
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

 

Details:


London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road, London EC1R 0HB
Friday 28 April 2017
12.30-4.30pm
FREE – Booking Essential (Lunch is provided)
https://hospitalrecords.eventbrite.co.uk

Archives

The Neurosurgical Case Notes of Sir Geoffrey Jefferson

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By Karen Rushton, Wellcome Archivist/Curator, University Archive & Records Centre, The University of Manchester (Karen.rushton@manchester.ac.uk)


 

At the University of Manchester thanks to a generous Wellcome Trust grant we are currently working to catalogue the case files of 20th century neurosurgeon Sir Geoffrey Jefferson (1886-1961). Jefferson was the UK’s first Professor of Neurosurgery who spent most of his career at the Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI).

 

The case files we hold cover Jefferson’s time working at the MRI between 1927-1940 on a wide range of neurological disorders including brain tumours, epilepsies, neuralgias, head injuries, and congenital spinal deformities. We also see references to lingering war injuries from WWI, occupational and traffic accidents, neurosyphilis, and the use of surgical and diagnostic techniques later considered to be controversial. The files themselves contain a number of record types including detailed case notes and accounts of surgery, correspondence, x-rays, and both clinical and pathological photographs.

Neurosurgery lecture, with Sir Geoffrey Jefferson on the back row second from the left & Norman Dott on the second row from the back on the left, n.d. ref: JEF/1/10/3

 

Going into the project the first major decision centred on what information we wished to record. The Lothian Health Services Archive in Edinburgh have recently completed a similar project centred on the case files of neurosurgeon Norman Dott (1897-1973) and so it was very helpful to be able to talk to staff there about their approach to the records. Most importantly we recognised that the Jefferson collection is one of a number of neurosurgery collections held across the country and it was important to recognise its part in a wider research web and so make our catalogue comparable to that of the Dott Collection.

 

When dealing with relatively modern patient records considerations surrounding data protection were paramount and procedures are in place to produce a public facing catalogue with all personal information removed and a complete catalogue for use in-house and to be accessed by approved researchers. MeSH has been employed throughout for indexing purposes and provides an invaluable tool for selecting files based on conditions and symptoms. It is here where expert advice from a neurologist based within the University has aided us in creating accurate indexing terms and updating old-fashioned terminology. However, the major barrier with MeSH has arisen regarding the potential indexing of surgical procedures. As a neurosurgeon rather than a neurologist the procedures that Jefferson performed were seen as being a very important factor in the descriptive content of the catalogue, but whether or not it was appropriate to index them or not was another matter. As a thesaurus of modern medical terminology MeSH essentially is not fit for this purpose. Whilst old-fashioned terms for conditions can be updated there is no appropriate terminology for now obsolete surgical procedures such as the frontal lobectomy.

 

Having worked on other medical case note projects in the past, namely the Stannington Project at Northumberland Archives dealing with children’s TB files, I was well prepared for the kinds of challenges we might encounter. Nonetheless there is an inevitable variation in the content of the records and in turn the approach to outreach activities and potential researchers. As all the Stannington files related exclusively to children many of the former patients were still alive meaning we were fortunate enough to be able to interact directly with subjects of the records. Equally the subject of TB feeds very well into existing narratives on public health and has many links to social history. Neurosurgery on the other hand is much less overtly approachable to those with a non-scientific or medical background and it is here where interpretative events and blogs have been essential in drawing out less obvious themes and material such as the possibility of the use of visual material in the files by artists working in the medical humanities.

 

Illustration of a brain aneurysm by Dorothy Davison, c.1940s, ref: uncatalogued

 

The cataloguing process is nearing completion but conservation and outreach work will be on-going as the project continues. As part of the Wellcome funding we will also be tackling several other medical collections including the work of 20th century medical illustrator Dorothy Davison, medical artwork from the teaching collections of 19th century obstetrician Thomas Radford, and papers relating to the pioneer of the artificial hip Sir John Charnley.