Introducing the St George’s Archive Project

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We’re pleased to introduce to you the St George’s Archive Project, which aims to preserve our archives and make them accessible for research.

St George’s has a long and rich history, dating back to the early 18th century. The Hospital was first founded in 1733 and even before the Medical School was formally established at the Hospital in the 19th century, St George’s already had a long history of training pupils. The pupil registers held in the archives date back to 1756, and John Hunter, one of our most well-known alumnus, is the first name listed on his entry to the Hospital as House Surgeon.

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Entry for John Hunter in the St George’s Hospital Pupil Register 1756-1837

What are Archives?

Archives are a collection of records or objects created or gathered by a person or institution and selected for long-term preservation as evidence of their activities. Our archives tell us about our history, preserving the past and allowing others to discover it.

As well as papers, books and photographs, our collections contain over 300 artefacts, consisting mainly of historic surgical instruments.

Why are they important?

Many of our archives are unique, and if lost, are irreplaceable. They represent our documented heritage, telling the story of St George’s.

The collections provide a rich source for research, not only about the history of the Hospital and Medical School, but also the wider transformation in the teaching and practice of medicine and health since the 18th century.

In support of this project, the University’s first professional archivist started earlier this year.

What is an Archivist?

It is the job of the archivist to preserve and widen access to archives and the information contained within them. This might include assisting users and answering enquiries, promoting the collections through exhibitions and talks, and using curatorial skills to select, arrange and catalogue archives.

An archivist does not carry out detailed research themselves, but instead they facilitate access to collections in support of research.

Before joining St George’s, University of London, Archivist Elisabeth previously worked in the archives at the University of the Arts London, the Guardian newspaper and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

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Archivist Elisabeth in the Archive Store

Until now the majority of the collections were inaccessible. Elisabeth is currently listing and repackaging the archives prior to cataloguing. This will allow the collections to be searched more easily, helping interested researchers find the information they need for their research.

Project progress so far has included introducing suitable access arrangements to help to protect the archives for use by current students and future generations.

Looking forward

A lot of the work of the Archive Project so far has taken place behind the scenes but in November 2016 we will be celebrating our archives during Explore Archives week, encouraging everyone to explore archives.

Look out for future blog posts updating you on the progress of the St George’s Archive Project.

We will also be posting interesting things from our archives on Twitter, so be sure to check out hashtag #stgeorgesarchives

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