Last week (19-27 November 2016) we participated in and celebrated Explore Your Archive week, a campaign organised by the UK National Archives and the Archives and Records Association, which encourages everyone to explore archives. Using the twitter hashtag #ExploreArchives the library has tweeted about some of the fascinating items held here in the St George’s Archives as part of this UK and Ireland-wide campaign to explore and celebrate archives.
For Explore Archives week, ‘handling sessions’ were organised in which St George’s students and staff were invited to come and get hands-on with original items from the historic collections – a first for St George’s! In the lunchtime sessions, attendees were walked through the history of St George’s by Elisabeth, the University’s first archivist.
Elisabeth selected a variety of items from the collections to demonstrate the wealth of history and stories that the archives contain – including items on John Hunter’s pupil and vaccination pioneer, Edward Jenner. A first edition copy of Jenner’s ground-breaking essay on his experiments with cowpox was displayed. We explored its handwritten inscription from Jenner to a lesser well-known figure in the history of St George’s, Sir Everard Home. Home is best remembered for burning Hunter’s unpublished manuscripts in an attempt to hide his plagiarism of Hunter’s work. However during his career he also served King George III as his sergeant-surgeon and following Hunter’s death became surgeon to St George’s Hospital.
Other items showcased during the sessions included a Post Mortem Case Book charting an outbreak of cholera in 1854, a photograph of two of the first female medical students admitted to St George’s during the First World War, and a photograph album showing nursing students in the mid-20th century following the introduction of the National Health Service.
Another favourite item was a set of Victorian surgical instruments awarded to student Edward Walker for the ‘best dissection’. See below for some photos from the event.
We asked attendees what they enjoyed the most from the sessions and received a lot of positive feedback:
“Hearing about other aspects of our history”
“Everything! Particularly the stories and the chance to touch the items”
“Being able to touch and turn pages of very old books and objects”
“Hearing the stories behind the artefacts”