To mark Halloween, our archivist Carly Manson, held two historical tours involving gruesome artefacts from our Archives and Special Collections. Amongst the artefacts on display were a cloth used to wrap the dead body of King George II, and records relating to a scandal that provoked Charles Dickens to condemn post-mortem practices as “shocking”.
The history of each object on display was shared by the archivist, and the audience encouraged to ask questions. It was fantastic to learn about these fascinating artefacts and to see so many interested people in the audience.
The artefacts from the events are also featured in this week’s Times Higher Education, in their article ‘The spooky secrets of London’s oldest medical school’:
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As 2016 draws to an end, we bring to you the highlights for St George’s Library.
Supporting RAG Week
This year, the Library supported St George’s Students’ Union’s Raising and Giving Week by donating fines for a day and raised £137.45. The supported charities were Equip Africa, MACS and St George’s Hospital Charity.
We’ve been continuing with our App Swap events. where staff and students get to talk about the apps that they have used, or have been involved with. Response has been great from student and staff who have attended, include Learning Advocate Ele Clancey. We aim to run more next year.
Supporting 10 Days of Wellbeing
June was the month for peace and relaxation in the Library, not least because it saw the St George’s Staff Development team launch its first “10 Days of Wellbeing” programme. We supported the new initiative by putting out a book swap trolley in the library foyer, where students and staff were encouraged to pick up or drop off books to share with others. We also added a selection of Mood-Boosting Books to the library collection. To date, the most popular title of the Library’s 2016 Mood-Boosting collection is The President’s Hat by Antoine Laurain.
Regular library users might have noticed a few changes to the look of the library, especially the main Quiet Study Group area; this year we replaced all our chairs, brought in round tables, and then brought back rectangular tables due to student demand. We also added screens to create a more flexible study space and help reduce noise. We’re always looking for ways that we can make the space work better for all our users and are open to feedback – let us know if you have any thoughts by speaking to staff or filling in a feedback form at the Library helpdesk.
Extended Opening Hours
In response to student feedback and after running some successful trials, this July we were pleased to announce that during the 2016/17 academic year we would once again be offering extended opening hours.
We’re now open longer than ever before; offering 24 hour access to the Library from 8am on Monday mornings to 9pm Saturday evenings and 9am-9pm on Sundays.
Library Treasure Hunt
The start of the new academic year is always very busy for library staff and this September/October was no different as we welcomed all our new undergraduate and postgraduate students – we hope you are all now well settled in to life at St George’s! Alongside our busy programme of induction sessions, we ran a Treasure Hunt featuring a number of clues and activities to help new students find their way around the Library and its resources.
Fresher’s Fayre Winners
Thank you to everyone who took part in our Social Media competition by liking our Facebook page and following us on Twitter. Our lucky prize draw winners went away with Honest Burger vouchers, Blossom tote bags and a St George’s teddy among other prizes. We also gave away a £20 Amazon voucher in our Treasure Hunt prize draw. Best of all, everyone who took part in the Social Media Competition can now get useful Library updates straight to their Twitter and Facebook feeds!
New Book Display
In September we introduced a book display to showcase various resources that we think you will find helpful. Previous displays included our best books on study skills, and online resources recommended by the Learning Advocates. Come and take a look to see what delights we have in store for the New Year! You’ll find the display near the Library Helpdesk.
Children in Need
On 18th November we raised £100 for BBC Children in Need’s annual fundraiser by raising money through our staff sweepstake and donating fines. Pudsey was spotted all over the library waving hello.
In November we also participated in and celebrated Explore Your Archive week, a campaign organised by the UK National Archives and the Archives and Records Association. We ran two handling sessions where selected objects were taken from the archives and displayed. The history of each object was shared by the archivist Elisabeth. It was enlightening to find out more about our history and wonderful to share in the positive reactions and interest from staff and students at St George’s who attended. The sessions were supported by a series of daily hashtags showcasing photos from our archives. We loved taking part in Explore Your Archives and learnt more about the fascinating history of St George’s’.
Christmas at St George’s
We end our blog with an original photograph from the archives showing St George’s Hospital at Hyde Park Corner at Christmas time in the mid-20th century.
In 2017 we are looking forward to working with all our users and the Students Union to continue to improve the study environment for everyone.
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.
Elisabeth with surgical instruments
Blossom through the ages
Cholera outbreak in 1854
Jenner’s Cowpox essay – gifted to Everard Home
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”
While exploring the archives we discovered Nine Medical Songs, asong book written and composed by staff and students at St George’s Hospital and published in 1895.
A digitised version can be seen online via the Wellcome Library. Our Library staff member Dan Jeffcote has recorded a snippet of the melody for one of the songs, ‘A Song for St George’s’, played on the guitar, bringing a sound from St George’s past to life!
Exploring our archives further, we were able to find out more about the individuals who produced the song book.
Joseph Blomfield (previously Blumfield) was a junior Anaesthetist to St George’s Hospital, and was also an assistant teacher of anaesthetics. He contributed to and later edited the St George’s Hospital Gazette, the Hospital’s staff magazine. His forte was the recital of humourous poems, usually of his own composition, performing them at students’ and nurses’ concerts. Many of his poems survive today, printed in the Gazette.
Charles Nugent Chadborn and Gilbert Holland Ransome both joined the Medical School as students in 1891. Ransome also edited the Gazette, and both Ransome and Blomfield played for the School’s rugby team (with Blomfield scoring his first try at the age of 50). Chadborn followed Blomfield to become an anaesthetist, whilst Ransome became a surgeon.
If you are interested in finding out more about St George’s archive, sign up for our handling sessions open to all St George’s staff and students (including Trust staff).
Monday 21st November from 12.30pm-1.30pm H2.6 Boardroom
Thursday 24 November 12.30 – 1.30pm JB 3+5
Booking is required and places are limited, so please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your place. We will have exclusive postcards featuring some of our archive treasures for attendees to take home.
The response to our first ever Explore Archives handling session has been great, and we’ve almost fully booked! Due to this, we will be running a second session on Thursday. The two dates for the events are:
Monday 21st November from 12.30pm-1.30pm H2.6 Boardroom
Thursday 24 November 12.30 – 1.30pm JB 3+5
Staff and students are invited to attend to see what is held in our archives and hear what stories they can tell us about the history of St George’s.
Booking is required and places are limited, so please contact email@example.com to reserve your place. We’ll excited to have exclusive postcards featuring some of our archive treasures for attendees to take home.
As well as taking centre stage during November for our Library Loves Archives promotion, this month the St George’s Archives will be taking part in a campaign to encourage everyone to explore archives. Explore Archives runs from 19th-27th November and last year over 300 archives from across the UK and Ireland took part.
This is the first time St George’s will be taking part in the archives campaign, which aims to show the potential of archives to excite and bring people together, and tell amazing stories.
Last month we introduced you to the St George’s Archive Project, and now we are holding an archives handling session inviting staff and students to get hands on with history with a selection of treasures from our archives.
The Explore Archives handling session will be held on Monday 21st November from 12.30pm-1.30pm and staff and students are invited to attend to see what is held in our archives and hear what stories they can tell us about the history of St George’s.
Booking is required and places are limited, so please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your place. We’ll also have exclusive postcards featuring some of our archive treasures for attendees to take home.
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.
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.
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.
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