After nearly three years of hard work we have now reached the end of this fantastic project.
During the course of the project we have achieved a huge amount and there are so many highlights, some of which I will list here, along with a summary of the project’s outcomes and some reflections.
I took on the management of the project during 2016 and formally in 2017 and before that acted as the line manager for project staff and supported the work of the Trust Archivist from the point of application and thereafter.
2013 – Scoping report (funded by Wellcome Trust) produced by consultant archivist Judith Etherton and conservator Jonathan Rhys-Lewis. This was instrumental in working towards our application which was successful in October 2013.
2014 – having made a successful application in late 2013 we began the project in February 2014, but did not start in earnest until a few months later when we advertised for our project archivist. Rebecca Nielsen was appointed in October and began working on the Brompton Hospital and Frimley Sanatorium records. In particular, Brompton’s records are unique in their detail and completeness and unusual in that correspondence survives between the Lady Almoner’s department and sanatorium patients. The patient registers, case notes, follow-up record books and correspondence were all catalogued in fine detail. In addition, many photographs were digitized and attached to the catalogue record.
2015 – in January we welcomed Alexandra McGuire to the project as our conservator. We had never previously employed a conservator to work on site and so initially much was done to kit out the space we had taken over for use as a conservation studio. You can find out more about how Alex and the team achieved this in an earlier blog post. Once Alex had settled in and assessed the collections it was clear that we had underestimated the time required to complete the conservation element of the project. Therefore, we felt it necessary to request an extension to our original grant. Fortunately this was approved and Alex was able continue for another 13 months.
Rebecca departed after 9 months of excellent work on a wide range of material. Her blog posts were all well-researched and fascinating and she went on to work on another project focused on tuberculosis for Lothian Health Services Archives in Edinburgh. In late 2015 we launched our online CalmView catalogue hosted by Axiell. This opened up all collections held across our Trust (Royal London Hospital and St Bartholomew’s Hospital Archives) including much of the material we hold on the treatment of tuberculosis. This was a major step forward for us and was made possible through the grant received from Wellcome Trust for the Fight Against Tuberculosis project.
2016 – Alex made excellent progress and completed the conservation and rehousing of hundreds of records which occupy around 100 linear metres of shelving – a brilliant achievement. Notably, we digitised a 35mm film ‘A day in the life of a sanatorium’, filmed at Frimley in the 1920s as well as a set of audio reels which contained recordings of London Chest Hospital symposia on the history of tuberculosis from the 1970s. The range of material which Alex conserved included large volumes of bound case notes, loose bundles of patient records, photograph albums, glass plate negatives, scrap books, stereoscopes and film. Sadly Alex left us in August 2016 to join the Oxford Conservation Consortium and it was not until December that we brought in our last team member.
2017 – We decided to recruit a project archivist to work on some final cataloguing and re-housing leftover from Rebecca and Alex. Virginia Dawe-Woodings worked with us for 6 months mostly on our other Wellcome Trust project but was very efficient is tying up these loose ends, not always an easy task.
In summary, the project has encompassed records of Brompton Hospital and Sanatorium (a very large collection), London Chest Hospital, Harefield Hospital, Middlesex County Sanatorium Committee as well as the private papers of clinicians such as Dr William Wheeler, Dr Hamilton Bailey, Dr J Beal, Dr Alymer Foster-Carter and Dr Kenneth Perry. In addition, we took in quite a large number of library and museum material from the London Chest Hospital on its closure in 2015. This will be catalogued and made available in due course by our new Assistant Curator.
As a department we learned a great deal over the past three years; from techniques in digitization, to working very closely with conservators, estimating workload and balancing project management with a busy archives and museums service. All of this was immensely valuable and gave us the confidence to apply and succeed in obtaining another Wellcome funded in 2015, Sexually Transmitted Infections in 20th century London.
We expect to have an updated CalmView catalogue to include all records relevant to the project in September so please do take a closer look to discover these remarkable, unique collections which are available to researchers at The Royal London Hospital Archives.
My thanks firstly go to Jonathan Evans, former Trust Archivist of Barts Health NHS Trust, who was the successful applicant and project managed until his retirement in mid-2016. Also to Stephen Moore, Learning Resources Manager, co-applicant who ably assisted us in liaising between Queen Mary University of London colleagues and the Joint Research Management Office.
Thanks also to Judith and Jonathan who gave us such detailed and practical scoping reports without whom our application would not have been anywhere near as strong.
Rebecca, Alex and Ginny, you were all fabulous to work with and I’m sure will go on to work on more projects and achieve great things.
Finally to those who have read this blog with interest and have used our archives to delve deeper into the history of tuberculosis hosptials their sanatoria and its treatment.
Richard Meunier, Archivist and Principal Investigator
The Fight Against Tuberculosis Wellcome project