Introducing our Artist in Residence

In June 2017 we were tremendously excited to welcome the College’s first Artist in Residence. Poet and performer Marianne MacRae will work creatively with our Joseph Lister collections and heritage, particularly exploring the influence of Glasgow on the famous surgeon’s achievements and legacy. Marianne is in the final stages of her PhD at the University of Edinburgh. The residency is a partnership between the College, the University, and the Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities (SGSAH). It is a timely appointment as 2017 marks the 150th anniversary of Lister’s public announcement of his antiseptic method in the Lancet, an innovation he developed and put into practice in Glasgow.

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Marianne MacRae

 

So what will an Artist in Residence do at the College?

The residency will tackle three main questions –

  • How were Joseph Lister’s achievements in antiseptic surgery shaped by his Glasgow experience in the 1860s?
  • How can we better engage the local community with this history that revolutionised health care across the world?
  • How can we ensure Lister’s spirit lives on in the College buildings?

Marianne will be based within the College 2 or 3 days per week between June and December 2017, researching our collections and soaking up the rich history of our building. She will organise workshops and events in which members of the public can learn about Lister through creative activities. We are already planning these and will announce dates very soon. We’ll be tweeting about the residency, and Marianne will blog about her progress, linking this to items she is discovering in our collections.

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Detail from table from Lister’s ward at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, 1860s

 

A creative residency is always about finding new stories to tell, and new ways of telling them. The ultimate aim is to create new work, in this case poetry. We hope to use Marianne’s work in ways that help bring Lister, his work and achievements to life in the College. This will link closely to one of our key Heritage themes – Innovation in Surgery. This theme will inform our new display spaces and will be central to how we tell the stories of the College’s past, present and future.

So what does poetry have to do with surgery?

Poetry has always been used as a way of memorialising or celebrating significant people and achievements, including in the discipline of surgery. College founder and surgeon Peter Lowe’s book The Whole Course of Chirurgerie (1597) has four poems in the preliminary pages, all dedicated to his skill and character. Lister himself was the subject of a number of poems by writer William Ernest Henley, when he was being treated by the surgeon in Edinburgh in the 1870s. Henley’s collection of poems In Hospital (1875) features the poem ‘The Chief’, painting a complimentary portrait of Lister (who had saved his leg from amputation) –

“His faultless patience, his unyielding will,

Beautiful gentleness and splendid skill…”

Marianne’s work is unlikely to memorialise Lister in this way, but will instead create a lasting, contemporary piece of work that will help illuminate the story of the surgeon, the city of Glasgow, and the impact of his innovations. Telling this story is more important than ever as we look towards April 2018, when we celebrate 150 years since Lister’s first public lecture on his antiseptic method, held here in our St Vincent Street building.

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Re-Framed: Celebrating Diversity

PLEASE NOTE: Due to unforeseen circumstances we are having to postpone this event. We will be rescheduling for later in the year (date TBC). If you have booked tickets for this event or have any queries please do not hesitate to contact us at library@rcpsg.ac.uk.

For Festival of Museums 2017 we’re hosting an event in College Hall that celebrates diversity while disrupting our traditional display space. We’re working with an artist to create a projection and animation that will fill the room with light, sound and the faces of College members, trainees and medical students. The effect of this will be to subdue the impact of our portraits of College founders, Presidents and eminent Fellows. As the evening light dims the intensity of the projection will grow, and these new, diverse faces will dominate the room.

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So why are we doing this?

First all of, Festival of Museums gives museums the opportunity to try new things, take risks, and attract new audiences. As a newly accredited museum within a very old institution, we’re keen to grasp these opportunities.

Secondly, our portraits on display in College Hall follow a similar pattern to most late 19th century celebrations of an institution’s rich history. The subjects are all white, and they are all men. It was during this late 19th century period that the College’s community began to diversify, with licentiates appearing in the minute books from many other parts of the world, for example South Asia.

And then, during the same period, women began to be admitted to the College, to be licensed in surgery. Now, the College has a truly international membership. Glasgow itself is a proudly multi-ethnic city. In the 21st century, women are leaders in medicine. The College has had two female Vice Presidents this decade. Yet College Hall has remained virtually unchanged since it was built as an extension to the St Vincent Street building in the 1890s.

The College isn’t unique in this habit of using symbolic spaces in the same way for 100+ years. However, it does invite questions, challenges, and debate. And that’s one of the important roles for museums in the 21st century.

So we asked members, trainees and students to submit selfies that would form part of the projection. So far we’ve received almost 100 submissions from around the world!

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Founder of the College in 1599, Maister Peter Lowe

 

At the event, we’ll have contributions from acclaimed author Louise Welsh, Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, and Takondwa Itaye-kamangira, a Medical Training Initiative (MTI) participant from Malawi, supported by the College.

Taking on a project like this needs support from outside the organisation, and we received strong support and advice from the Glasgow Women’s Library. We even borrowed their Designer in Residence to help us produce some visuals to promote the event (Maister Peter Lowe having a party, above). Staff at Museums Galleries Scotland also provided super support and encouragement.

Delegates at the College’s Medical Undergraduate Conference in March enthusiastically volunteered to have their portraits taken to contribute to the artwork and poster design (top of the page).

The event has been kindly supported by Festival of Museum. See all of the events around the country at http://www.festivalofmuseums.co.uk/.

To find out more about our event and to book tickets go to rcp.sg/events.

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Uncovering our medical instruments – British Science Week 2017

In June 2016 we started an exciting project to digitise items from our museum collection. The project, which has been kindly funded by Museums Galleries Scotland, is sadly nearly at an end, so to celebrate all the amazing work that has been done we’re hosting a special drop-in session as part of British Science Week.

The drop-in session will give visitors the opportunity to view some items from our collection, learn about how they were used, take a look at the processes involved in their digitisation, and maybe take a few photos too!

The drop-in session takes place on Wednesday, 15th March 2017 from 1pm – 3pm. No need to book – just pop in to the College!

Horsley's Skull Trephine

Horsley’s Skull Trephine

So far, our digitisation intern has photograph over 300 items including our collection of 18th/19th century stethoscopes, apothecary cabinets, the surgical instruments of William Beatty (surgeon on board HMS Victory at the battle of Trafalgar), early 19th century x-ray tubes, Victorian quackery gadgets, and many other fascinating surgical instruments.

Surgical Instruments of William Beatty

Surgical Instruments of William Beatty

The collection dates back to the mid 1700s – the earliest item we have is a trephine set – and covers all areas of medicine, surgery and dentistry. You can read a little bit more about some of the items we’ve digitised and get updates on the project on our blog.

For more information on British Science Week 2017 please visit: https://www.britishscienceweek.org/

Flyer for our British Science Week event

Flyer for our British Science Week event

Maister Peter Lowe and Glasgow

Our first event of 2017 will be an informal gathering in College Hall on Thursday 19th January to hear our Honorary Librarian, Mr Roy Miller, discuss our founder Maister Peter Lowe and the town of Glasgow, c1599.

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We will hear about the background of this intriguing man, his arrival in Glasgow from France in the 1590s, and what compelled him to petition King James VI to set up what became the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow in 1599. Lowe’s education and surgical training in France, and his writings on the practice of surgery, played a key role in how medicine and surgery developed in Glasgow at this early stage.

The event will take place in our College Hall, which features portraits of our founding members and of James VI. In addition, there will be a pop-up display of historical collections relating to our early history, for example our first Minute Book (1602 – 1688), rare copies of Peter Lowe’s 16th century surgical texts, and a pair of gloves belonging to the founder.

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Detail of first College Minute Book, summarising 1599 Charter (1602)

Our event is part of St Mungo Festival, now in its ninth year, which celebrates the life of St Kentigern, better known as St Mungo, patron saint of Glasgow. Find out more about the Festival and its programme of events at the St Mungo Festival Facebook page.

Here are the details of the event:

Date – Thursday 19th January 2017

Time – 12.30 – 1.30 with refreshments served afterwards

Venue – Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, 232-242 St Vincent Street, Glasgow G2 5RJ

To book – Email library@rcpsg.ac.uk or phone 0141 221 6072. This is a free event but places are limited.

The Goodall Symposium: Celebrating 200 years of the stethoscope

Thursday, 16th June 2016. 6:30-9:00pm

Join us for an evening of talks celebrating the 200th anniversary of the invention of the stethoscope. Discover how techniques for listening to the heart have developed from the very first stethoscope invented in 1816 to ‘Harvey’, the cardiopulmonary patient simulator.

Programme for the evening:

6:30pm – Registration and light refreshments
7:00pm – How Laennec invented the stethoscope, Mr Roy Miller FRCS(Glasg), Honorary Librarian
7:20pm – How I was taught cardiology, Professor Ross Lorimer FRCP(Glasg)
7:45pm – Tea/coffee break
8:00pm – The Goodall Memorial Lecture: From Laennec to ‘Harvey’, Professor Stuart Pringle, Consultant Cardiologist Perth Royal Infirmary

There will also be the chance to see our special exhibition celebrating the stethoscope.

Laennec stethoscope

A Laennec style monaural stethoscope made from wood c1820.

The event is free to attend but please book in advance for catering purposes. Contact library@rcpsg.ac.uk or call 0141 221 6072.

Our Goodall Symposium is part of the Glasgow Science Festival 2016.

What led Laennec to invent the wooden stethoscope?

This year our annual Goodall Symposium (16th June 2016) will be celebrating the 200th anniversary of the invention of the first stethoscope. We’ll be taking a look at the origins of the stethoscope and how the methods and technologies for listening to the heart have developed over the last 200 years. In this blog our Honorary Librarian, Mr Roy Miller discusses why the stethoscope was invented.

Laennec stethoscope

Made of wood and brass, this is one of the original stethoscopes belonging to Laennec.
Image from: Science Museum London / Science and Society Picture Library

The stethoscope was invented in 1816 by French physician, René Théophile Hyacinthe Laennec. While a physician in Paris, Laennec was examining a woman with an apparent heart condition and found that he was unable to use hand or ear to examine the patient without embarrassment. He records the event thus:-

“In 1816 I was consulted by a young woman labouring under general symptoms of diseased heart, and in whose case percussion and the application of the hand were of little avail on account of the great degree of fatness. The other method just mentioned [the application of the ear directly to the chest] being rendered inadmissable by the age and sex of the patient, I happened to recollect a simple and well-known fact in acoustics, and fancied, at the same time, that it may be turned to some use on the present occasion. The fact I allude to is the augmented impression of sound when conveyed through certain solid bodies – as when we hear the scratch of a pin at one end of a piece of wood, on applying the ear to the other. Immediately, on this suggestion, I rolled a quire of paper (24 sheets) into a kind of cylinder and applied one end of it to the region of the heart and the other to my ear, and was not a little surprised that I could thereby perceive the action of the heart in a manner much more clear and distinct than I had ever been able to do by the immediate application of the ear.”1

Laennec soon replaced the rolled up paper cylinder with a hollow wooden tube. This had a small hole at one end and, at the other, a conical hollow. A plug fitted into the hollow to allow the physician to listen to the sounds of the heart. When removed, the physician could listen to the sounds of the lungs. Unlike its modern equivalents it was designed to be listened to through only a single ear so it did not have the familiar Y-shaped double earpiece. The original stethoscope could also be unscrewed in the middle for carrying in the pocket.

Illustration from De l' auscultation mediate (1819) by Laennec showing his design for a wooden stethoscope.

Illustration from De l’ auscultation mediate (1819) by Laennec showing his design for a wooden stethoscope.

In the 1820s the Glasgow Medical Journal reported on the introduction of the stethoscope to Glasgow medicine, pointing out that the tool was at first “suspected, ridiculed, and sometimes abused as a piece of pompous quackery.” By the late 1820s such suspicions were dismissed as use of the stethoscope grew. By the 1850s, the stethoscope had become one of the doctor’s most vital tools.

The Goodall Symposium takes place in the College on the 16th June 2016 @ 6:30pm. It’s free to attend but please book your place for catering purposes – please contact library@rcpsg.ac.uk or call 0141 221 6072. You’ll also have the chance to see our latest exhibition which focuses on the development of the stethoscope over the years.

This years Goodall Symposium is part of the Glasgow Science Festival 2016.

1. Laennec RTH. De l’’auscultation mediate. Paris : Chez J.-A. Brosson et J.-S. Chaudé, 1819

Veedee Massager, c1903

This week we are displaying a rarely seen item from our collections, the Veedee Massager from c1903. The Massager comes in a purple velvet-lined box, with attachments (including cup and ball), polishing cloth and oil.

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Veedee Massager and polishing cloth, c1903 (RCPSG)

 

There is a handy instruction booklet – The Veedee and How To Use It which gives detailed guidance on how the instrument can cure or relieve a wide range of conditions, from cold and headache, to digestion problems and hysteria. The booklet informs us that it can be used for “curative vibration, vibratory massage, nerve stimulation and blood circulation.”

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The Veedee and How to Use It (RCPSG)

 

There are also chapters that claim it can be used to enhance beauty, treating baldness, double chins and wrinkles.

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From The Veedee and How to Use It (RCPSG)

 

The Veedee was widely advertised between 1900 and 1915, during which time there was a craze for vibration therapies and circulation stimulators. We also have in our collections an example of Dr Macaura’s Blood Circulator (also known as Macaura’s Pulsocon), from the early 1900s. It was claimed to cure a range of conditions, for example heart disease, deafness, paralysis and polio.

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The Veedee Massager pop-up display in RCPSG Library

 

Our Veedee Massager was manufactured in Germany and distributed by The Veedee Co., 96 Southwark Street, London. It was originally purchased from J. C. Pottage, photographic chemist and optician, Edinburgh, as an early treatment for multiple sclerosis.