Visualising Medical Heritage: Historical Fiction Lab Review

As part of our new Visualising Medical Heritage Project, a series of events will take place between now and 2019 where we will explore the different potentials of visualisation, combining medical history, science, and the creative arts.

The first of these events happened recently on 25th November, where our Visualisation Project Officer (VPO), Kirsty Earley, joined forces with ES Thomson, author of the historical medical fiction series following Jem Flockhart through the grimy streets of Victorian London. The day saw aspiring writers, visualisation artists, and medical practitioners explore how historical fiction and visualisation could be used together to better explain medical history.

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Thomson carried out a variety of writing exercises using excerpts from her books, “Beloved Poison”, “Dark Asylum”, and the upcoming third in the series, “The Blood”, challenging the writers to find their own style and adapt scenes. Attendants were able to look through a variety of photographs, portraits, and instruments held within our collection and were encouraged to use these items to inspire their own medical history fiction pieces.

beloved poison dark asylum

In the afternoon there was an explanation of what visualisation actually is and how it is being applied today not only in heritage, but also in clinical practice, academia, and tourism. Our VPO then presented a showreel of several visualisation products that have been created thus far in the project, and it was then down to the participants to use these products to further influence their fiction pieces.

macewen blog shot

dental key blog shot

Feedback from the participants was extremely positive, many saying that they see a real benefit from combining visualisation with the writing process as a better way of understanding the period in which they are setting their stories:

“Looking forward to seeing how the experiment pans out. I think it’s going to be rather special.”

“The workshop yesterday was amazing and very inspiring…Can’t wait for the next experimental event!”

“I certainly had an interesting and stimulating day. Thanks!”

With such a positive start to the project, we hope that future events will further inspire and excite people when looking at medical history.

Future Visualising Medical Heritage events for 2018:

February 2018 – Visualising Medical Heritage school event

May 2018 – Visualising Medical Heritage and Storytelling – a family workshop

August 2018 – Visualising Medical heritage and Anatomy

Glasgow History of Medicine Seminars – Autumn 2017

We have a fascinating line-up confirmed for our Autumn 2017 Glasgow History of Medicine Seminars in partnership with the Centre for the History of Medicine (part of the Institute of Health and Wellbeing at Glasgow University) – we hope you can join us!

Tuesday, 10th October 2017
‘Enquire into all the Circumstances of the Patient Narrowly’: John Rutherford’s Clinical Lectures, Edinburgh, 1749-1753
Speaker: Dr Steven Craig, University of Glasgow
Dr Craig discusses John Rutherford’s pioneering clinical lectures which integrated medical theory and its application on the ward.

Tuesday, 7th November 2017
Witnessing recent medical history
Speaker: Prof Tilli Tansey, Queen Mary University of London
Prof Tansey discusses the history of the Witness Seminar and the ways in which we can record and preserve the history of biomedicine.

Tuesday, 5th December 2017
Epidemics: Hate and Compassion from the Plague of Athens to AIDS: Towards a Conclusion
Speaker: Prof Sam Cohn, FRSE, University of Glasgow
Prof Cohn takes a look at epidemics throughout history and argues that instead of sparking hate and blame across time, epidemics have shown a remarkable power to unify societies.

The seminars take place at 5:30pm (tea/coffee from 5pm) in the library reading room at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. They are free to attend but please contact library@rcpsg.ac.uk or call 0141 221 6072 to book as places are limited.

Programme for the Glasgow History of Medicine Seminars, Autumn 2017

Programme for the Glasgow History of Medicine Seminars, Autumn 2017

Heritage events programme – September to December 2017

Our programme of events for the second half of 2017 is now available and we have a lot of exciting things lined up over the coming months.

Heritage events 2017

Heritage events programme, September – December 2017

We kick off the season with Glasgow Doors Open Day – the College will be open on Saturday, 16th September from 10am-4pm when there will be a chance to explore some of our beautiful rooms and see some fantastic items from our collections.

This year we are taking part in Museums at Night (27th October) and Book Week Scotland (29th November). For our Museums at Night event we’ll be completely transforming our College Hall into a unusual pop-up art installation celebrating the diversity of our College and its members – There’ll also be nibbles, music and a licensed bar. And for Book Week Scotland we’ll be treating you to some herbal remedies – perfect for anyone suffering from the sniffles during the long, winter nights!

We’re also delighted to welcome back to the College author ES Thomson (Beloved Poison, Dark Asylum) who will be joining us for a unique “lab” where we’ll be mashing up the latest digital visualisation techniques with historical medical fiction. For anyone who loves getting creative there will also be the opportunity to work with our artist in residence, Marianne MacRae, who will be hosting two amazing events looking at the work of Joseph Lister and Glasgow in the 19th century.

Finally, our popular Glasgow History of Medicine Seminars, in partnership with the University of Glasgow, start up again in October.

We hope you’ll be able to join us for some (or all!) of our fab events. You can download the complete programme of events here (8MB).

All our events are free to attend but please book in advance by emailing library@rcpsg.ac.uk as places are limited.

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.

Marianne LP 21-04-17

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.

lister table

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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Joseph Lister, Glasgow and the Birth of Antiseptic Surgery

2017 marks 150 years since Joseph Lister published his ground-breaking article “Antiseptic Principle of the Practice of Surgery” in the medical journal, The Lancet. To mark this occasion our annual Goodall Symposium will be celebrating Joseph Lister and his outstanding contribution to antiseptic surgery.

There is, arguably, no more appropriate place to celebrate the beginnings of antiseptic surgery than in Glasgow as it was in Glasgow Royal Infirmary that Lister first started using carbolic as an antiseptic, heralding the beginnings of a surgical revolution.

Lister ward at Glasgow Royal Infirmary c.1900

Lister ward at Glasgow Royal Infirmary c.1900

Based on Louis Pasteur’s research into fermentation, Lister began covering wounds in dressings containing carbolic acid which was known to prevent putrefaction in substances of animal origin. His first attempt was a failure but with his second patient, an eleven year old boy, Lister succeeded. As part of the patients treatment, pure carbolic acid on calico was applied to all areas of the wound – the wound healed; there was no infection, no gangrene and so amputation was avoided.

Lister continued to expand his use of carbolic acid using a steam spray (pictured below) to spray the air in his operating theatre. He was particularly driven by his intense revulsion towards the conditions of the surgical rooms and wards at Glasgow Royal Infirmary and devoted his full attention to reducing cross infection. Poor sanitation in 19th century hospitals meant patients were at serious risk of contracting diseases such as pyaemia, gangrene and tetanus. Lister was constantly battling with the managers of the Glasgow Royal Infirmary over the poor conditions of the wards and in 1870 wrote a letter to the Lancet entitled On the effects of the antiseptic treatment upon the salubrity of a surgical hospital, where he described the wards at the Royal as “some of the most unhealthy in the Kingdom”. The wards had been built over cholera burial pits and were close to the pauper burial pits at Glasgow cathedral. Lister also stated that the wards had not been properly cleaned for three years and were dreadfully overcrowded.

A Lister carbolic spray c.1870

A Lister carbolic spray c.1870

Lister’s success with antiseptic procedures revolutionised the treatment of disease and injuries.

Join us to celebrate 150 years of safer surgery!

Lister continues to be an inspiration to many of today’s doctors and surgeons and we are delighted to welcome Mr Pankaj Chandak, Specialist Registrar in Transplant Surgery at Guy’s, St Thomas’ and Great Ormond Street Hospitals and Research Fellow at Kings College London, to deliver the Goodall Lecture. Mr Chandak is passionate about Lister’s achievements and his legacy in surgical safety, linking the innovations of the 1860s with today’s developments in 3-D printing, robotics and perfusion machines. You can see more of Mr Chandak here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKUIvt9DI_Q

Setting the context of Lister’s 1867 article is Mr David Hamilton, transplant surgeon, medical historian, and author of the classic text The Healers: a History of Medicine in Scotland.

Our Goodall Symposium takes place on the 15th June 2017.
Time: 7pm (refreshments from 6:30pm)
Price: Free
To book contact library@rcpsg.ac.uk or call 0141 221 6072.

Our Goodall Symposium is part of the Glasgow Science Festival 2017.

Flyer advertising the Goodal Symposium

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.

Re-Framed facebook graphic

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!

fom poster

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