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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Glasgow Pathological and Clinical Society

As the College embarks upon a refurbishment programme, we’ve been delving into the historical uses of the rooms of our St Vincent Street building. The old Faculty Hall (now named Alexandra Room) was the venue for most of the College’s business until the new College Hall extension was built in 1893. In addition to Faculty meetings, and meetings of the Medico-Chirurgical Society of Glasgow, this room hosted the meetings of the Glasgow Pathological and Clinical Society from 1876.

GP&CS Transactions book

Transactions, 1873 – 1883 (RCPSG 4/1/6)

We were keen to explore what these meetings involved, who attended them, and the history of the Society itself. We are extremely fortunate to hold the archives of the Society, from its foundation in 1873 until its merger with the Medico-Chirurgical Society of Glasgow in 1907.

There is mention of an earlier Glasgow Pathological Society (established 1850) in the 1852 Medical Directory. However, it appears to have only lasted for 2 or 3 years. The idea of forming a new Pathological Society came from four prominent Glasgow physicians and surgeons in the early 1870s – Thomas Reid, Joseph Coats, William Leishman, and William Tennant Gairdner. James Finlayson was the first secretary and describes the initial idea for “a society composed of working members“, creating an environment where “specimens could be quietly examined and discussed… in a friendly manner, without any temptation to ostentatious display or personal bitterness.”

GP&CS First meeting proposal 1873

From Transactions, 1873 – 1883 (RCPSG 4/1/6)

The first meeting was held on 25th November 1873 in the rooms of the University Lying-In Hospital and Dispensary for Women on Wellington Street. James Finlayson and Hector Cameron constituted themselves interim secretaries, while Dr Gairdner (then Professor of Medicine at the University of Glasgow) became chairman. In addition to those already mentioned, the original membership included the young surgeon William Macewen.

GP&CS first agenda 1873

From Transactions, 1873 – 1883 (RCPSG 4/1/6)

From the first meeting, the format was established. The Agenda pictured above shows the list of specimens presented by the members for discussion. In further meetings, patients would also be presented. For example, in May 1874, Dr McCall Anderson showed a patient who had been treated for syphilitic paralysis.

In 1874 the name was changed to the Glasgow Pathological and Clinical Society, and with the number of members increasing to 30, a new venue was found at the Glasgow Eye Infirmary on Berkeley Street. Then, in the fourth session, beginning in October 1876, the venue settled at the Faculty Hall, in the College’s current building on St Vincent Street. The origins and early history of the Society were usefully added to the book of Transactions (RCPSG 4/1/6) by James Finlayson in 1879 (below).

GP&CS Memorandum 1879

Memorandum by James Finlayson, 1879 (RCPSG 4/1/6)

An important part of the Society’s business was the publication of its reports, in both the Glasgow Medical Journal and the British Medical Journal. This placed the research and practice of the Society in the context of the wider medical and surgical literature, which was at this time exploring many new areas and innovations.

Notable in the records of the Society are cases concerning neurological conditions and physiology, the treatment of cranial injuries, and cranial surgery. For example, Glasgow physicians such as Alexander Robertson, who was pioneering in his approach to aphasia in the 1860s, and William James Fleming, who investigated the physiology of the ‘motions of the brain’, provide a stimulating context for the advances in brain surgery made by William Macewen in the 1870s.

GP&CS Agenda 1879

From Society Minute Book 1879 – 1891 (RCPSG 4/1/2)

An exciting discovery in the Society’s Minute Book shows that on the 11th November 1879, Macewen presented to the meeting in the Faculty Hall “two patients on whom trephining was performed, one for injury and one for disease.” One of these patients was the fourteen year old girl upon whom Macewen had performed the first removal of a tumour from the dura mater (minute book detail below).

GP&CS Minute 1879

From Society Minute Book, 1879 – 1891 (RCPSG 4/1/2)

This procedure has since been identified as a major breakthrough in the history of neurosurgery. An editorial in the British Medical Journal (11th August, 1888) acknowledges the innovation and success of Macewen’s early brain surgery: “With indisputable justice… may Dr Macewen claim the proud distinction of having been the leader in this country, and we believe in the world, of this great advance in our art.”

These records of the Glasgow Pathological and Clinical Society not only provide us with a wonderful source of evidence of the innovative research and practice in the city in the late 19th century, but also provide us with inspirational stories to tell in our College rooms.

16th Century Surgery & Comic Creation

Origin / foundation stories are so important to an organisation’s identity.  The foundation story should always address the questions – Why do we exist? Why do we do what we do? This theory has been well-used in marketing and branding, from products such as drinks and shoes, to film and literary franchises. We’re lucky at the College to have a very clear link from our foundations in 1599 to our current aims – to set the highest possible standards of healthcare.

Flyer for the event Glasgow's Marvellous Medicine - A comics workshop with Adam Murphy

Yet, there are challenges in how we communicate this. How do you engage audiences with the origins of a 16th century medical and surgical college? In November we worked with leading comic book artist and writer Adam Murphy for a creative workshop with families. Inspired by the 16th century foundations of the College and its enigmatic founder Maister Peter Lowe, Adam led us on a journey of comic creation. Under the gaze of the Maister himself in our College Hall, Adam used Lowe’s 1597 book The Whole Course of Chirurgerie and our 1599 Royal Charter to create graphic stories of surgical and medical improvement.

We invited families along and the event sold out very quickly, mainly through social media promotion and Glasgow event listings. It was important for us to hold the event in our main historical space, College Hall, where portraits of our 16th century founders are on display.

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The workshop kicks off in College Hall

 

Adam kicked things off by setting the scene of a character seeking medical care in the 16th century, and the various options available: the heavy-handed barber-surgeon, the expensive physician, or the unpredictable remedies of folk medicine. Then, via our 1599 Charter, he introduced the idea of surgical training and licencing of practitioners. Never before have the words “Out of the way, losers!” been attributed to the College founder!

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Adam’s initial rough sketches

 

The young people and adults taking part got hands-on instruction on the basics of comic creation, how to build characters, sequence stories, and most importantly, to take risks and make mistakes.

Participants spent some time viewing a pop-up display of our surgical instruments and old medicine cabinets, sketching these and incorporating them into their own stories. The audience chose a large amputation saw as the item for Adam to demonstrate some drawing tips (capturing the impact of the saw’s teeth, for example!).

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Viewing and sketching museum collections in the Lower Library

Wild ideas and the creative imagination took over, and participants let loose with a whole range of comic strip stories, all of which retained a link to the medical and surgical foundations of the workshop. Adam captured some of these ideas – particularly the introduction of a unicorn character which gets its horn cut off by a careless barber-surgeon.

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Adam capturing some audience ideas

The event was a great way to engage a completely new audience with our early history. Participants left knowing much more about the College’s place in Glasgow’s history and in Scotland’s medical history. And our feedback shows that many went home to draw more comics! We look forward to developing further creative events to open up our heritage and collections to a wider audience.

Find out more about Adam’s work at www.adammurphy.com.

The event was kindly supported by Scottish Book Trust’s Live Literature Scotland scheme.

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A Tradition of Fine Dining

Dinners and social events have been a long tradition of College life.  In the College archives there is a dinner book which describes many of the magnificent dinners attended by Fellows and Members and their guests. Before the move to St Vincent Street in 1862, the annual Faculty Dinner was held in a local hotel.  In 1855, for instance, the dinner was held in Mr James Carrick’s Royal Hotel 66 George Square, Glasgow, the cost for 26 being £27.6s.0d.

With the move to 242 St Vincent Street, the Faculty could dine at home and a Dinner Book covering the period 1865-1932 records the menus and “Names of the Gentlemen Invited to the Annual Dinner”.  The dinner held on the 9th October 1865 merited an article in the local newspaper which has been duly cut out and pasted into the Dinner Book.  The dinner, described as a “banquet” was attended by 38 Fellows of the Faculty and guests and included a range of city dignitaries including the Lord Provost, the City Chamberlain, the Dean of Guild,  the Deacon Convenor of the Trades House and the Dean of the Faculty of Procurators.  Following a “sumptious dinner”, numerous speeches and toasts were given.  The President, Dr Fleming, in his toast of Flores res Medica, declared that: “Probably at no date since the days of Hippocrates has there been a more practical improvement to medicine and surgery than since the beginning of the present century”.

The earliest menu in the Dinner Book is that of the annual dinner of 29th November 1871.  The Fellows and their guests dined on a wide variety of fish and meats including Oysters au Gratin, Lobster a l’Indienne, Cutlets aux Petits Pois, Round of Beef, Saddles of Mutton, Braised Turkey, Pig’s Cheek and York Ham.  The dinners continued in similar style as can be seen from the menu below from 1876.  On this particular occasion, 34 Fellows and 30 guests attended at a total cost of £80.00.

Menu for the Faculty's annual dinner in 1876 (RCPSG 1/22/4/2)

Menu for the Faculty’s annual dinner in 1876 (RCPSG 1/22/4/2)

A menu for the Tercentenary Dinner of the Faculty has recently come to light during the  cataloguing our bound pamphlet collection.  Held on the “Penult [penultimate] day of November, 1899”, the front of the menu contains an image of Maister Peter Lowe, the College’s founder, who petitioned King James VI of Scotland in 1599 in order that a corporation be founded for the maintenance of medical standards.  A rich and varied menu was provided followed by the usual variety of toasts and the celebrations ended with the singing of Auld Lang Syne.

Menu for the Tercentenary Dinner, 1899 (pamphlet collection)

Front page of the menu for the Tercentenary Dinner, 1899 (pamphlet collection)

The dinners would have been held in what is now known as the Alexandra Room in 242 St Vincent Street.  During the early 1890s a large hall was erected behind 242, designed by the Glasgow architect J.J. Burnet.  The Faculty really could now dine in considerable splendour as can be seen in the photograph below, dating from around 1914.

Dinner in Faculty Hall c. 1914 (RCPSG 1/12/4/9)

Dinner in Faculty Hall c. 1914 (RCPSG 1/12/4/9)

Nowadays, dining within the College is not just restricted to Fellows and Members.  College Hall is used for corporate dinners, banquets, balls, and weddings as well as conferencing and exhibitions. The room accommodates up to 100 guests for dining and entertaining.

College Hall set up for a present day banquet.

College Hall set up for a present day banquet.

The elegant Alexandra Room, which was first used as a meeting hall, can accommodate up to 50 guests for dining.

The Alexandra Room, formerly used as a meeting hall when the Faculty moved to St Vincent Street in 1862

The Alexandra Room, formerly used as a meeting hall when the Faculty moved to St Vincent Street in 1862

The food is as sumptious as in previous years (although thoroughly designed for modern tastes) with a wide variety of menus. If you are interested in using the College as a venue then please contact Fifteen Ninety Nine or view the Fifteen Ninety Nine website.