Have I mentioned before how much I love my job? And the thing I love most is that unexpected find, that letter or photograph or artefact which makes me smile because I found it in the most unexpected place!
This week has seen me trawling through a massive box which had lain hidden behind the desk of the Head of Library since 2007. A box full of mounted prints of medical historians, thick board which weigh a tonne and have me panicking at how we are possible going to store them properly, and if I should even be contemplating keeping and preserving prints which are undoubtedly held elsewhere. But deep beneath these prints, I found a brown folder, unmarked. A bit dusty, smelling a bit fusty – intriguing! And inside were photographs which – yes, they made me smile. Lovely sepia and black and white photographs of Fellows of the College and other eminent medics dating from way back to the foundation of the College in 1929 – and many bearing hand-written messages to Professor Blair-Bell, co-founder of the College.
About 10 to 15 photographs of all different sizes, and very different in content and presentation. A warm and friendly image of Arthur Leyland Robinson (1888-1959) a staunch supporter of Blair-Bell and the College, Foundation Member, and Professor of Midwifery at the University of Liverpool. A rather formidable Paul Bar (1853-1945), a French obstetrician who became one of the College’s first Honorary Fellows in October 1931 and was responsible for introducing the bar clamp, used to seal the umbilical cord and allow it to dry up. Captain Noel Chavasse RAMC VC in his uniform, a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons who worked in Liverpool under the eminent surgeon Robert Jones and was killed in action in 1917. Charles Gibson Lowry, Foundation Fellow and representative of Northern Ireland, inscribed ‘to my friend B.B’. A newspaper caricature of Comyns Berkeley (1865-1946), a larger than life character who worked at the Middlesex Hospital on pioneering research into cervical cancer and who was also Editor of the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the British Empire and a signatory to the College’s Articles of Association. And I would love to know who this intriguing gentleman in army uniform is – the indecipherable annotations may take some time to solve!
So this led me to looking in detail at the photographic collection already held in the College Archive, trying to see where this new (or rather old) collection fitted, and discovering new images which had previously not attracted my attention. The result is that a new project will be launched in the New Year, with a fresh set of volunteers joining the team, and once we have properly catalogued the photographs I am hoping that, at the very least, we may get a brand new and interesting set of posters for the Education Centre!
Penny Hutchins, RCOG Archivist