Internship experiences at the Lothian Health Services Archive – Part 2

This is the second in a series of three blog posts kindly written for us by interns at the Lothian Health Services Archive (LHSA) about their experiences.

My name is Sharon Boyle and I’m the Archive Intern at Lothian Health Services Archive (LHSA). I completed the MSc in Information Management and Preservation at the University of Glasgow in August of this year. I did my course cataloguing placement at LHSA last year, so it’s been exciting to return there to start my career as an archivist.

My internship has afforded three very important opportunities; further cataloguing experience, involvement in the range of activities that are carried out in any busy archive and a chance to find out more about the use of archival material in education. This last subject is of real interest to me as it was the focus of my MSc dissertation.

My main task was to continue cataloguing LHSA’s collection of photographs into the database, so my first week was spent assessing them and creating a hand list of our holdings. After three weeks this list had been completed and Archivist Laura advised me which series they fitted into. It was necessary, however to create some new series as my search had uncovered groups of photos that did not readily fit into existing ones. I found, for example, a number of photos of hospitals abroad and individual portrait shots of notable physicians and medical staff. Some series were so large that creation of sub-series was also needed; there are a huge number of items relating to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (RIE), so photographs will comprise different sub-series within this large series, including one of residents (junior doctors), one of cliniques (medical teams responsible for the care of patients on wards headed by a senior member of medical staff) and others, including buildings and other staff members. I’m currently at the stage where I have begun to enter items into our photographic database.

I have also had chances to work with our Conservation and Research Interns, Sarah and Kirsten. Sarah and I worked on an accession from the Edinburgh solicitors Gillespie Macandrew which contained title deeds and legal papers relating to the RIE. From this I was able to gain further experience of hand listing a collection and as each item was listed, Sarah explained possible approaches to cleaning that could be applied to the beautiful, fragile and in some cases, very, very dirty documents!

Research Intern Kirsten has been examining materials from LHSA’s collections that are related to WWI and thinking about ways in which they can be used as an educational resource. We discussed some ideas together, and I was able to take along digital images of materials she had selected to the SCA ‘Enquiry Based’ Education Workshop held at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. There we learned about techniques that enable students to engage with the archival material and how to direct further research projects based on it. The educational consultant running the event has kindly agreed to create a resource for us, so the autograph book created by Nurse Ethel Miller of Craigleith Military Hospital and the poems, verses and cartoons written within by the soldiers she nursed, will soon have a wider audience.

When I haven’t been focusing on cataloguing the photographic collection, I’ve been involved in learning about other aspects of running an archive service. Sarah, the Conservation Intern and I helped Archive Assistant Stephen research some enquiries from the public by looking through the Royal Edinburgh Hospital Register of Deaths and the Casebooks. I helped Archivist Laura evaluate and complete the loan papers for objects and papers from our collection which form part of the exhibition ‘200 years 200 Objects’ which commemorates the bicentennial of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. I also assisted the student from the University of Glasgow who carried out her cataloguing placement at LHSA. She continued cataloguing the same material I began work on last year, so I was able to provide her with some contextual information about the collection.

The internship has been a fantastic opportunity; I have handled some wonderful materials and been given the opportunity to carry out many interesting and practical tasks. Since my main undertaking has been cataloguing photographs, I thought I would end my blog post with a few gems from LHSA’s collection. It’s been a real joy and privilege for a fan of photography like myself to handle so many beautiful images and research the stories that lie behind them.

Lillian Lindsay
Lillian Lindsay, LHB25, Fayer (London)

This elderly lady in academic dress is Lillian Lindsay. Born Lillian Murray in Holloway, London in 1871, she was the first woman to graduate as a dentist in the UK, and the first woman to be appointed President of the British Dental Association. She fought hard to become a dentist, and was undeterred from pursuing this ambition despite numerous setbacks. She lost a scholarship to the North London Collegiate School when the headmistress refused to support her career aims and was refused entry to the National Dental Hospital in London because she was a woman. She eventually was admitted to the Edinburgh Dental Hospital and School and graduated LDS (Hons)RCS Ed. in 1895.

RIE Residents and senior medical staff 1874
RIE Residents and senior medical staff 1874, P/PL1/R/001

The next photograph shows a group of residents and senior doctors at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, taken in 1874.The physician pictured second from left in the back row is Joseph Bell, FRSE, and the main inspiration for the character of Sherlock Holmes. Arthur Conan Doyle was Bell’s pupil, and wove his teacher’s talent for keen observation into the character of the shrewd detective. The bearded man in the front row is John Hutton Balfour, who served as dean of the faculty of medicine at the University of Edinburgh. Balfour also helped to establish the Botanical Society of Edinburgh and was nominated keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. His descendants include the actress Tilda Swinton.

Children and staff of St. Kentigern’s Nursery
Children and staff of St. Kentigern’s Nursery, LHB16, Weekly Scotsman.

My favourite photograph, however, documents the simple pleasures of an afternoon trip. Pictured below are the children and staff of St. Kentigern’s Nursery enjoying the company of the penguins at Edinburgh Zoo in June 1949.

Sharon Boyle, LHSA Archive Intern

Also published on the LHSA blog at

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