A Picture of Health

On Thursday 30th October from 10am, Louise and Clair from Lothian Health Services Archive (LHSA) will be on the Library Pop desk on the first floor of the Main Library. LHSA is one of the largest medical archives in the UK, holding everything from institutional records of Edinburgh’s hospitals to small personal collections from those who worked inside them.

Including registers and minutes, plans, photographs, objects, audio-visual media and more, our archive documents the history of healthcare in Edinburgh and the Lothians over more than four hundred years (our earliest holding dates from 1594). Our collections trace the social, political, economic and (of course) medical history of our city and are widely used by the general public, students and academics. Our most popular resources come from our Royal Edinburgh Hospital (REH) collections, a psychiatric hospital (‘asylum’) that has just celebrated its bicentenary. Ranging from admission registers to patient letters, artwork and case books, the good recordkeeping of the hospital has led to a wealth of unique sources for students, academics and family historians exploring patient experiences in the nineteenth century.


Artwork by Royal Edinburgh Hospital patient, John Willis Mason, c. 1890s (GD16).

On Thursday, we’ll be focussing on our image collections. As Clair has been cataloguing LHSA’s considerable collection of photographs, she has put together a slideshow of some of her favourites:

RIE, Ward 10, 1895

Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh Ward, 1895 (P/PL1)

We’ll also be remembering the centenary of the First World War in our display by bringing along a number of collection items. For example, you will be able to see a rare wartime photo album from the Edenhall Hospital for Limbless Soldiers and Sailors (based near Musselburgh) and a scrapbook from nurse Ethel Miller. Nurse Miller worked in the 2nd Scottish General Hospital Craigleith, where she decided to pass around a book amongst her soldier patients to record their memories, verses and sketches. The scrapbook is a real favourite with LHSA staff, and in autumn last year we produced a replica copy that is used in education work:


Page from the scrapbook of Nurse Ethel Miller, c. 1917 (Acc12/20)

So come and see us on Thursday from 10am and we can let you know how LHSA can help you, from historical research to sources for projects and finding your own Edinburgh family history.

Louise Williams, LHSA Archivist