The Children’s Society Archive has just celebrated the completion of its Wellcome Trust funded ‘Unexplored Riches in Medical History Project’. The project was funded by a major grant from the Wellcome Trust and has shed a whole new light on aspects of the well-being and health of children up to the 1920s, as well as their care and social circumstances.
Thanks to the funding, the project has conserved and catalogued a significant part of the archive collection, helping to preserve it for the future and open it up for social history and medical history research, while making it more accessible to others, such as schools, universities and community groups.
Looking at children’s case files from the 1880s to the 1920s they found a huge body of evidence for the diseases and treatments of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. This included: high rates of tuberculosis and rickets, and high rates of malnutrition in children coming into care.
Documents from The Children’s Society’s homes that ran from the 1880s to the 1980s show how The Children’s Society set up homes to treat orthopaedic conditions and diabetic children, as well as creating swimming techniques for children with mobility difficulties.
The project has created an online catalogue of these case files and residential home records. You can explore the completed catalogue here:
Nearly 9,000 of the earliest case files were in very poor condition, and the project has conserved and strengthened these files for the future.
The project was carried out by a professional team consisting of an archivist and two conservators, along with a team of volunteers.
Ian Wakeling, Head of The Children’s Society Archive, said: “These records are vitally important for studying changes in medical knowledge over the past 130 years because they show us how those changes affected real people. The children in the care of The Children’s Society came from some of the poorest and most disadvantaged families in the country, and we can now see what this meant for their well-being and how their families struggled to provide for their healthcare.”
Simon Chaplin, Director of Culture and Society at the Wellcome Trust, added: “The records held by The Children’s Society chart the impact of more than a century of turbulent change on some of the poorest members of society, disadvantaged children and their families. By cataloguing and maintaining this important archive, we hope that these medical histories will be the subject of further research and that their stories will continue to be told.”
Further information about the Unexplored Riches in Medical History project, including the project blog showcasing items found within the collection, can be found on the project webpages: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/unexplored_riches
There is also a video that has been produced by the Wellcome Trust that gives a really great introduction to the Unexplored Riches in Medical History project: http://youtu.be/SGeDtaBeXYo and the project also features on the Wellcome Trust’s website: http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/Funding/Medical-humanities/Funding-schemes/Research-resources-awards/Projects-funded/index.htm