The Children’s Society Archive Completes Major Wellcome Trust Funded Project

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.

A boy who was in the care of The Children's Society over 100 years ago. Modern photograph by: Wellcome Trust | Thomas S.G. Farnetti]

A boy who was in the care of The Children’s Society over 100 years ago. Modern photograph by: Wellcome Trust | Thomas S.G. Farnetti

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.

Archive ref: CF08464 Admission Form

Archive ref: CF08464
A 114 year-old document from a case file – before conservation

Archive ref: CF08464 Admission form The same document - during conservation

Archive ref: CF08464 Admission form
The same document – during conservation

Archive ref: CF08464 Admission Form  The same document - after conservation

Archive ref: CF08464 Admission Form
The same document – after conservation

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:

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: and the project also features on the Wellcome Trust’s website:

The final product: conserved, catalogued, indexed and re-boxed children's case files

The final product: conserved, catalogued, indexed and re-boxed children’s case files


St. Nicholas’ Orthopaedic Hospital, Body Braces and Little’s Disease

Today we have a guest post written by a member of our project team, Clare McMurtrie.


Girls at St. Nicholas’ Hospital and Special School, Pyrford, Surrey. Three are in wheelchairs. [1915]

As a volunteer indexing some of the 30,000 case files at The Children’s Society (previously known as the Waifs and Strays Society) and focusing on medical histories referring to children who were admitted into convalescent homes, what seems most prescient is their place in history. Travelling in an archivists’ TARDIS through the case files we discover allusions to mystery diseases and children who suffered lifelong debilitating disability, many of which were unrecognised or untreatable at the time.

One of these conditions is cerebral palsy (CP), or spastic diplegia as it was commonly referred to. Historically known as Little’s Disease, spastic diplegia is a form of CP, a chronic condition seen in a high and constant muscle tightness or stiffness, usually affecting the legs, hips and pelvis. Dr William John Little named the condition in the mid-1800s. His first recorded encounter with CP is reported to have been with children who displayed signs of spastic diplegia; this condition is by far the most common type of CP, occurring in around 70% of cases. Little’s personal childhood experience of mumps, measles, whooping cough, polio and clubfoot (all conditions seen in The Children’s Society’s case files) led him to establish pioneering treatments for the condition. Some of these early treatments included the use of a wheelchair or crutches to aid movement, as well as full body braces!

Girls at St. Nicholas’ Orthopaedic Hospital and Special School, Pyrford, Surrey; with a kid goat third from the right [c1910s]

Group photo of a teacher and ten girls, one of whom is in a wheelchair and another is using a crutch; St Nicholas’ Orthopaedic Hospital and School, Pyrford, Surrey [1917]

The Children’s Society has six recorded cases of cerebral palsy, five of whom were received into St Nicholas’ Home, West Byfleet, Surrey or to St Nicholas’ Home when it later moved to Pyrford in Surrey. St Nicholas’ home originally opened in Tooting in London in 1887, the year of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, after founder Edward Rudolf saw a need for medical centres catering to the countries poorest children. The home moved to West Byfleet in 1893 and then to Pyrford in 1908, with the home in Pyrford also operating as a hospital. In many cases the cost and time needed to care for children with CP meant that children who otherwise would stay with their parents were taken into The Children’s Society’s care.

Cases resulting from poverty include Vera, whose parents also had a small baby and elderly parent to care for, and Mabel, whose father was regularly out of work and then fought France during the First World War. In other cases the loss of income of one parent, through death or absence, caused children with CP to be admitted to St Nicholas’. These include Dorothy, whose father had left, and George, Lora and Phyllis, whose fathers died, leaving families unable to keep them. In a time when men were typically the main money-earners in a household, The Society acted as a short term buffer in many of these cases, offering food and a home for the children, rather than medical treatment. In all cases the children were returned to their family after as little as a year with The Children’s Society. In the case of Mabel, received into St Nicholas’ in 1910, medical treatment was given at the revolutionary Great Ormond Street Hospital, twice (in 1912 and 1913), where she had an operation to straighten one of her feet. Great Ormond Street Hospital opened its doors in Bloomsbury in 1852, as The Hospital for Sick Children, and remains one of the world’s leading children’s hospitals.

The outside of the building of St. Nicholas’ Home, Pyrford, Surrey, c1910s

Overall the case files that refer to children with cerebral palsy reveal more of the lives of the children than of the treatments and conditions that they endured. We are left to fill in the gaps in early-20th century medical knowledge!

Find out more:

Learn more about cerebral palsy:

Discover the more about some of the conditions and treatments mentioned in the case files:

Learn about the history of Great Ormond Street Hospital:

Find out why a set of instruments in the Science Museum’s collection is important to the history of cerebral palsy:

Neglect, Ambition, Bad Fortune, and the Early Years of Blood Transfusion

Today we have a guest post written by one of our project volunteers, Ella St John-McAlister.


Reading Alfred’s case file left me with the impression that he had been a bright and ambitious boy. He came into the care of The Children’s Society (then known as The Waifs and Strays Society) in 1916. Unlike the subjects of most case files I come across (I am researching children’s illnesses and their medical history) he was a healthy boy. This was in spite of Alfred’s father having passed away when Alfred was five years old and his mother being jailed twice for neglecting her children – although the nature and extent of her “immoral life” is unclear.

We know little about Alfred’s life before he entered The Children’s Society except that he had six brothers and sisters, one of whom was the illegitimate child of a “sergeant who was called to France and killed”. It was for neglecting this child that Alfred’s mother was first jailed in 1916. We also know that all of Alfred’s brothers and sisters were in the workhouse: a desperate, destitute sanctuary for those who were unable to support themselves. Something of Alfred’s character comes across in the application form submitted to The Children’s Society, where it states that Alfred played truant despite being “quick and sharp”.

Alfred was admitted into The Children’s Society’s care at the age of eight in 1916, and at the age of 14 he applied for an apprenticeship on a Navy training ship called the Arethusa, indicating a desire to travel and a willingness to “obey his [the Commander’s] and [his successors’] lawful commands”.

Alfred’s acceptance letter from the Arethusa Navy Training ship, 1922 (case number 20702)

The fact that he was allowed to join the ship indicates that he must have been at a certain level of health because there were strict requirements on the height and health of those who joined:

Age: 13½-15   Height: At least 4ft. 8 in. (without boots.)
Age: Over 15   Height: At least 4ft. 10½in. (ditto.)

Once on board a typical daily menu aboard the Arethusa might have looked something like this:

  • 1lb soft bread
  • 8oz biscuit
  • 7oz fresh meat
  • 8oz potatoes
  • 3/4oz cocoa
  • 1/8oz tea
  • 2/3oz sugar

A pretty meagre and dour menu by today’s standards. After he joined the Arethusa Alfred vanishes from view. Sadly, it is a letter from Alfred’s mother reporting his death in 1926 at the age 18 that enables us to piece together an idea of his last years.

A letter from Alfred’s mother informing The Children’s Society of his death, 1926 (case number 20702)

A letter from Alfred’s mother informing The Children’s Society of his death, 1926 (case number 20702)

Dear Sir,

I feel I must write to tell you the sad news of
my poor boy, Albert [middle initial, surname], he went out to America 2 ½
yrs. ago. I was Expecting him home last Easter, I received
news a fortnight ago to-day to say he met with an accident
on Jan 11th and died Jan 19th it is a terrible shock to me,
I shall never, never get over it, he had an operation and
transfusion of blood, but they could not save him.

When the snow was about, he was in a sled coasting
down a steep hill, when the sled struck a stick, causing it
to swerve into the gutter seriously injuring him, they took
him to St. Vincent’s Hospital, West New Brighton, he was
provided with a private room and two trained nurses, at the
expence [sic] of the New York Telephone Coy. [Company] where he had been
employed only two months, previous to that, he
served 12 months in the U.S Army, so ten of his soldier
friends acted as ball [sic] bearers and firing squad over his
grave, he put his age on 3 years, by letters I have had his
friends were surprised at his correct age, he was a fine
fellow. The British Society and his firm gave him a good
burial, plenty of flowers, in fact, he was far better
treated than he would have been in England, I hope you don’t
mind me writing, but I felt I must.

I don’t know what I shall do without him, he
was always a man in his ways, I would not mind so much if
I could have seen him the last of him, or if I only I could see
his grave.

I hope this will find Matron quite well,

I am,

Yours Truly,

(Sgd. [Signed]) Alice [middle initial, surname]

It is a sad ending to what looked as if it could have been a very promising future, but this letter also holds some fascinating information. The reference to a blood transfusion is the first instance we have found of this procedure in The Children’s Society’s case files. The technology behind the procedure for extracting, storing, and transfusing blood was still developing at the time Alfred received his transfusion.

The first recorded, successful attempts at blood transfusions happened in the 1600s, although these experiments used animals. Even in the late 1800s blood transfusions were shunned by medical professionals and considered extremely risky. In fact, in Britain in the early 20th century, surgery textbooks referred to blood transfusions as a quaint relic of medical history. If only they had known! However, just as the idea of blood transfusions was being cast aside, the discovery of different blood types was made. The medical and surgical needs brought on by World War I also acted as a catalyst for the idea of blood transfusions gaining respectability within the medical field.

Click here for more information about blood transfusions (including an interesting image) from The Science Museum.

What makes Alfred’s story so exciting is that in 1926 when he received his blood transfusion, the first hospital blood bank in the United States had not even been established. Whilst blood was donated voluntarily in Britain from the early 1920s onwards, donors were being paid up to $100 for a pint of blood in the U.S., meaning Alfred’s procedure could have been quite a costly one.

Although Alfred’s case file is fairly slender, it contains useful information on what it was like to be a child at that time and a child under The Children’s Society’s care, and also on an important medical advance, one many of us might take for granted today.

Becoming an Archivist

Have you ever thought you’d like to work in archives? You could be just about to enter the world of work or thinking about a career change; could archives be the career for you?

A few weeks ago, as part of The Children’s Society Archive’s Unexplored Riches in Medical History project, I gave a talk to students at Kingston University, describing what it’s like to be an archivist and how you can get into the profession. Here’s a summary of what I told them:

Why work in archives?
This is a question that only you can answer for yourself! But if you need some suggestions, here are a few of mine:

Firstly, a lot of archivists really like working with archival documents; I know I do. There’s nothing quite like holding a piece of history in your hands and thinking about who created it and what it meant to them. Like the letter below:

Letter from Edward to his mother, 1911 (case number 12589)

Letter from Edward to his mother, 1911 (case number 12589)

November 12th 1911.

Dear Mother,

I hope you are
still well & happy. I have
not heard from Jack yet
but when I have I will
let you know. If I come
home it will cost 3s 1d
but I shall have to out

how long I can stay. I
shall be glad when I can
come home. Could you send
me some stamps. My stamp-
-album is nearly full. I
have a page of United States,
Austria, France & Germany.
We all had a magic-
lantern last night and

I enjoyed it very much.
I shall be glad when
I can live in London again.
As Jack come home from
Canada yet, or, is (his) he
coming at all. Give my love
to Kate & Harriett. I should
like to see you and Kate
again soon & also Gladys.
I hope Stanley still likes

living in Surrey. I think
I must close now.

I remain your loving
Son Edward xxxx.

It’s hard to read this letter without feeling some kind of connection to 13-year old Edward, with his drawing and stamp-collecting and hopes for his family. Read the rest of Edward’s story here.

Every archival document, just like this one, is unique and has its own story to tell. As an archivist, you’ll find yourself discovering those stories and learning all the time.

You may also want to become an archivist to work with people and to help people. Archives exist to look after documents so that people can read and use them, so a large part of your job as an archivist will be helping people to access documents and to understand them. If you think that being an archivist involves interacting only with documents and not with people, you’ll have to think again.

But archivists don’t just look after documents for people in the present; they also act as custodians to protect documents so that people in the future will be able to read them too (perhaps even hundreds of years into the future!) In this way archivists are really important: what we do not only affects how we understand ourselves today, it affects how people of the future will understand us as well.

What do archivists do?
The main things that archivists do can be grouped into three categories:

  • Providing access to collections
  • Preserving documents
  • Developing collections

Providing access to collections can come in many shapes and sizes. You could be working in a reading room, directly helping researchers to find documents, read them and understand the context they were created in. Or you could be answering questions that come in through emails and on the phone. Then there are other ways of providing access: running activities for school groups, for example, creating exhibitions, or writing web pages and blogs (hmm, that last one sounds familiar somehow).

Not to mention, it’s impossible to provide access to your documents if you don’t know what you have in the first place. Cataloguing your collections to create a database or list of all the documents you look after is really important; as an archivist, you’ll be rather stuck without a catalogue.

And then there’s preserving documents. As I’ve already mentioned, archival documents aren’t just important to us today, they’re important for future generations too; so archivists try their hardest to keep their documents in good condition and readable.

There are all sorts of tasks involved in preservation. You could be packaging documents into archival-quality boxes and folders, you could be checking that you don’t have any book lice or other pests in your archive store, or you could be checking that the temperature and humidity levels in your archive store are good for the documents. (For any of you wondering, unstable environmental conditions can really do a lot of damage to archives, especially if the conditions are unstable for a number of years.)

Digital records, being those created on computers, are a completely different kettle of fish. Anyone who’s tried, unsuccessfully, to open an old file from a floppy disk will know just how difficult and frustrating accessing old digital records can be. Considering that floppy disks were all the rage only 15 years ago, you can see just how proactive archivists need to be to make sure that their digital records remain accessible and readable for years to come.

As for developing collections, this is all about collecting more material for your archive and making sure you’re documenting the things that are happening today. All archives will have a collecting policy, which will help them to decide what types of documents they should add to their collections.

You can’t collect everything, though, or you’d be overwhelmed. One of an archivist’s most important jobs is to decide what things to keep for the future and what things to leave behind. It’s not an easy decision, because it will directly affect how the people of the future understand and learn from their past. I told you archivists were important!

How to become an archivist?
To be an archivist, you need to have a recognised postgraduate qualification. There aren’t too many universities in the UK that offer this qualification, so competition to get on the course can be high.

For anyone looking to get on an archive course, you’ll need to have some experience in an archive first. This experience can be paid (there are a number of jobs out there that are specifically for this purpose) or it could be voluntary. Want to volunteer at an archive? Just get in touch! Many archives take on volunteers, so if you know of an archive that you’d like to volunteer at, one of the best ways is to just ask.

And for anyone wondering: no, you don’t have to have a background in history to become an archivist. My own undergraduate degree was in biochemistry!

A girl who has completed her training and is ready, with her uniform, to go out to work in domestic service, 1910

Where to find out more?
Firstly, you might want to take a look at the hand-out that I made for the talk at Kingston University: Careers in Archives hand-out

The hand-out contains a list of links to places that will give you more information, but two of the most comprehensive guides are:
The Archives and Records Association

If you have any more questions, we’d be happy to answer; just leave a comment below, or email:

Funding for research available

Did you know that the Wellcome Trust gives out research bursaries of £5,000 to £25,000 to fund research into collections, like The Children’s Society Archive, that have received Wellcome Trust funding previously?

Click here to find out more about the Wellcome Trust’s research bursaries.

Our Wellcome Trust-funded Unexplored Riches in Medical History project here at The Children’s Society will be coming to an end in the next few months, and we’ve done so much since we started. We have catalogued and conserved thousands of records that can be used to study medical history. Soon our catalogue will be online for you to search and see what we have for yourself.

And this is where you come in. At the moment our medical history records are an untapped resource, crying out for research. We didn’t call these records ‘Unexplored Riches’ for nothing; they now need to be explored further! A quick browse through this blog will show you just some of fascinating things that you could find in the collection, but that really is just the tip of the iceberg.

Children receiving fresh air treatment in the outdoor ward of St Nicholas' Home, Pyrford, Surrey, early 20th Century

Thanks to the Wellcome Trust’s research bursaries, you can give your research the financial help you need. The bursaries will fund academic research using collections like ours, and it doesn’t have to be historically grounded research either. If you’re not an academic, the bursaries will also fund work in the creative arts, whether you’re an artist, writer, performer or broadcaster wanting to use our collection.

So what medical history sources do we have? Check out these links:

Our records can be used to research many things, but some of our strengths include:

  • Children’s health
  • Victorian and Edwardian healthcare
  • Diseases of poverty
  • Contagious diseases
  • Orthopaedic conditions
  • Historic medical treatments
  • Charities and pre-NHS healthcare
  • Sanitation
  • Vaccination
  • Diet and nutrition

Will you be at the forefront of discovering what our medical history records have to offer? See the Wellcome Trust’s website for more details on how to apply for a research bursary.

If you have questions about the bursaries or about using our collections for research, please email us at:

Unexplored Riches in Medical History – in action!

I’ve got something exciting to share with you today. The Unexplored Riches in Medical History project has now been captured on film!

In a short video that has been produced by the Wellcome Trust, Ian Wakeling, the head of The Children’s Society Archive, gives a really great introduction to the Unexplored Riches in Medical History project.

Have a watch and see us all in action! And, more importantly, see some of the wonderful archive documents that we’re working on.

Come hear a talk about our medical history project on 8 December 2014 in London

Here’s a reminder that I will be giving a talk about our Unexplored Riches in Medical History project next Monday, 8 December.

I’ll be discussing how far we’ve come in this project and I’ll also be looking at some of the fascinating medical history trends that we’ve discovered as we’ve gone along. For example: how was The Children’s Society affected by the flu pandemic of 1918? And just what was so unusual about chicken pox?

Please come along to find out more! The talk will be held at Senate House in London on Monday 8 December, starting at 5:30pm. Attendance is free.

Click here for more details.

Children undergoing hydrotherapy treatment at St Nicholas' and St Martin's Orthopaedic Hospital and Special School, Pyrford, Surrey, c1930s

I look forward to seeing you there!

The difficulties of diagnosis

Today we have a story about a girl called Annie, which I shared at the Child Care History Network Conference earlier this year. Hers is a sad story, but at the same time it can teach us a lot about the complexities of diagnosis in the early-20th Century.

Annie was born in 1894 in a small village near Dorking in Surrey. It wasn’t an easy childhood for her: when Annie was 10 years old her father died of pneumonia, and to make matters worse, one year later her mother died of congenital heart disease.

We don’t know what happened to Annie immediately after she was orphaned, but about a year later she went into the workhouse in Dorking. Her two older brothers were working as farm labourers in a nearby village, and her older sister was married and living on another nearby farm, but none of them could afford to help Annie. This meant that the workhouse was the only option.

Annie remained in the workhouse in Dorking for a year until 1907, when she was 13. At this point, the Dorking Guardians of the Poor filled in an application for Annie to enter the care of The Children’s Society (then known as the Waifs and Strays Society). Why the application was made at this point, we don’t know; but it’s understandable that they thought it would be good to get Annie out of the workhouse.

See the first page of Annie’s application form below (click the image to see a larger version).

The front page of Annie's application form, giving information about her family, 1907, from case file 12767

Annie’s application was successful and in June 1907 she entered St Margaret’s Home in Penkridge, Staffordshire. Just before entering the home, a medical form notes that Annie is in good health.

Unfortunately, when Annie had been in St Margaret’s Home for two years, her health began to falter. She was sent to Stafford Infirmary, where the doctor who saw her diagnosed her with a weak heart. At this point Annie was 15 (the school leaving age at the time was 12), an age at which the girls in St Margaret’s Home often left care to start work. The doctor at the infirmary advised that Annie shouldn’t start work for at least a few months and that even then it should only be light work. With this advice, Annie was sent back to St Margaret’s Home to recuperate.

Time passed and yet Annie didn’t seem to be getting better. The local doctor at St Margaret’s Home saw her and diagnosed her as having pneumonia along with the heart disease. The doctor’s prognosis, however, was good: he said that with medicine, care and sea air, Annie might get better in a month.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you will have noticed that sea air is a treatment that was very popular in the late-19th and early-20th Centuries. The doctor at the home said that Annie should be sent to the East Coast of England because its sea air was known to be bracing. Presumably, when it comes to pneumonia, bracing sea air was thought to be best.

Following the doctor’s orders, The Waifs and Strays Society tried to find Annie a place in their home in Lowestoft in Suffolk. This home, however, didn’t have any special facilities for sick children and so couldn’t take Annie on. With the East Coast not feasible, Annie was instead sent to the South Coast. On this coast, at Hurstpierpoint in Sussex, The Waifs and Strays Society had a dedicated convalescent home, Nayworth Convalescent Home, where Annie could get specialist medical treatment.

We next hear of Annie in July 1909, when she had been at Nayworth Convalescent Home for a month. Her illness had grown worse, leaving her bedridden and eating nothing but milk and barley water. By this point, all talk of Annie going out to work had ended. It was thought that she might never be well enough to start work, and might have to rely, once more, on the workhouse in Dorking.

Very shortly, the discussion about Annie’s future had taken a back-seat to her current state of health. See the letter below, sent by the matron of Nayworth Convalescent Home (click the image for a larger version):

Letter from the matron of Nayworth Convalescent Home, discussing Annie's admission to the children's hospital in Brighton, 1909, from case file 12767

August 1rst. 1909

Re Annie [surname]

Dear Sir. –

As I have been nursing night
& day Dr. Parry recommended
this child’s admission to the
Children’s Hospital at Brighton.
I took her there on Friday
afternoon. She was very ill
when I left her & so I went down
yesterday to see her. She had
brightened up a little but the
doctor at the Hospital considers
it a very bad case.

Her heart is weak but Kidney

disease is the primary cause
of the trouble.

I am. yours faithfully

Elsie P. Smith

Annie stayed in hospital for a month, with her condition sometimes getting better and sometimes growing worse. The matron from Nayworth Convalescent Home kept in frequent contact with the hospital during this time.

Sadly, in late August 1909, Annie lost the battle she had been fighting and passed away, aged 15. Her death certificate states that she had died of pancreatitis followed by heart failure. Correspondence in Annie’s file describes just how much she would be missed by the people who had looked after her during her time in care. She was said to have been very patient in the face of her illness and grateful for all that was done for her.

When it comes to Annie’s story, I’m particularly intrigued by the variety of diagnoses that she was given. Her first diagnoses were heart disease and pneumonia and, if you remember, these are the diseases that Annie’s parents had died of. You have to wonder if the doctors were thinking that Annie’s illness might be hereditary or linked to her parents in some way.

Then, when Annie went to hospital in Brighton, she was given a diagnosis of kidney disease, suggesting that the doctors there saw she was having abdominal trouble. Finally, on the death certificate, it states that Annie died of pancreatitis and heart failure.

We will never know which diseases Annie actually suffered from. It seems likely that she had either kidney disease or pancreatitis, and that she also had a hereditary heart condition. She may even have had pneumonia as well, although it’s hard to tell from this distance of time. This lack of clarity shows us just how difficult it was for doctors to reach a diagnosis, and how difficult it was to treat cases like Annie’s, with only the medical knowledge available at the time.

The end is nigh! Find out about the final stages of our project at a seminar in London on 8 December 2014

Want to hear what we’ve discovered in our Unexplored Riches in Medical History project? Now you can!

I’m happy to announce that I will be giving one of the Voluntary Action History Society’s seminars on 8 December where I will be discussing the results of the Unexplored Riches in Medical History project. Want to come along? The seminar will be held at Senate House in London on 8 December, starting at 5:30pm. Attendance is free.

Click here for more details.

Children undergoing hydrotherapy treatment at St Nicholas' and St Martin's Orthopaedic Hospital and Special School, Pyrford, Surrey, c1930s

We’re drawing ever closer to the end of the Unexplored Riches in Medical History project, and I’ll be using this seminar to discuss just how far we’ve come in the two and a half years since the project began. In particular I’ll be highlighting the historical trends in children’s health and healthcare that we’ve discovered during the project. And, for those of you wanting to take on a challenge, I’m going to talk about the parts of our archive collection that could really benefit from further medical history research. (As with any project like this, we’ve uncovered more questions than we have answers.)

Please come along to hear what we’ve found. It would be great to see you there.

Visit the Voluntary Action History Society website for further information.

Discovering medical history and childcare at the Child Care History Network Conference 2014

“Healing the Wounds of Childhood” That was the name of the conference we attended two weeks ago. It was the annual Child Care History Network conference and this year the focus was on children’s medical history.

You can listen to the talks from the conference, including my own, on the Child Care History Network website.

The conference venue, Buckerell Lodge Hotel in Exeter

The conference was held at the Buckerell Lodge Hotel in Exeter, and as we were still in the last throes of summer (despite the fact that it was October!) the day was warm and sunny. What better time to go to Devon?

There was a whole day full of speakers talking about medical history. First up, though, was myself!

Janine speaking about the Unexplored Riches in Medical History project at the conference

I gave the delegates an overview of what we’re doing in the Unexplored Riches in Medical History project, explaining how we’re cataloguing and conserving our records relating to medical history so that they can be used for medical history research. It was also a great excuse to show off some of the fascinating records we have here at The Children’s Society Archive, including a medical book listing the day-to-day medical care given to children at St Cuthbert’s Nursery in Darlington, County Durham, in 1966; and the case file of Annie, a girl who came into care in 1907 aged thirteen, and the struggle of medical professionals to diagnose the condition that left her seriously ill in 1909.

Want to know more? The good news is that you can now listen to my talk and see my slides on the Child Care History Network website. Hopefully video recordings from the conference and slides from some of the other talks will go up in the next few weeks, so keep an eye out for them!

The other talks on the day were really interesting. We heard about the Charity Organisation Society and its 19th Century involvement in healthcare in Oxford. There was a lot of discussion about 20th Century views on children’s healthcare and development, including the child guidance movement, and the work of people such as Truby King and John Bowlby. We heard about historical views on adoption and its effects on children. Finally, we learned about modern practice and how art therapy can be used to help treat mental health problems.

It was all fascinating stuff, as were the conversations held during the tea and lunch breaks about people’s research interests and backgrounds in child care or medical practice. On top of all that, as with the previous conference we went to, we had a stand with leaflets about the Unexplored Riches in Medical History project, where we could talk to the delegates about the project in more detail.

All in all, it was a great day. But you don’t have to take my word for it! Visit the Child Care History Network website to listen to the talks for yourself. And as I said, more slides and hopefully video recordings will go up over the coming weeks so make sure to keep checking the webpage for more.