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MUSEUM AND ARCHIVE: A VISIT TO OUR MEDICAL PAST. Thursday November 5th 2009

By Alan Craxford and Christina Fila

Introduction

Ninewells Hospital

Ninewells Hospital, Dundee (2)

In 1949 the Secretary of State for Scotland approved in principle proposals by the Eastern Regional Hospital Board to close the existing Dundee Royal Infirmary and to concentrate all acute hospital services for Dundee 'on one site as near to the city centre as possible'. St Andrews University decided that its new Medical School should be built on the same site. Menzieshill farm on the western edge of the city was acquired in 1955. Sir Robert Matthew was appointed in 1956 as the architect for the project. - Ninewells Revisited (1)

A new teaching hospital was talked about when we first arrived in Dundee as medical students in 1964 and we were promised that at least some of our clinical training would take place there before we graduated. Indeed work started on the Ninewells site in 1965 but the new hospital did not open its doors until 1974 - five years too late for us to experience it. As neither of us had visited the edifice before, the occasion of the fortieth reunion of our class in St Andrews gave us and our spouses the ideal opportunity to rectify that deficit, have a nostalgic look around our old Alma Mater and visit the new University's archives.


The Tayside Medical History Museum

Museum display

Tayside Medical Museum permanent display (3)

Tayside Medical History pamphlet

Fife & Tayside History of Medicine (4)

The Tayside Medical History Museum is located on the ground floor of Ninewells Hospital to the left of the main reception area. We were met in the foyer by our guides for the morning, Dr Graham Lowe and Matthew Jarron. The museum's proud claim is that it holds one of the most significant medical collections in Scotland with a wide range of material on the history of medical practice in the region and on Scottish medical history in general. Although space is limited and much of the collection has to be housed in makeshift storage out of general view, many items are kept on permanent display in the area which is open to the public.

Pride of place goes to a number of portraits of local worthies and past benefactors of the Medical School including Sir William Ogilvie Dalgleish (1832-1913) and Sir John Ogilvie (1803-1890). Of general interest were collections of Victorian and Edwardian surgical instruments, an original wooden stethoscope which had been owned by its inventor Rene Laennec, rare examples of pharmaceuticals (including bottles of early Penicillin and an ampoule of Neoarsphenamine) and an original pill box owned by Sir James Young Simpson. There were non-medical curios such as the quiver of poisoned arrows collected by Professor Thomas Fraser (who first proposed using Strophanthus as a treatment for heart conditions) and an opium pipe. Of more local interest were the original prototype unipolar electrocardiograph made by Sir Ian Hill, a set of Smillie's meniscectomy knives and a bottle of mustard oil and a face mask. These had been used by Dundee pioneer radiologist, Dr George Alexander Pirie. He used the mask in an attempt to protect himself in his early experimentation with Xrays and the oil as a counter-irritant to the tingling, numbness and pain in his hands from the effects of radiation burns.

The museum offers a rolling series of exhibitions themed from its contents. The display running during our visit was "A Delicate Operation: The History of Surgery in Tayside". There were portraits of the main protagonists from John Crichton (1772-1860) up to Sir Donald Douglas from our own time. These were accompanied by synopses of the important developments in surgery in the Medical School such as the cardiothoracic surgery of the 1960s and its subsequent replacement as a Regional specialisation by neurosurgery. One display case was devoted to the instrument makers of Dundee. The final exhibit concentrated on theatre design, illustrating the demarcation into clean, sterile and disposal zones; a radical concept 50 years ago at the time of the design and building of the new Ninewells Hospital.

Millenium Tapestry at Ninewells Hospital
The Dundee Royal Infirmary Memorial Wall

The Millennium Triptych Panel and the Dundee Royal Infirmary Memorial Wall

At the end of our tour we were taken to see two further exhibits. The first, the Millennium Triptych Panel was a gift to the Medical School by the Dundee and East Scotland Embroiderers Guild. Representing an open pharmacy cabinet, the outer sections depict twelve jars containing medicaments from past centuries. The central panel depicts the Tree of Life against a background of the Tay Estuary and local landmarks. It is decorated with images of biological and medicinal importance. The second display situated in the main hospital concourse is the Dundee Royal Infirmary Memorial Wall. This consists of many commemorative plaques, photographs and artifacts rescued from the old hospital upon its closure in the late 1990s.

Ninewells Museum Visit group

L to R: Alan Craxford, Matthew Jarron, Christina Fila, Dr Graham Lowe

A walk around the campus

The Old Union Building, Dundee Campus
The Geddes Quadrangle

The Old Students Union; The Geddes Quadrangle

Parked safely in the car park of the old Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design (now a part of the University of Dundee) we embarked on a walking tour of the campus, with Matthew Jarron acting as our guide. Leaving the Perth Road behind we climbed the steep steps up the old Hawkhill Place. Most of the area around Belmont Hall (including much of the hall itself) and the Old Hawkhill has been demolished and redeveloped into new departments, including a major Life Sciences complex, residences and apartments (the University now has almost 18,000 students). We passed through the new Students Union building, a structure faced with glass and steel which was built on the site of Airlie Terrace and the quadrangle in 1970. From there we walked down Airlie Place and turned into the drive alongside the triangular lawn to the Old Students Union which now houses the Department of Economics and Accountancy. Walking up the steps and entering through the heavy oak doors brought back memories of Old Dines, the basement union bar (Export sixpence half a pint) with its Bruegel-esque peasant mural (which has been sadly painted over) and the main hall which hosted choir practice and the Medical Hecklings.

Old Medical School Entrance
Lecture Theatre

Entrance to Old Medical School; Lecture Theatre

From the Old Union it was a short walk into the Geddes Quadrangle - now comprising a series of listed buildings, although in the past even these august edifices have been subject to thoughts of redevelopment. We crossed the now pedestrianised remnant of Small's Wynd and approached the Old Medical School. The building has been linked to the Carnelley Building next door with which it shares a common entrance. Inside the floor tiles and the old staircase leading to the vertiginous heights of the anatomy floor remain although it has been taken over by the School of Education and the College of Life Sciences. Its stone staircase and imposing front door have now been relegated to the function of an emergency exit. However reminders of its former glories persist with the title "St Andrews Medical School" carved above the lintel and the old admonition etched on the inner glass door that "Strangers Must Ring This Bell". We took the opportunity to sit for a few minutes to relive the ambience of one of the lecture theatres, the front bench still replete with upright curved taps and lead faced pot sink.

Continued in column 2...


Lunch

It was time for lunch. As Christina had reminisced about a weekly treat of fish and chips that her girl's group had indulged in all those years before, the natural choice (and conveniently local to our afternoon appointment) was Nosey Parker's, the bistro bar of the Queen's Hotel on the Nethergate. Although modernised and redecorated inside, outside the Queen's was immediately recognisable. A repast of Rappers (the bistro's variant of tortilla wraps) satisfied our inner needs.

Nosey Parkers, Queens Hotel, Dundee

Nosey Parker's, Queen's Hotel


The University of Dundee Archives

Papyrus to pixels: Sign at entrance to Archives

Sign at entrance to Archives

The University of Dundee Archive Services is situated in the basement of the Tower Building on campus. Approached from a corridor at the bottom of the main staircase the entrance is signalled by the logo From Papyrus to Pixels. Hinting at the range and extent of the collections within its walls, the accompanying text states: "Holding over a mile of records dating from AD99 to the present day the University Archives is a rich resource for teaching, research and anyone interested in how the past informs the present. This shows items from the diverse range of manuscripts, photographs, films and maps and plans at the University Archive Service." To explain this further, the oldest item is a piece of papyrus (a fragment of Oxyrhynchus papyri to be precise) from AD99 which was collected during an expedition to Egypt. A small fragment was given to Dundee with the majority remaining with St Andrews.

University of Dundee Archive Services pamphlet

Archive Services (5)

We were welcomed in the Reception and Reading Room by our guides for the afternoon, Caroline Brown and Michael Bolik. We started our session with an examination of items of memorabilia of student life. We were shown copies of student magazines and Glad Mags going back to the 1920s and copies of Annasach, the student newspaper which was published from the 1960s to the mid 1990s. There were photographs of academic functions including the University of Dundee's inaugural ceremony presided over by its first Chancellor, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and the installation of Peter Ustinov as Rector. Airlie Hall was represented with some year photographs, a depiction of the sanction of transportation and a large bound volume on "Student Life" by long term resident Hugh Pincott. There was even a copy of our '69 Club Yearbook.

We were then taken back into the subterranean storage vaults: the one mile of shelf space alluded to in the opening paragraph. We were told that records and documents came from all manner of sources. Administrative and patient records from hospitals across the region (including Perth, Bridge of Earn and Aberfeldy) have found their way here as the institutions have closed. Also of note are the patient admission and progress records from a number of the areas Asylums - the first in the county having been established in Montrose - as well as some remarkable Edwardian photographs showing the oft-times luxurious surroundings they found themselves in. Similarly, as old hospitals closed, medical papers from consultants and specialists were gathered here.

There are many papers which relate to the organisation and day to day running of the University from the time of its early relationship with St Andrews. Religious material from the Brechin Diocese and the Arbroath Methodist Church are represented as are large collections from the textile and jute industries and their associations with the Indian subcontinent. The Archive has a prodigious collection (160,000) of photographic images, many in slide form. Of particular importance is the Michael Peto collection which was donated by his son after his death. Peto was a photographer with the Royal Ballet in London and photographed many of the rich and famous in the 1950s and 1960s. Among these images was a set of previously unpublished studies of The Beatles which were mounted as an exhibition which brought world-wide acclaim to the Archives.

Dundee Archives Visit group

L to R: Michael Bolik, Caroline Brown, Christina Fila, Alan Craxford

Footnote

Our parties stayed for two nights at the Apex City Quay Hotel and Spa, a modern four star establishment situated on the Quayside just east of the Tay Road Bridge approach and adjacent to the historic warship HM frigate Unicorn. With 152 en suite rooms, a brasserie and bar and complimentary wifi internet connectivity, the hotel provides a very convenient location for the centre of Dundee, the University and the tourist attractions of Tayside. Dundee graduates are offered a special Alumnus discount rate (6) for advanced short break bookings.

Apex City Quay Hotel, Dundee

Apex City Hotel, Dundee (6)

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank our guides for the day who laid on an informative tour and at times evocative experience for us.

Michael Bolik is Assistant Archivist: Archive Services, University of Dundee
Caroline Brown is Deputy Archivist: Archives, Records Management and Museum Services, University of Dundee
Matthew Jarron is Curator of Museum Services at the University of Dundee
Dr Graham Lowe is Medical Curator at the Tayside Medical History Museum: Ninewells Hospital and Medical School


References

1. "Ninewells Revisited": Dr Tom Sommerville and Alan Wightman. Balallan House, Scotland (2008)
2. Ninewells Hospital: © Val Vannet and licenced for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
3. Tayside Medical History Museum at Ninewells Hospital & Medical School
4. Scotland & Medicine: Collections & Connections: Fife & Tayside: History of Medicine
5. Archive Services: ARMMS; Archives, Record Management and Museum Services for the University of Dundee
6. Apex City Hotel, Dundee: special offer rate for University of Dundee Alumni

Page added: November 20th 2009
Last modified: August 11th 2012

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