Cataloguing the Thackray Museum of Medicine Archive part 2

We get a vital update from Robert Curphey, Project Archivist here at the Thackray

Since my last blog I have been cataloguing significant collections that make up the Thackray Museum of Medicine Archive. A lot of our collections, deposited to us over the years, consist of personal and professional papers of doctors and nurses whose interesting and varied life stories deserve to be told. For the first part of this blog, I am going to focus on a particular collection donated to our archive, by Pauline Totham (nee Sellers), which is among many collections to be catalogued for the first time.

(Photograph of Pauline Sellers, copyright unknown)

Pauline Sellers qualified as a nurse at Mirfield Children’s Home in West Yorkshire and as a State Registered Nurse at Staincliffe General Hospital. In her mid-twenties, Sellers joined the Royal Air Force as a Flight Officer for Princess Mary’s Royal Air Force Nursing Service, based at Nocton Hall, Lincolnshire, in 1966 and served for 15 months as a ward sister at two British hospitals in Aden but had to leave in 1967 as part of the British withdrawal before Aden gained its independence. After leaving Aden she was based at the Royal Air Force Hospital at Nocton Hall.

The items in this collection consist of correspondence, articles, photographs, certificates and notebooks compiled by Sellers during her career. They particularly focus on the time Sellers spent at Staincliffe General Hospital and Princess Mary’s Royal Air Force Nursing Service at Nocton Hall.

While at Nocton Hall, Sellers took part in theatre performances and joined Nocton Hall Theatre Group, playing Mrs Wagstaff in the play ‘Dry Rot’. She also accompanied Princess Alexandra on a royal visit in July 1969, showing the Princess around one of the children’s wards. Sellers wrote articles for Nursing Journals, which appear in this collection; because of her occupation, such articles needed approval by the Ministry of Defence before publication. The articles Sellers wrote include ‘Teratoma neonatorum’ describing a case of a female infant born with a tumour in the sacrococcygeal region at the base of the spine, and recorded by Sellers while as a staff nurse at Staincliffe General Hospital in Dewsbury, written for the Nursing Mirror and Midwives  Journal in February 1966. Three years later, Sellers wrote an article for Nursing Times (October 1969) titled ‘Bilateral Perthe’s Disease of the Hip in a Seven Year Old’.

The collection contains interesting items relating to Sellers’ life and career, including a telegram sent by her grandparents wishing her luck ahead of her final examinations to become a nurse, the examination papers for the General Nursing Council for England and Wales Final State Examination in 1963, an invitation card for Sellers to attend a reception to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the formation of the Princess Mary’s Royal Air Force Service in July 1968, and a copy of the Royal Air Force certificate appointing Sellers as a Flying Officer in 1966. I’m looking forward to cataloguing more interesting personal collections from the archive, that have been donated to the Thackray Museum of Medicine over the years, as part of my role here.

In my previous blog I talked about recruiting volunteers to help me catalogue the archive. That process has now come to an end and we have selected a dedicated team to help us catalogue the archive collections. One of our volunteers, Sam, has been cataloguing correspondence and certificates compiled by Herbert Agar, a Leeds-based obstetrician and gynaecologist.

(Volunteer Sam cataloguing the Herbert Agar collection)

A fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, ‘Bert’ Agar was born in Grimsby in 1907 and won a scholarship to the University of Leeds, qualifying as a doctor in 1932. Agar served as Major (Surgical Specialist) in the Royal Army Medical Corps from 1940 to 1945 and specialised in obstetrics and gynaecology, gaining his MRCOG in 1942 and FRCOG in 1954. The collection consists of correspondence, certificates, lecture notes and photographs acquired throughout Agar’s professional career. Once catalogued, their details will be made publicly available through the Collections Online page at Sam has been cataloguing correspondence sent to Agar, including letters from the University Teaching Hospital in Lagos, Nigeria, requesting help from Agar in organising placements in England for medical students from Nigeria, and Agar’s collection of certificates he received during his career, including his admission to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in 1942 and his appointment as a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

We look forward to adding details of collections catalogued from our archive to the Thackray Museum of Medicine Collections Online database later in the Spring, so do keep an eye on Collections Online over the next few months where more entries will appear. Alternatively, do contact us if you have any queries about our archive, or any aspect of our fascinating collections, at [email protected]