Cataloguing the Thackray Museum of Medicine Archive: Part Four

Hi everyone!

Since my last blog we’ve been busy cataloguing more collections in the Thackray Museum of Medicine archive, with the help of our excellent volunteers.

Testimonials for Glickon’s Salve, W. Locking and Son Collection

One of our volunteers, Sam, recently catalogued the business archives of W. Locking and Son. W. Locking & Son began business in Hull in the 1840s and relocated to Rawdon, Leeds in the 1890s. Notable medications they sold were called American Vegetable Sugar-coated Pills and Glickon’s (Celebrated) Salve. The former was used to treat constipation and indigestion, and the latter was used as a remedy for boils, abscesses, septic wounds, ulcers, blood poisoning, stings and bites. Even though they stopped selling their products in 1973, customers sent letters to W. Locking & Son in order to request orders individually and thanked the company for helping them with their ailments. Enquiries were posted not only from the United Kingdom, but also from the United States and Canada.

Advertising literature compiled by W. Locking and Son

The items in this collection include testimonials and correspondence sent from customers, newspaper clippings, a notebook which recorded the ingredients W. Locking and Son used to create their products, packaging, receipts and order forms from business associates. Sam managed to sort through the collections in a logical order, and using great attention to detail when organising files of correspondence into date order (one file contained approximately 500 letters from patients thanking W. Locking and Son for their products!). Sam also performed some necessary (if a little repetitive) preservation work on the documents, including putting torn letters into a polyester sleeves, replacing rusty staples with brass paperclips, and re-housing files into acid-free enclosures, in order to protect the documents long-term and for future generations. Sam’s brilliant work, together with images from the collection, can be found in the Thackray Museum of Medicine’s collection here.

Items from the archive on display in the archive for the ‘Libraries in Leeds’ event in September 2023

Recently the Museum hosted visitors to the Library and Archive as part of the ‘Libraries in Leeds’ event, and it was a great opportunity for our team to put out some of the collections from our archive, some of which I have discussed in previous blogs. The archive holds a vast amount of prescription books and formula and recipe books compiled by chemists, and I have recently had the pleasure of cataloguing these and making them available on the website, particularly the formula books, some of which date back from the 18th and 19th centuries and contain interesting and somewhat unusual recipes and formulas, such as tooth powder, rat poison, ginger beer, gooseberry wine and even stilton cheese. It was difficult to let go of cataloguing them and moving onto another collection, but we have so much to catalogue! Another of our volunteers, Avon, has taken on this task and they have had fun transcribing the unusual recipes recorded in the formula books. We are putting more of these records on the catalogue every week, and as part of the ‘Libraries in Leeds’ event last month, we wrote an article about one of our recipe books, compiled by the Leeds-based herbalist David Taylor, to go on the Libraries in Leeds website, which you can read here.

Recipe books held in the Thackray archive, including for Stilton Cheese

We are also continuing to catalogue the personal archives of doctors and nurses which have been acquired by the Thackray Museum of Medicine over the years. These include the papers of E.D. Laking, who trained as a nurse at St. James’s Hospital between 1928 and 1931, and as a midwife at St. James’s Hospital between 1931 and 1933, working as a midwife until 1971. During the Second World War, Laking worked as a midwife in the Middleton district and won the praise of tenants in the Middleton Estate by helping deliver babies at short notice in spite of air raids taking place across Leeds. The tenants showed their appreciation by asking her to open the Middleton Tenants and Householders Association’s new communal hall. More details can be found here.

Also, I recently catalogued the collection of the accident and emergency surgeon David Wilson, acquired in 2015. David Wilson was born in Leeds in 1928 and was educated at Roundhay School in Leeds, and the age of fifteen, won a scholarship to study medicine at Leeds University, living at Rawdon Technological College. Wilson qualified as a doctor in 1951, and after posts in surgery, casualty and obstetrics in Leeds, he completed a diploma in tropical medicine and hygiene in 1954. That same year, Wilson, together with his wife and daughter, visited the Belgian Congo, where they stayed until 1968, as a missionary doctor in a hospital near the Angolan border at Kimpese. After staying in Kimpese and treating patients injured during the Civil War in Congo, Wilson and his family returned to Yorkshire in 1968 and in 1970 he was appointed as a consultant in accident and emergency medicine at Leeds General Infirmary. From 1970 onwards Wilson pioneered the growth of accident and emergency medicine and lectured around the world on the subject, also campaigning for the use of seat belts and against drink-driving. He was appointed postgraduate dean of medical education at the University of Leeds in 1986, became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1988, and in 1990 was appointed to the chief medical officer’s Forum on Education and Training in the Health Service. The collection consists of lecture notes and papers written by Wilson on developments in accident and emergency departments, and documents relating to Wilson’s role in the creation of the Leeds Medical Mural at the University of Leeds in 1989, including an article he wrote about its history and photographs of the unveiling with the artist, Brian Holmes. More information about this collection can be found here.

Volunteer with the Thackray Museum of Medicine’s Collections Team

We are still looking to recruit volunteers to help us catalogue our interesting archive, so please get in touch if you are interested. This work would be ideal for anyone wishing to obtain entry into the heritage sector – particularly archives and museums – but all volunteers are welcome regardless of your background and interests.

Volunteers will be able to help us with the following, which would benefit them:

  • Work with a unique archive collection and learn about how to get into archives
  • Learn about sorting, listing and repackaging archives and how to catalogue on our Collections Management System
  • Make a vital contribution to caring for our collections
  • Help us make our collection more accessible for students, academics and researchers

Training will be provided to help volunteers assist with the work, while as a valued member of our team, you will receive:

  • Travel Expenses
  • Training and regular supervision
  • Invitations to special events

If you are able to give up your time for 1-2 hours per week on Monday mornings, and are interested in working with unique material, and enjoy researching historical artefacts, or just want to take on a new and different challenge, then please contact us via [email protected].

Thanks for reading!