Cataloguing the Thackray Museum Archive (Part Three)

Our resident Project Archivist, Robert Curphey is back with an update.

Hello everyone!

Since my last blog, with the help of volunteers, we are continuing to catalogue collections held in the Thackray Museum of Medicine’s archive. We’ve now catalogued enough collections to start putting details of collections catalogued on our online catalogue, available HERE

Clicking on ‘view details’ allows users to find out more information about collections held in our archive, and how you can access these through visiting us in person at the Thackray Museum of Medicine. As we continue to catalogue Thackray’s archive, new collections will be added to this database on a weekly basis.

One collection, recently catalogued by our volunteers Kyle and Pauline, is an archive of personal and professional papers relating to Dr B C Nicholson, from Harrogate, who served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War and later became a scholar in homeopathy. Both topics serve as key subjects throughout this collection, and Nicholson retained several newspapers which commemorated the Allies’ victory in 1945.

(Thackray Museum of Medicine volunteers Kyle and Pauline cataloguing the Dr B C Nicholson collection, with Project Archivist Robert Curphey watching on)

Pauline and Kyle worked together to catalogue the collection, originally donated to Thackray Museum of Medicine in 1999. As the collection did not have an obvious original sequence to it, they worked together to catalogue the collection by grouping the material into different sections, producing a logical order which would make the catalogue more user-friendly for researchers. Kyle worked on cataloguing the newspaper cuttings and certificates, while Pauline focussed on the lecture notes compiled by Nicholson as well as his notes and publications. Their work can be found in more detail here:

Additionally, we have continued to catalogue personal papers of doctors and nurses donated to Thackray over the years, mainly from doctors and nurses who worked in Leeds and Yorkshire, but some surprisingly from further afield, like Lily Nichols, who trained to become a nurse in Toronto, Canada. She later became friends of a nurse at St. James’s Hospital, which helps to explain why the collection was donated to Thackray Museum of Medicine.

We now have over 40 collection descriptions on the archive section of the online catalogue, including some significant collections, such as the Herbert Agar collection that I mentioned in my last blog that has now been catalogued by volunteers, and records relating to the Scholl company, who were pioneers in creating foot care products.

The Scholl company was founded in 1907, three years after William Mathias Scholl, the founder of the company, patented his first invention: the Foot-Eazer. Scholl worked with his brother, Frank, to expand the company overseas, and offered free foot examinations and created an annual National Foot Comfort Week. During his lifetime Scholl brought over 1,000 foot products to market, including the Pescura sandals, developed with an anatomically crafted beechwood footbed, helping to tone the legs at every step. The sandals were popular with models like Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton, and they became a renowned style as well as a comfort icon.

Scholl also founded the Illinois College of Chiropody and Orthopaedics – which became the most important teaching institution in its field in the United States of America. He became a qualified physician and surgeon in 1922. Despite Scholl’s death in 1968, the company continued to prosper, and continues to manufacture foot care products today.

Our collection includes Scholl’s certificate qualifying him as a physician and surgeon from the State of Illinois Department, share certificates, catalogues and company magazines. Continuing the Second World War theme among our archives, the company magazines include copies of ‘The Scholl Link’ published for employees in the United Kingdom who served in the war, and a special issue commemorating ‘VE Day’ in May 1945.  Also donated with the collection was the book ‘Foot Doctor to the World’ by William. H. Scholl, Scholl’s nephew who became President of the Scholl Manufacturing Company prior to his uncle’s death. More information on the collection can be found here

Other significant collections uploaded onto the website includes records relating to The Oxford Knee, an archive of the development of the Oxford Partial Knee implant ( and the Downs Surgical Limited Company – an archive of an instrument manufacturing company who were pioneers in the manufacture of high-quality medical instruments, particularly those used in ear, nose and throat surgery – see this HERE

We will be recruiting volunteers again from September to work on the project, so keep an eye out on the website if you are interested in helping out! As ever, please do contact us if you have any queries about our archive, or any aspect of our fascinating collections, at [email protected] .