New archive sources for the study of tuberculosis

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By | From the Collections

Two new sources for the study of tuberculosis are now available in the Library’s Archives and Manuscripts department.

The Library has recently acquired the records of the British Thoracic Society: they have now been catalogued and made available for research (SA/BRT). The Society was founded in 1982 as an amalgamation of the British Thoracic Association and the Thoracic Society but it can trace its family tree back to 1910. The Society’s archive thus contains records of predecessor organisations dating back to the 1920s including the Society of Superintendents of Tuberculosis Institutions (f.1920); The Tuberculosis Association (f.1928 and later known as the British Tuberculosis Association, the British Thoracic and Tuberculosis Association and the British Thoracic Association); the Joint Tuberculosis Council (f.1924) and the Thoracic Society (f.1944).

Over the years, and in its various incarnations, the Society has brought together respiratory physicians, surgeons, anaesthetists, radiologists, pathologists and others working in the field. Its records provide a wide-ranging professional perspective on tuberculosis and lung disease which complements the story told in other collections already held by the Library, such as the records of the lay body the National Association for the Prevention of Consumption and other forms of Tuberculosis (SA/NPT).

In addition to the shifts and changes within thoracic medicine during the 20th century, other themes emerge in the records. Those researching women in medicine, for example, may be interested in Dr. Jane Walker’s involvement as a founder member and first President of the Society of Superintendents, and the career paths for women doctors in tuberculosis work more generally. For nursing historians there is material on the organisation’s interest in nurse training, which dates back to 1924 when it first issued certificates in tuberculosis nursing. It made repeated, but unsuccessful, attempts to secure recognition of the qualification by the General Nursing Council, and also took an interest in related issues such as the recruitment, health and welfare of nurses, and the needs of those who developed tuberculosis during nurse-training.

Alongside the British Thoracic Society archive, the catalogue of a small set of related personal papers is also being launched. Alexander Stephenson Hall (1904-1995) was a Tuberculosis Officer in Middlesex in the 1930s and from 1947-1969 he was a consultant chest physician for a group of hospitals in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. Hall was heavily involved in the activities of the British Tuberculosis Association, serving as both Honorary Secretary and Vice-President. During the 1940s he was also Editor of the Association’s journal Tubercle. In the 1950s Hall gathered material for a history of the Association, but this was never published. His papers (PP/HAL) include lectures and unpublished writings by on the social impact of tuberculosis and material on the foundation and development of the British Tuberculosis Association which complements the official archive.

Author: Jennifer Haynes

Chris Hilton

Chris Hilton

Dr Christopher Hilton was until August 2017 a Senior Archivist at the Wellcome Library.

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