Norway in archives and manuscripts

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Norway’s National Day (celebrating the adoption of the Norwegian Constitution in 1814) seems like a good occasion to consider the quite diverse material relating to that country among archival and manuscript collections in the Wellcome Library.

Given Sir Henry Wellcome’s interests in travel and exploration it is perhaps not surprising that Norwegian Polar explorers are to be found represented in the Explorers Cuttings Books among the archives of the Wellcome Foundation and that there is correspondence with Otto Sverdrup in the 1890s about the gift of Burroughs Wellcome products in Private Letter Book 2, besides substantial materials relating to the marketing of pharmaceuticals in the Nordic countries at a rather later date. We can also note the acquisition of artefacts relating to medicine in Norway by the Historical Medical Museum, and the mention of several institutions there as recipients of transferred museum objects in the 1980s.

 Astronomy: a sailing ship at the North Cape, Norway, sailing Wellcome Images No. V0025067

Astronomy: a sailing ship at the North Cape, Norway, sailing
Wellcome Images No. V0025067

Records of British travellers to Norway can be found from the late nineteenth century, from individuals such as Charles Brodie Sewell, whose travel diary of a trip to Norway in 1888 can be found at MS.4512 (his very extensive documenting of his travels was described in an earlier post on this blog), and Sir Thomas Lewis, who made a hunting trip there c. 1900 (PP/LEW/B.2), to groups such as the Travelling Surgical Society, which visited Oslo and Bergen in 1949 (SA/TSS.2/17) and the Medical Pilgrims, whose Norwegian ‘pilgrimage’ took place in 1982 (SA/PIL/A.2/2). It also formed a popular venue for numerous conferences throughout the twentieth century, for a wide assortment of groups including district nurses, midwives, health visitors, women doctors, microbiologists.

The persistence of leprosy in Norway after it had died out in the rest of Europe is reflected among the papers of leading leprologist Sir Leonard Rogers (PP/ROG/C.13/7).

The papers of Lieutenant-Colonel J.W. Wayte, RAMC, among the Royal Army Medical Corps Muniment Collection, include his War Diary as officer commanding 189 Field Ambulance during evacuation from Norway, April-May 1940, and an appreciation of the operations in April 1940 from a medical viewpoint (RAMC/1952/2-4). The papers of Papers of Brigadier Sir John Knox Smith Boyd also include, among other reports  from blood transfusion teams in the field, those of North West Europe force in Norway, 1940.

Records of a number of organisations among our holdings contain material relating to their interactions with Norwegian counterparts and collaborators.

This little exercise not only illuminates our holdings specifically relating to Norway, it indicates the extent to which material in A&M is very far from being relevant only to the UK and that it has a significant geographical reach reflecting connections with continental Europe as well as the Americas and areas formerly part of the British Empire.

Lesley Hall

Lesley Hall

Lesley Hall, FRHistS, PhD, DipAA, has been an archivist at the Wellcome since 1979. She has published extensively on the history of sexuality and gender in Britain in the 19th and 20th centuries, given many talks and conference presentations, and featured on radio and television. Further details can be found at her website.

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