Archival top of the pops 2012

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By | From the Collections

Referring back to the popularity contests of previous years reported in the Library blog, 2012’s most popular favourites were pretty predictable:


RAMC staff on board HM Hospital Ship Dongola in the Mediterranean during the Dardanelles campaign in 1915. RAMC/838

RAMC staff on board HM Hospital Ship Dongola in the Mediterranean during the Dardanelles campaign in 1915. RAMC/838

The Royal Army Medical Corps Muniment Collection, the Wellcome Foundation archives, the Family Planning Association archive, the archives of the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum, the archives of the Medical Women’s Federation and of the Queen’s Nursing Institute, the Eugenics Society archive (even though parts of it were inaccessible for some months due to its digitisation), the archives of the Abortion Law Reform Association, the papers of John Bowlby, and Frederick Parkes Weber’s massive collection of remarkable medical information.

In terms of numbers of productions, however, for the first time the FPA archive pulled well into the lead.

We shall be interested to see the effects of digitisation of the collections included in Codebreakers: Makers of Modern Genetics: on 2012’s showing, which revealed that the seventeenth century domestic recipe books remain much requested in spite of being digitised, we cannot say whether we shall perceive a drop in bums on seats in the Rare Materials Room, or a greater influx than ever.

We had more readers through the doors of the RMR than ever before; however, now that readers are permitted to use their own digital cameras to take images of the material they are consulting (subject to certain restrictions), they are making fewer visits, as they are able to peruse the photographs they have taken at more leisure at home.

One cause for possible concern was the high proportion of users ordering only a single item. This may simply mean that they were able to identify to their satisfaction, via the catalogue, one very specific thing they needed to look at, but we are inclined to wonder whether the apparent efficacy of searching producing a single result means that they are missing other materials which may not be thrown up by the terms they are using. We would always recommend clicking on the ‘See in Context’ link in order to contextualise individual items, whether working in the Archives and Manuscripts online catalogue ( or the Library front page’s search tool that looks across all databases in order to contextualise individual items. We would also point researchers at our online thematic and topographical sources guides: some of these are available on the Library website, but a complete list can be found by searching the A&M online catalogue putting AMS/G/ into the reference field of the search interface. Copies of guides not yet available via the website can be obtained by emailing Archives and Manuscripts.

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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