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The Blood is the Life

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07/10/2013

By | From the Collections

The Library is delighted to announce a significant addition to our holdings on blood transfusion: the Harrison-Howell Blood Transfusion Collection is now catalogued and available for research.

blood transfusion bags

Blood bags: old and new labels, SA/HHC/D/1/8

The Harrison-Howell Collection consists of memorabilia relating to the British blood transfusion service, gathered principally by Peter Howell of the Manchester Centre and Jean Harrison at the Brentwood Centre. Although not strictly archival, in that it does not contain the administrative records of the service, it is a rich resource on the development of blood transfusion services within the UK, as well as some international material. It predominantly documents blood transfusion services since the inauguration of the National Health Service but includes some material, including records of individual donors, from the interwar blood donation service run by the Red Cross, on the situation during World War II, and on the history of blood transfusion more generally.

The material, including photographs, posters, promotional and informational ephemera, and some publications, reflects the activities of the various regional Blood Transfusion Centres, and has been arranged by these various centres.  The sections on Brentwood and Manchester in particular include examples of various kinds of documentation produced by the Centres in the course of their activities.

Leaflet about rhesus babies

Public information leaflet for blood donors. SA/HHC/D/1/6/2

There are substantial numbers of photographs and slides depicting the work of blood transfusion centres: blood donation sessions are particularly well recorded.

Photograph of WWII blood donation

Blood donation session, World War II, SA/HHC/M/10

There is also a substantial pictorial record of the technical processes involved, and some technical literature relating to the increasingly sophisticated technology employed for testing and grouping blood.

photograph of blood component processing in the 1940s

Blood component processing, 1940s, SA/HHC/M/10

The importance of maintaining adequate supplies of blood is reflected in an array of material directed towards blood donors. There are significant numbers of leaflets and posters aimed both at recruiting new donors and encouraging existing ones to continue donating, and a good deal relating to the recognition of particularly prolific donors through a system of awards.

Blood donation recruitment campaign

Donor recruitment campaign, 1990s, SA/HHC/M/10

This material reveals the deployment of various strategies including workplace donation sessions, photographs of celebrities giving blood, and eye-catching promotional items, as well as emphasizing the ‘feel-good factor’ of being a blood donor and the many life-saving purposes for which blood was used.

This collection constitutes a very substantial addition to existing collections on the development of blood transfusion in the UK, listed in the Archives and Manuscripts Sources Guide: Blood.

Author: Dr Lesley Hall, Senior Archivist

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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