What might you find in Canary Wharf?

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By | From the Collections

The Association of Medical Microbiologists (AMM) was founded in 1983 to further the science and practice of medical microbiology (a branch of medicine concerned with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases). Amongst the recently catalogued papers of the AMM is a set of public information leaflets on infectious diseases with an interesting, and occasionally, curious choice of images on their covers.

In Section F of the AMM’s publications, the file SA/AMM/F/4 contains the ‘The Facts About …‘ series of leaflets , intended for the general public and providing expert information on various infections, such as legionnaires disease and chlamydia trachomatis. Most of the leaflets are originals but some are black and white photocopies. The ones published before 1994 have a photograph on the title page. These photographs are diverse and their subject ranges from very literal to sublimely metaphorical. Some images depict the way a particular infection is spread. For salmonella, we get a basket full of eggs:

Wellcome Library Archives & Manuscripts: SA/AMM/F/4

Wellcome Library Archives & Manuscripts: SA/AMM/F/4

Others, such as the cover of the toxoplasmosis leaflet depict a microscopic picture of the infected cells:

toxoplasmosis leaflet

Wellcome Library reference: SA/AMM/F/4

So far, so good. For some reason, however, the viral hepatitis booklet is adorned with a picture of eranthis rather than an infection-related image:

Viral helpatitis leaflet

Wellcome Library reference: SA/AMM/F/4

The selection process behind the featured images reaches the peak of apparent mysteriousness in the case of the genital herpes infection leaflet:

Genital herpes leaflet

Wellcome Library reference: SA/AMM/F/4

This image may be familiar to some Londoners, as well as to anybody interested in iconic buildings or skyscrapers. It is a picture of Canary Wharf, the site of one of London’s two banking and financial centres (the other being the City of London), and features the unmistakable pyramid roof of One Canada Square, once the highest building in the UK (until its dethronement by The Shard last year).

The image is not credited and the content of the leaflet mentions neither microbiological nor epidemiological link between Canary Wharf and genital herpes. Readers might like to conduct their own research and offer suggestions on why this image might have been chosen to represent genital herpes.

The AAM archive includes documents about the Association’s constitution, minutes of Annual General Meetings and various Committees, as well as guidelines, standards and policy statements sent to members. The Association aimed to foster links amongst those  interested in medical microbiology, such as the National Health Service, the Public Health Laboratory Service and universities. It did this by providing advice to administrative and scientific bodies and supporting training in medical microbiology. In 2009 AMM merged with the British Infection Society (whose papers have also been donated to the Wellcome Library) to become the British Infection Association. The AMM’s now defunct website has also been archived.

Author: Anna Ostrowska, archive assistant.

Anna Ostrowska

Anna Ostrowska is a Library Assistant at the Wellcome Library.

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