With summer holidays in full swing some of us may be lucky enough to be acquiring a new stamp in our passports en route to an exotic destination. Just like the stamps in our passports, or the travel stickers that adorn a battered suitcase, some of our archive collections arrive decorated with the distinctive stamps and markings of their well-travelled past.
As archivists we are always keen to find out as much as possible about the history of a collection in order to paint a full custodial history for researchers. For certain collections, this may involve a quick chat with a donor whilst other collections may have a more complex and journeyed past that requires further investigative work.
The boxes that make up one recently acquired collection are marked with identifiers that tell us about the collections past life, before ending up here at the Wellcome Library. The labels on one particular box (above) act as its very own travel stickers: one tells of it’s origins in an health education organisation; others record details of its trips in and out of various records storage facilities, ‘Crown Records’ for example, refers to a location in North London. This box is soon to acquire yet another label as it travel north from London to reside in DeepStore, a former Cheshire salt mine.
Of course, the real value of an archive can only be revealed once we start opening up the boxes and discovering the content inside. Continuing the travel theme, the Library offers a rich resource of unpublished writing and journals by traveling doctors.
One fine example is the travel sketchbook of microscopist Joseph Jackson Lister, father of the renowned surgeon Joseph Lister. Lister Senior records his journey through France and Switzerland in 1817, illustrating the stories of his travels with intricately detailed sketches of the towns and landscape around him.
To find more travel writing and photography, take a look at our subject guides on Locations and travel. For those of us not planning any trips away this year, we can at least explore some exotic destinations through the eyes of these travellers!
Enjoy your summer holidays!
Author: Alice Mountfort is an Archive Assistant at the Wellcome Library.