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Efforts to catalogue the University’s many and varied medical archive collections are continuing in earnest. August saw the successful end of a project to catalogue the Manchester Medical Manuscripts Collection and the papers of 20th century haematologist John Frederick Wilkinson and at the beginning of September a new Wellcome Trust funded project began which will allow us to tackle several new collections. These include the early to mid-20th century case files of prominent Manchester neurosurgeon Geoffrey Jefferson, the medical illustrations of Manchester-based artist Dorothy Davison, and papers collected by William Waugh relating to artificial hip pioneer Sir John Charnley.

The Jefferson files represent a near continuous run of patients he saw at the Manchester Royal Infirmary from 1927 to 1940 which informed his research and served to illustrate many of his published papers. The files contain the full range of records you would expect to see in patient case files, such as case notes, clinical reports, charts, correspondence, and in some cases clinical photographs and x-rays. In the interests of his research Jefferson also followed a number of the cases up many years later to ascertain the state of the patient’s health following treatment and discharge. As part of the cataloguing process information recorded about each patient will include age, diagnosis, symptoms, surgical procedures, and the result of treatment to best facilitate detailed research.

Similar collections of neurosurgery files exist in archives across the country including the Norman Dott Papers at the Lothian Health Services Archive (LHSA), case notes of the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery at UCL, and the records of the Military Hospital for Head Injuries at St Hugh’s College, Oxford. The addition of the Jefferson papers to this mix will see the creation of a network of collections and a formidable resource for the study of the development and practice of neurology and neurosurgery across the UK in the first half of the 20th century.

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Huge suprasellar extension in the right frontal lobe. Sketch of tumour as seen at operation.

The other major element of the upcoming project involves the medical artwork of Dorothy Davison. Davison spent all her working life in Manchester where she created intricate illustrations to accompany the research work and publications of a number of Manchester’s medical academics. She produced a great many pieces to accompany the work of Geoffrey Jefferson and it is hoped that it will be possible to make links between her artwork and the case files belonging to the patients they represent.

We will be posting more updates as the project progresses so look out for more posts.