The archives hold a lot of information scattered through different series, e.g. admissions certificates, case notes, discharge records and bills. We wanted to bring all the separate material together for each patient. This is not the easiest thing to do in the paper or online archives, so we felt it would be useful to consolidate all this information by patient. The somewhat tedious but ultimately satisfying task of plucking out all the digitized images of the relevant information and was my task for the day.
Richard had already identified 5 interesting-looking patients, and useful pointers such as record numbers and dates for each, that put us on the right track. Then it was a case of trawling the archives online to identify the relevant images. As these are handwritten papers and not printed books there’s no easy text search available. It’s often a question of just opening a set of papers online and scanning through until you find the person you want. Scanning through handwritten papers, even in nice Victorian copperplate, takes some time whilst you’re trying to get your eye in.
By the end of the day we’d managed to get a lot of image references for our patients and were using that to pull in the digitized images to our web pages. Our first patient to get the image treatment is Lady Maria Beauclerk. You can now see images of her admissions certificate, case notes (including some interesting doodles), her death note and her bills. Lady Maria was admitted to Ticehurst in 1851 and died over 20 years later from epilepsy whilst still an inmate at Ticehurst.
Richard has been researching more about these particular patients so we can learn more about them than what’s only in the Ticehurst papers. We’ve even got retrospective diagnoses for three patients from Trevor Turner’s thesis ‘A diagnostic analysis of the casebooks of Ticehurst House Asylum, 1845-1890’
Next up: trying to find a way to semi-automate finding and recording the digital images for these records to display on many more patients pages.
Written by Natalie Pollecutt, library systems officer