London Research Trip: British Library and Wellcome Library of Medical History

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Research Trip Report, by Kristin Kondrlik

Kristin Kondrlik in front of the Houses of Parliament, from the South Bank of the Thames

Kondrlik in front of the Houses of Parliament, from the South Bank of the Thames

In August 2014, I embarked on a three-week research trip to London’s British Library and Wellcome Library of Medical History. I spent my days and evenings immersed in rare medical texts in the British Library’s Science and Rare Books Rooms, analyzing the interactions of gender and print in magazines written by and for women physicians.

By allowing me time to immerse myself in the textual world of female physicians at the turn of the twentieth century, this research trip served to bolster my dissertation. My dissertation, chaired by Dr. Kurt Koenigsberger, focuses on the intersections between late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century print culture and the professional lives of female physicians. During this trip, I encountered fascinating, humorous, and, sometimes, troubling articles: reports of scores from field hockey matches at medical schools; whimsical accounts of student holidays in California, Bombay, and Siberia; satirical poems about patients’ inabilities to follow doctors’ orders; and clinical case reports on terrifying diseases that contemporary medicine keeps in check, such as cholera and small pox. The articles I uncovered in my time in the archives demonstrate the richness of writing in these magazines and the openness with which writers approached the print culture of the period. When I stumbled on an eighth account of a visit to a leper colony in the Magazine of the Royal Free Hospital and School of Medicine for Women, however, I admit that I took the hint to step away from the microfilm reader and have afternoon tea.
Kondrlik in the Wellcome Museum A to Z of the Human Condition Exhibit, which asks visitors to take a selfie and tweet it at the Museum with the hashtag #humancondition, after which the image is integrated into the exhibit

Kondrlik at the Wellcome Museum A to Z of the Human Condition Exhibit, which asks visitors to take a selfie and tweet it at the Museum with the hashtag #humancondition. The image is then integrated into the exhibit.

While the real benefit of my research trip was the sheer amount of energy and time I was able to devote to studying the wealth of resources available in the city’s archives, as a scholar of British literature and culture of the period between 1880 and 1920, I also did my share of sight-seeing around London, visiting sites such as the reconstructed Globe Theatre, the British Museum, and Hyde Park. Most striking, however, was the World War I centenary memorial at the Tower of London, where the moat was filled with ceramic poppies to represent each fallen British soldier.

This trip was made possible by the English Department’s Adrian-Salomon Dissertation Fellowship, in addition to Undergraduate Studies’ Eva L. Pancoast Fellowship, which supports international research projects conducted by the university’s female students. I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to spend the time necessary in these archives to bring these rare writings into my dissertation and into scholarly conversations.

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