Society of Apothecaries short course
11th – 13th April 2012
One of the unreported battlegrounds in academic librarianship centres around the need to employ practitioners with specialist subject knowledge. A qualified librarian, the theory goes, should be willing and able to answer enquiries on any subject – otherwise what has their lengthy and expensive training been for? As sensible as this might sound, in my experience it often leaves staff to cobble together a ‘good enough’ level of subject specialism while on the job – often through trial and error and whilst having to maintain an adequate enquiry service for readers. So it was a refreshing change for myself and a colleague to be sent on a short history of medicine course to get us up to speed in this very specialist field.
The course took place over three days – mornings were spent listening to talks from a selection of great and good medical historians, while in the afternoons we had the chance to stretch our legs on visits to sites of interest. Highlights were too numerous to list, but it was a treat to see the consummate orator Bill Bynum in full flow as well as Carole Rawcliffe (on Medieval medicine); our own Helen Wakely (on 17th Century domestic medicine) and Simon Chaplin (18th Century anatomy). Richard Barnett gave a neat overview of the problems and pitfalls of studying 20th century medicine and led a lively discussion afterwards. Visits included the Hunterian museum, the beautiful Chelsea Physic Garden and the gruesome Old Operating Theatre at St Thomas’, which some of the medical students enjoyed a little too much for comfort…