July 8, 2013, by H Cotterill
Picturing the Medical School
The process of cataloguing the archives of the University of Nottingham’s Medical School has uncovered a wealth of around 350 photographs and over 100 slides. To find such a large amount of images documenting the construction of the Medical School and University Hospital (later to become Queen’s Medical Centre) during the 1960s and 1970s is incredibly valuable, especially considering that photography was not nearly as ubiquitous as it is today, they took time to take, develop and distribute, and the very fact that these images have been preserved reveals much about the importance of this building. The fact that it is still the largest hospital in the United Kingdom 35 years later demonstrates an impressive feat of engineering and the construction photographs certainly make this apparent.
But the photographs in the collection do more than simply document the enormous scale of the project to build the University Hospital, they also offer a glimpse into the lives of those who were first to use its facilities; the first intake of students at the Medical School in 1970. At this point the hospital was still under construction and many of the departments were housed in temporary buildings on University Park known as the ‘cow sheds,’ or even in mobile cabins. Despite this imperfect arrangement, the many photographs of students studying and conducting experiments at the Medical School show how it thrived despite lacking a conventional concrete structure, and proves the keenness and determination of the students who made their first tentative steps into the medical profession at Nottingham in 1970.
On the 28th of July 1977, the University Hospital was opened officially by Her Majesty The Queen as part of her Silver Jubilee tour of the United Kingdom, giving it the name by which it is now commonly known, the Queen’s Medical Centre. Alongside the invitation cards, programmes and correspondence about the Jubilee opening, which are also part of this archive, the photographs from the Medical School collection build a picture of the day as one of celebration and, it would seem, rather nervous excitement. The crowds of people waving flags and bunting outside the hospital show that the response of the public to a royal visit has changed very little over the past 35 years, even if the Medical School has! From temporary cabins to largest medical school in Europe, the history of Queen’s Medical Centre is a fascinating one, and once cataloguing has been completed the records of the Medical School will be available to explore in the Manuscripts and Special Collections reading room.