Archives & Museum Update

Update regarding the RLH Museum and Archives

At the AGM several members raised concerns about The Royal London Hospital archives being moved to Barts and whether this was a permanent move. Also, the continued closure of the Museum. The League has now received an update from Kate Jarman, the trust’s archivist.

The lease for the Prescot Street premises where the archives were stored expired in 2020. Various options were explored as the trust has responsibility for the collections of nearly 40 hospitals and nearly 100 separate collections. A key requirement was that these should all be available to researchers on a single site with improved facilities. The two final options were a move to a building on the Mile End Hospital site or a move to Barts. This was chosen as the preferred option on the basis of both suitability of the space for conversion to the new use, and accessibility for researchers, who often travel nationally and internationally for research visits and preferred a more central location.

The future of the Museum is less certain. The environmental conditions have been difficult to manage within the recommended range for some years. This has put the displayed collections at risk from damage. To ensure the long-term preservation of the collections, the archives team are currently undertaking work to audit all the displayed material and remove the most at-risk items from the display, alongside the development of plans for making the collections more accessible to the hospital communities through alternative displays and outreach activities. They are hoping to be able to expand displays within the hospital and medical school buildings, and will be meeting with colleagues from Tower Hamlets to discuss how we might contribute to their cultural programming in the new civic centre to highlight the story of the former hospital buildings.

I have asked Kate Jarman, the trust archivist to keep the League involved and up to date with any proposals.

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