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15 Years of the Archive Service – Looking back at the museum

July is a busy month for commemorations at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and its archives. The foundation stone at Keppel Street was laid on July 7th 1926 by Neville Chamberlain, with the actual opening of the Keppel Street building on July 18th 1929. July also reflects the beginning of the archive service here at the school.

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Foundation stone at LSHTM, Keppel Street.

To commemorate these events this blog will focus on the museum which was located at Keppel Street from its opening until the late 1960s. The museum demonstrates that the importance of preserving historical information and artefacts has been a priority for the school since its location on Keppel Street was opened.

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Plan of second floor, showing the museum’s layout.

The museum is no longer with us here at LSHTM, but at one point it held significant holdings relating to public health and tropical collections. The museum covered two floors above the library (which included Public Health and Tropical Medicine) and a small part of the basement (Sanitary Engineering). The museum also had displays devoted to Sir Ronald Ross and Sir Patrick Manson (as pioneers of Tropical Medicine) and who were greatly involved with the early history of the School.

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Guide to the museum.

Early in the museum’s history, the museum even had a number of ‘leading firms’ whose business was concerned with Public Health and who presented exhibits of educational value.

During the Second World War, a bomb struck the school. While (thankfully) there were no fatalities, a significant portion of the museum’s artefacts, collections and teaching aids were destroyed. This is especially ironic because  the artefacts were stored in the basement to keep them safe during the war, but had they remained in their original locations within the museum, many items probably would have been saved.

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Photograph of museum displays.

The museum did not fully recover its original use after the war, and the permanent exhibits were eventually replaced with temporary exhibitions relating to topical subjects. By the 1960s it was felt that the museum space would be better suited if it were to accommodate teaching or research space, and during a redevelopment which included adding additional storeys to the School, the museum disappeared from everyday sight.

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Photograph of museum displays.

However, this is not the absolute end of the museum’s story, and out of sight is not always out of mind. 15 years ago, the archive service was created at LSHTM which preserves and offers access to historical collections. Some of the museum items have since been transferred into the archive, such as Sir Patrick Manson’s mosquito box, and a crescent dissecting microscope. While the museum is no longer on site at LSHTM, it’s history has not been forgotten.

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Photograph of the museum.

This history is important to LSHTM, as providing access to collections that are relevant to both the School and the history of medicine has been a priority since the School opened on Keppel Street; firstly with the museum and secondly with the archive service. In honour of the long history of preservation of historical collections at LSHTM, a great congratulations indeed to the Archive Service for 15 years of continuing the preservation of history at LSHTM.

For more information the archive service or any of the collections, please contact archives@lshtm.ac.uk

 

 

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