Using the archive as artistic inspiration

Over the past few years we’ve been involved in a couple of great projects to create artwork for hospital spaces, where items from the archive have been the starting point for others’ artistic endeavours. The first, ‘Narratives’, used our historic bed plaques coupled with modern relief bronzes to tell the stories of domestic and nursing staff at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, medical science, the role of subscribers before the NHS and the coming of the NHS itself. The second, ‘Unsung Heroes’, looked more closely at the nursing experience and the end result was three cases of historic nursing and hospital badges and new jewellery pieces from Edinburgh College of Art students and tutors.

This panel from 'Narratives' was based on interviews with present and past domestic staff and their memories of the Royal Infirmary when it was at the Lauriston Place site, before the move to Little France
One of the three cases in 'Unsung Heroes'
More recently we’ve been involved with the Royal Edinburgh Hospital’s bicentenary celebrations, which saw a fantastic art installation at the Talbot Rice Gallery and a wonderful story by an award winning author produced after extensive research in the archive collections.
It’s really exciting for us to see how LHSA’s collections can be used by different people for such different ends - from academic research to artwork - and we’re always open to new projects in which we can get involved. The last couple of weeks have seen us take part in two inspiring meetings in which the foundations for future projects using the archive to improve therapeutic spaces in local hospitals have been laid. We look forward to continuing to work with Susan Grant, NHS Lothian’s Art Manager, and Gingko Projects (we collaborated with them on both ‘Narratives’ and ‘Unsung Heroes’), and now we have new partners in the shape of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for Sick Children’s artists in residence - Cate James and Linda Cracknell, an illustrator and writer respectively. These projects are often a long time in the making as ideas are shaped into something concrete over the weeks and months, but watch this space!