The historical archive at Northampton General Hospital initially started as a medical library at the first infirmary in George Row, Northampton, in 1790. When the second infirmary opened in 1793 on the present site the contents of the library re-located. The collection has now evolved and the library contents now numbers 2,850 books and journals, giving an overview of medical history dating back to the 16th century. Visitors are also able to view portraits, plaques, photographs, press cuttings, letters and medical equipment of historical interest.
Connections with the local community can be found in the archive and indicate the enormous contribution the local population put into the county hospitals, both financially and volunteering on committees and fundraising for running costs and building projects. As it was a voluntary hospital up to 1948 when the NHS was introduced all monies had to be raised by donations and subscriptions.
The archive is cared for by a small team of volunteers and it is funded entirely by donations and open on Wednesday mornings, from 8am to 1pm. Members of the general public are welcomed and will be of interest to anyone wishing to learn more about the county’s medical heritage and the close ties with local communities and charities. Academics and students researching the history of medicine have regular access to the archive and has been the source of numerous projects and papers for professional journals.
The volunteers use source material to create displays around the hospital site. Regular articles are also submitted to the hospital press of interest to the hospital staff and the wider community. History societies are also welcomed to use the facilities. The team is looking into other ways of communicating what material is available that is suitable for more modern technology using QR code reader for smart phones and increasing information on our web pages on the hospital website.
To this end the Hospital Trust will develop, safeguard and make accessible the collection of exhibits that relate to the development of healthcare and understanding of local and global medical history.
For NGH to have an archive of this importance based at a District General Hospital, outside of London is rare. It is important that it is kept intact, preserved and protected for future generations.