Keeping the Collections from home
Harriet Wheelock

Keeping the Collections from home

If you had told me two months ago that I would have to run the RCPI Heritage Centre from the desk in my sitting room, I wouldn’t have thought it possible. But, like everyone else, I have had to adapt to our new reality.

The biggest challenge has been my physical separation from the collections, not just because they are central to my work but because I just miss being around them. This seems to be a common lament for those in my profession, and my tweet in early April about missing that special archive smell seems to have really struck a chord with fellow professionals. 

While I’ve not been able to provide physical access to the collections, I have been working on improving virtual access with three new online exhibitions. In collaboration with MindReading I am also sharing a daily poem on social media, to encourage people to take a moment out from their busy and stressful days.

While it hasn’t been possible to do some of my normal tasks from home, there has been time to devote to some of those things that are always put on the long finger. I’ve been working on tidying up some of the records in the library catalogue, refreshing the Heritage Centre webpages and, very excitingly, getting the new archive catalogue ready to go live!  I’ve started on the task of creating a database of all the College’s Licentiates, Members and Fellows from the founding of the College onwards. This is a massive project but will be very valuable in the future. Luckily, I’m getting some help from the Facilities Department, who are at even more of a loss than me without access to our building.

I’ve also launched a new project in response to the current Covid-19 pandemic, asking those working in healthcare to record their experiences. While I know this is a busy and stressful time for those working in healthcare, we want to capture the experience of this defining moment in medicine as it is happening. More details here.

There is a common joke in the College that I work on my own in the basement, so I probably haven’t been suffering as much as some people are while working at home on my own. But I do miss my colleagues dropping into my office for a chat and helping researchers in the reading room. However, there is a bright side too, I’m getting to spend a lot more time with my cat, who has found a novel use for one of the book cushions.