A quick look at online archive resources on the history of the College
12 June, 2020
By Francis Maunze, Archivist and Records Manager.
During these times of lockdown due the COVID-19 pandemic, the public, including members of the College have been involved in different forms of research work as a way of keeping busy, being productive and maintaining good mental well-being. This has resulted in an increased number of enquiries that I have been receiving as the College archivist. These inquiries include requests for genealogical information from family historians researching family trees, requests for membership details from College members writing obituaries of deceased colleagues, and Council or committee information by those writing articles for journals and other publications.
There are readily available online sources of information on the history of the College that researchers can use for their research work. The two main sources include: the College website which contains a lot of historical information relating to the College and its predecessor bodies, and the UK Web Archive that contains information that was harvested from the previous College website, and has been removed from the current one.
The College website hosts the archive pages. One consist of a page containing descriptions of the archive holdings, and the other contains details about the online archives catalogue. The first has descriptions of the institutional records; donated archives including a small collection of personal papers from members of the College; a description of mental nursing records; and the portraits and paintings collection. The page also has a links to the Roll of Honour and the Madness to Mental Illness online archive. The Roll of Honour is an up to date listing from 1971 of College office holders, prize winners, honorary fellows, and winners of the prestigious RCPsych Awards. The Madness to Mental Illness archive contains much information on the history of the College before 1971.
The online archive page has a search facility for the contents of the catalogue. Not all records in the archives collection have been catalogued as this is an ongoing exercise. The catalogue includes descriptions of College departments, committees, faculties, divisions and devolved nations, special interest groups, and donated records. Some of these descriptions contain digitised archives which can be viewed online such as faculty newsletters and Yearbooks. It is, however, important to mention that these archive descriptions are merely finding aids which guide researchers as to the kind of information contained in the archives collection. Researchers intending to access the actual records will need to write to the archivist and book an appointment to view them. At the moment this is not possible as the College is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is however, hoped that in the near future the catalogue will also include born-digital archives, thereby enabling researchers to view many actual documents in their homes.
The website also hosts the 'Our history' page which contains a narration of our history from 1841 when the first predecessor body of the College was founded. The page has a timeline of important events in the development of the College. It also has portraits of most past presidents from that time.
The College website has a landing page for our Journals, which are now being published by Cambridge University Press. The British Journal of Psychiatry and its predecessor the Journal of Mental Science are good sources of information on the history of the College and British psychiatry. For instance, from as far back as the 1890s minutes of annual and quarterly meetings; reports; pass lists of the mental nursing examinations and the certificate and diploma in psychological medicine; winners of the Gaskell and Bronze Medals; and membership and office holder lists were published as supplements in the Journal of Mental Science. The BJPsych Bulletin which began life as the Notes and News supplement of the British Journal of Psychiatry is a good source of historical information, such as obituaries.
The College Archives is currently involved in an ambitious project of digitising some of its holdings. The aim is to eventually increase online access to its collections to a wider audience.
For further information you can contact me, Francis Maunze, at firstname.lastname@example.org.