Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

RCSI Heritage Collections Unveils Previously Unseen Surgery and Medical Education Records

28 August 2014
The RCSI Library today announced it has unveiled the College’s prized Heritage Collections. These extensive collections comprise archives, manuscripts and antiquarian books relating to the teaching and practice of surgery and medicine in Ireland.

Ms Kate Kelly, RCSI Chief Librarian said “RCSI holds a unique place in the history of surgery and medical education in Ireland since the late 1700s. The opening up of these collections to students, staff, researchers, academics and the general public for the first time will lead to new discoveries and anyone with an interest in the history of medicine in Ireland will find these collections rich with fresh and unique historical facts.”

The RCSI Heritage Collections include records relating to College correspondence and meetings, student registers, examinations, fees, fellows and licentiates. The archive also houses collections of a large number of prominent individuals including Abraham Colles (1773-1843), William Wallace (1791-1837), Sir Charles A. Cameron (1830-1921), Thomas Heazle Parke (1857 – 1893) and Emily Winifred Dickson (1866 – 1944). The materials are in a variety of formats including casebooks, diaries, lecture notes, published papers, photographs and clinical illustrations. 

Antiquarian books in surgery, medicine and allied topics are also part of the RCSI Heritage Collections. Works by Irish surgeons and doctors, especially those associated with RCSI over its 230 year history are a great source of information and will add greatly to the depth of RCSI’s history and the study of the history of medicine. There are more than 6000 pamphlets, with a particular focus on local eighteenth and nineteenth century issues. The collection also includes commemorative and memorial literature from various members of the medical profession.

The RCSI Heritage Collections includes the largest medical instrument collection in Ireland, with more than 1500 instruments including William Wilde’s aural snare, Robert McDonnell’s blood transfusion apparatus and surgical instruments from the Battle of Victoria 1813. Pioneers, founders and inventors of new surgical techniques and instruments walked the halls of RCSI. These individuals helped to forge medical advancements that benefit patients daily. 

Through a major cataloguing initiative within the RCSI Library, parts of these collections are now available to search online http://heritage.rcsi.ie/calmview/default.aspx or http://www.rcsi.ie/heritagecollections  Additionally anybody interested in viewing the collection can visit the Widdess Reading Room in the Mercer Library. Viewing is by appointment only every Thursday from 10 am to 1 pm and 2 pm to 4.30 pm. To view any records held by the RCSI Heritage Collections an appointment must be made in advance by emailing archivist@rcsi.ie