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Minutes of the 77th Conference

Held at the National Library of Scotland and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery: 20 July 2007.


Dr Patrica Barton, Centre for the Social History of Health and
Ian Baxter, London
Mrs Penny Brook, British Library
Paul Carter, British Library
Ms Marina Chellini, SOAS
Dr Anna Crozier, Centre for the Social History of Health and
Ms Renate Dohmen Ferguson, Centre for African and Asian Studies
Dr John Falconer, (p.m.) British Library
Dr Andrew Grout, University of Edinburgh
Mr Craig Jamieson, University of Cambridge Library
Ms Shellina Karmali, Institute of Ismaili Studies
Dr Nicholas Martland, SOAS
Mrs Francine Millard, National Library of Scotland
Dr Jim Mills, Centre for the Social History of Health and
Ms Leena Mitford, British Library
Dr Antonia Moon, British library
Ms Catherine Pickett, British library
Dr Avril Powell, SOAS
Ms Rachel Rowe, Centre for South Asian Studies, Cambridge
Ms Farzana Qureshi, SOAS
Mr Stefan Seeger, Institute for the Study of Islamic Civilisations
Ms Shashi Sen, British Library
Dr Samiksha Sehrawat, Centre for the Social History of Health and
Mrs Rosemary Seton, SOAS
Miss Jan Usher, National Library of Scotland


Delegates were welcomed to the National Library by Jan Usher, who was also standing in for Dr Kevin Halliwell, who is on long-term sick leave. Jan led delegates into the "Tea & Tigers: Stories of Scotland and South Asia" exhibition, and gave a short introduction. The exhibition was curated by Jan and by Dr Halliwell, and was an attempt to show a small part of the large South Asian collections in the National Library. The exhibition is themed by the occupations of Scots who went to India and their varied interests and activities while there. These included politicians, engineers, missionaries, civil servants and soldiers, featuring characters such as Dr Ronald Ross, Sir William Wedderburn, James Keir Hardie, Rev. Robert Caldwell and Sir John Malcolm, to name a few.

After delegates had viewed the exhibition, Jan Usher and Samiksha Sehrawat gave a presentation on "The Medical History of British India Project", which is a website consisting of digitised official publications varying from short reports to multi-volume histories related to disease, public health and medical research between circa 1850 to 1920. These are historical sources for a period which witnessed the transition from a humoral to a biochemical tradition, which was based on laboratorial science and document the important breakthroughs in bacteriology, parasitology and the developments of vaccines in a colonial context. The first phase of the project digitised around 50 volumes dealing with disease control; phase two will feature the health of the army; medicines; medical colleges & research institutes; lock (venereal disease) hospitals.

It was made possible by two generous awards by the Wellcome Trust, for £19,000 (phase 1) and £62,000 (phase 2). Dr Jim Mills was a co-applicant for phase 2, and Dr Samiksha Sehrawat, also from the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare, authored the text.

The site is freely available, and will be of interest to social, colonial and medical historians. The National Library hopes the site will be widely used, and plans to promote the site in India and North America are under development.

David McClay, the National Library's John Murray Archive curator, then gave an introduction and tour of the new permanent exhibition. John McMurray established the publishing house of John Murray in 1768. Over seven generations the firm grew to become one of the world's greatest publishers. The firm's historical archive (to 1920) of over 150,000 items is now at the National Library of Scotland. These items represent the lives and works of many great writers in the fields of literature, science, politics, travel and exploration. The exhibition hopes to lead the way in the accessibility and presentation of archives to the public.

After lunch, delegates gathered at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery to hear Dr John Falconer introduce and guide them through the exhibition "Capturing the silence: photography in India in the 19th century" which displays the pioneering work of British photographers who captured the beauty of India and its people, despite the difficulties of working with early photographic equipment in a tropical climate.

Sara Stevenson from the SNPG kindly gave SAALG the use of a meeting room for the business meeting.