Thursday, November 16, 2006

Wellcome Witnesses

I received an announcement today of the availability of publications from the Wellcome Witnesses program--not, as it may sound, a group of Protestant sectarians, but rather a series in which the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine invites notable figures to discuss topics and events in 20th-century medical history. While the Centre itself is based in London, the speakers chosen for the various topics represent several nations.

The series is a sort of group oral history project, and the publications which result from each seminar are based on transcripts of the conversations between the participants. Much as in our own Oral History Project, the transcripts are sent to each speaker for editing and additional comments before the final version is prepared. Bibliographical references and biographical information about each participant are added, and the whole document is made available to researchers.

Now, even if you don't have the money for airfare to London, you can access the full text of these publications freely online. Each of the twenty-eight volumes has been mounted as a PDF file which can be downloaded, printed, saved, even shared with others via email.

Topics already covered show a bit of British bias (naturally, e.g.: Early heart transplant surgery in the UK or Clinical research in Britain, 1950-1980), but include many items of broader interest (e.g. Maternal care or Genetic testing).

While we have only undertaken a few "group" interviews for our oral histories (e.g., the trio of nurses from the 46th General Hospital, Ruby Hills, Kay Fisher Hilterbrandt, and Edith Moore Richards) we do have some themes that emerged from early conversations: World War II and the 46th General Hospital; Japanese-Americans during World War II; town-gown relations; and women in medicine are some examples. If you're interested to see what our interviewees have said about cardiothoracic surgery or clinical research, check out the Oral History Master Index on our website.

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