Thursday, 15 August 2013

The Heritage Collections of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland by Meadhbh Murphy

In this month's post, Meadhbh Murphy, archivist at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, outlines some of the College's important heritage collections.

The Royal College of Surgeons Heritage Collections contains a unique and amazing collection of material relating to the history of medicine in Ireland and abroad. The collection covers the last 250 years and touches on medical as well as on the social, historical and personal events that took place. The variety and scope of this material is immense ranging from the College Charter granted by George III on February 11th 1784; ivory handled operating knives to the birth certificate of Emily Winifred Dickson, the first female fellow of the College; from tapestries embroidered by the wife of one of the founders of the college, Sylvester O’Halloran, and finally to a handwritten and signed speech given by William Stoker to the Royal College of Physicians in 1835.

College Charter granted by George III on February 11th 1784

The most important manuscript in the collection is the Practica Magistri Johannis Ardern (RCSI/MS01) presented by Sir John Lentaigne in 1851. The only complete copy worldwide, it treats of surgical practice. Its author John Arderne was a surgeon who lived near Nottingham from 1307-1390. The historical value of the work lies in the account it provides of surgery in England in the fourteenth century. 

Extract from Practica Magistri Johannis Ardern (RCSI/MS01) 

To make this wealth of material available to researchers and academics the Heritage Collections are undergoing a transformation. Every aspect from the reading room, archival storage, website and online catalogue are being looked at. The reading room has been re-furbished creating a bright and airy research environment. The archival material and manuscripts are being re-housed and catalogued into a user-friendly online system. The Heritage Collections web pages have been updated and can be found here

A blog informing the public and researchers of interesting material, new discoveries, upcoming events and news related to the Heritage Collections can be found here

The Heritage Collections will be closed from 1st March until further notice to facilitate these changes. But please feel free to contact us at or by phone on (01) 402 2511 during this time with any inquiries or possible donations you may have.