From January 18 – June 1, 2011, the Burns Library welcomes you to visit an exhibition in the Ford Tower entitled “Notes on Nursing: Past, Present and Future.” This exhibition will feature items from the Josephine A. Dolan Collection of Nursing History. This exhibit was inspired by Professor Stacey Barone and her undergraduate class, “Introduction to Professional Nursing.” When Professor Barone contacted me in December 2009 about doing a project involving primary sources for her students, I was intrigued and excited. Boston College’s Connell School of Nursing has a wonderfully rich history and the Burns Library also owns various nursing collections. Based on the research I did in these collections, I set up a display in the Burns Library Reading Room for Professor Barone’s class. This assignment was so successful in bringing undergraduates into the Burns Library that Professor Barone asked me to do an exhibit of these materials in 2011.
One of the items featured in this exhibit is a letter written by Florence Nightingale, dated April 1, 1855, from the barracks hospital in Scutari, Turkey. This letter is part of the Josephine A. Dolan Collection of Nursing History. In this letter, Nightingale writes to an acquaintance, a Mrs. Lewis. Nightingale laments the toll that dysentery has taken on some people of their mutual acquaintance. In February 1855, the death rate at the barracks hospital in Scutari where Nightingale was posted, was 42%. A few months later, the death rate had decreased to 2%. Prior to Nightingale’s arrival, sanitary conditions at this hospital were so deplorable that a royal inquiry was put in place to investigate the horrible illnesses and sufferings of soldiers at the barracks hospital in Scutari. Nightingale wrote to Britain’s secretary of war Sidney Herbert to offer her services. Nightingale arrived in Scutari on November 4th, 1854 and she spent many hours in the wards, patrolling with a lamp to give personal care to the wounded. Thus she became known as the “Lady with the Lamp”.
Nursing professor and historian Josephine A. Dolan (1913 – 2004) became the first instructor in the School of Nursing at the University of Connecticut in 1944. At the University of Connecticut, Dolan taught a course on the history of nursing, often using primary sources to illustrate this subject to her students. She pursued nursing history for the remainder of her lengthy career, including her work with the Committee on Historic Source Materials in Nursing. Dolan received many honors, including the first National League for Nursing Distinguished Service Award (1972), an honorary degree from Boston College (1987), and the Massachusetts Nurses Association’s Lucy Lincoln Drown Nursing History Society’s award (1992). The Josephine A. Dolan Collection of Nursing History at the Burns Library consists of letters, books, photographs and artifacts relating to her career as a nursing historian and as a collector of primary sources relating to the history of nursing, including both original and reproductions of letters by Florence Nightingale. For those of you who want to explore the history of nursing further, please contact the Burns Library Reading Room for more information on the Burns Library’s nursing collections. You may also want to check out the History of Nursing Archives at the Gotlieb Archival Research Center of Boston University and the Josephine A. Dolan Collection of Nursing Artifacts at the University of Connecticut. If you have any questions about this exhibit, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to seeing you at the Burns Library!
- Justine Sundaram, Reference Librarian/Bibliographer, Burns Library