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Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum and St Mary's Hospital Archives

Contact Details

St Mary's Hospital
Praed Street
W2 1NY

Fax: +44 (0)20 3312 6739

Telephone: +44 (0)20 3312 6528

Primary Email:

Primary Website: Click here

Secondary Website: Click here

Primary Contact: Kevin Brown, Archivist & Curator

Conditions of Access

Conditions of Access: Researchers wishing to look at the photographic collections must make an appointment, Monday to Thursday 2pm to 5pm and Friday 10am to 5pm. Space for researchers in the archive is limited.

The Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum is open Monday to Thursday 10am to 1pm and at other times for groups by advance appointment. A selection of photographs from the collections is on display in the Museum. Postcards and illustrated publications are available from the Museum shop.
There is a small admission charge. Adults: £4.00
Children, students, senior citizens, UB40 holders: £2.00

The Museum is closed for Public Holidays and between 24 December and 2 January inclusive.

Subject to copyright restrictions, conservation issues and payment of relevant fees, copies of photographs may be provided in jpeg or tiff format. Some frequently used images are already available in digital form.

The Museum and Archives has an active programme of external illustrated lectures on the history of health and medicine using images from the collections. These are tailored to the specific interests of groups booking them, which may range from primary schools to universities, adult education groups to women's institutes. Such lectures have been given in London, throughout the UK and overseas; travelling expenses must be paid and a donation to the Museum and Archives service is optional.

Finding Aids
Catalogues of photographic collections are available for consultation within the Archives. The Archivist and Curator can also advise on the holdings and on photographs that have not yet been catalogued which may be relevant to the interests of a researcher.
Summary of Holdings
The collection is made up of photographs documenting the history of St Mary’s Hospital, St Mary’s Hospital Medical School, the Wright Fleming Institute, the St Mary’s Hospital School of Nursing and the constituent hospitals associated with St Mary’s including Paddington General Hospital, the Samaritan Free Hospital for Women, the Western Ophthalmic Hospital, Paddington Green Children’s Hospital, Princess Louise Kensington Hospital for Children, St Luke’s Hospital for the Dying Poor (an early hospice), St Charles’ Hospital, Joyce Grove Convalescent Home (Nettlebed, Oxfordshire) and Adair Lodge Nurses’ Convalescent Home (Aldeburgh, Suffolk). The photographs date from the late nineteenth-century to the present and record the life and work of the hospital, its staff, its buildings and major events.

Many of the photographs were taken for publicity purposes on the occasion of appeals to the public for funding, for inclusion in annual reports and medical school or school of nursing prospectuses, and as press photographs. Photographs were also taken of significant events such as royal visits, the laying of foundation stones of new buildings, opening ceremonies and fundraising events which included sporting occasions, scientific demonstrations, concerts, society dinners and balls held in smart hotels and restaurants. At first such photographs were taken by commercial photographers, but in 1947 a Photographic Department (later Audio Visual Department) was set up, primarily for the purposes of medical photography but which also took more general photographs of the institution and portrait photographs of significant members of staff for the historical record. There are images within the collections of most of the honorary medical and surgical staff and consultants of the hospital. There are also group photographs of nurses and junior doctors, as well as photographs of wards and departments, though these are better covered at some periods than others. The collections also cover the social life of the medical school, including sports events, music and dramatic performances, balls and other student activities. Some of these photographs were taken to illustrate St Mary’s Hospital Gazette, the hospital and medical school magazine, which was continuously published from 1895 to 1998; the Gazette also contains photographs of which the originals are now lost.

Small passport-sized photographs of all of the medical students were taken from 1915 onwards and appended to the student record card. These photographs provide visual evidence of the ethnic diversity of students attending London medical schools in the first three decades of the twentieth-century that names and places of birth do not always indicate. Access to this class of records is restricted in conformity with the Data Protection Act and the protection of personal confidentiality. Similarly there are restrictions on access to clinical photographs of patients.

Smaller collections of papers deposited by individuals connected to St Mary’s Hospital and its related or constituent institutions may also contain photographs relating to the Hospital and also to the depositors other activities, for instance wartime military medical service.

An important part of the collections relates to the life and work of Alexander Fleming and to the discovery and development of penicillin. This includes family photographs, official photographs of the Inoculation Department in which Fleming worked, group photographs of Fleming with his family and photographs relating to Fleming’s travels and the honours he received after he became famous for having discovered penicillin. Among them are glass negatives and prints of images photographed by Fleming both for personal and professional purposes. Some of these document Fleming’s work and the development of bacteriology in the first half of the twentieth-century. There is also visual documentation of the work of Howard Florey, Ernst Chain and their colleagues at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology at Oxford, and images relating to the industrial production of penicillin. The documentary film-maker and photographer Wolfgang Suschitzky has also donated photographs taken during the making of a 1944 film on penicillin for ICI; application for reproduction of these will be referred to the photographer. The history of the Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum, established in 1993, is also documented in photographs.
Size of Collection

There are c.30,000 images in the collection in the form of photographic, prints, contact sheets, transparencies, negatives and digital images.