This Week in History: Royal BC Museum receives an incredible donation from Royal Jubilee Hospital School of Nursing

WatchIf you're a Vancouver Islander, you may at some time have been to Victoria's Royal Jubilee Hospital, either as a patient, a visitor, or an employee. Now, the Royal BC Museum is proud to let the public know, a remarkable legacy from the hospital's nursing program is safely in their hands.

Paul Ferguson, collections manager in the Royal B.C. Museum History Department, said the Royal B.C. Museum and B.C. Archives is very fortunate to receive a donation from the Alumni Association of the Royal Jubilee Hospital School of Nursing.

The donation is a collection that represents almost a century of nursing in this province. One of the pieces is a nurse’s uniform.

“This is a nursing sister’s uniform from the First World War, the Great World War, but it was worn by a lady who was a graduate of the Royal Jubilee Hospital School of Nursing, Gladys Carvolth,” Ferguson said.

Carvolth graduated from the School of Nursing in 1914.

There’s also a very special trowel from 1889, used by Emily Nelson, wife of Lt.-Gov. Hugh Nelson.  Ferguson explains that the trowel was used “for laying the cornerstone of the provincial Royal Jubilee Hospital, which was something that was very important in the day.”

“The dedication, the ceremony surrounding a new building, and especially something like a hospital, which was built for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria,” Ferguson said.

There are also dance cards from a ball in 1901.

“You can see within the program there are waltzes, two-steps, the barn dance,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson is especially delighted with some of the more “mundane” day-to-day items that the nurses thoughtfully placed in the collection.

“We have a radio from one of the nurse’s residence room, and her alarm clock as well.  A lot of people are really interested in the really old, the really early, but then here we have something from the 1950’s, 1960’s,” Ferguson said.

“One of the other really great artifacts that we got from the 1950s was the bicycle that the nurses were using to ride back and forth for their duties. ”

There are also graduation pins from various years.  The pins are engraved on the reverse with the nurse’s names and dates, which provides another opportunity to add to the collection by looking into the history of the person the pin is connected to.

Of course, there are medical items in the collection too.  Ferguson points to the stethoscope, the reflex hammer, and what he calls “the listening tube,” a fetal listening scope, made of wood, to monitor their expectant mothers.

Opened in 1890, the Royal Jubilee School of Nursing graduated more than 3,200 nurses, before closing in 1982 when nursing programs moved to colleges and universities.

“Their legacy is still with us” says Ferguson.  “And that they [collected all this memorabilia], and then wanted to find a home for it, is magnificent.  There were more than 35 boxes. There was also an oral history collection that went to the BC Archives.”

The collection is currently unprocessed, but in time, it will be added to the Museum database, and eventually made available online to the public.

Veronica CooperVeronica Cooper

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