Endangered Archives

EAP617: Preservation of rare medical records at Albert Cook Library, College of Health Sciences, Makerere University

Dr Alison Kinengyere, Makerere University
2015 award - Major project
£17,840 for 12 months

Archival partner: Albert Cook Medical Library

Project Overview

This project aims to preserve the fragile hand-written medical records held at the Albert Cook Medical Library in Uganda, dating from 1897. The Albert Cook Library is located at the College of Health Sciences, adjacent to the Mulago National Referral and Teaching Hospital. The Library was established by Dr Albert Cook in 1924. Later, when the College of Medicine was established in 1946, the Library started serving higher medical education.

The Library houses a rare collection donated by Sir Albert Cook (also known as the ‘The Father of modern medicine in Uganda’), a Church Missionary Society doctor who arrived in Uganda in 1897 and founded Mengo Hospital. Sir Albert Cook subsequently donated his collection to the then Medical Library, which in 1965 was named after him, hence its official name, the Albert Cook Medical Library.

Over the decades, the Albert Cook Library has opened its collection to Ugandan health workers as well as researchers, both at local and international levels. The rare collection serves as a source of information about the rich history of modern medicine in Uganda. This information supports learning, teaching, research and ultimately, health outcomes in Uganda and beyond.

Today, the donation forms the Albert Cook Medical Archives, comprising a rich collection of his personal library, the Mengo Hospital original hand-written patient records dating from 1897, Church Missionary Society documents, early textbooks and dictionaries of medicine, pamphlets, reports and photographs.

This project will focus on the preservation of 300 volumes of hand-written medical notes, dating from the 1890s. The ink has faded while the originally white-coloured paper has become brittle and brown. It tears very easily and the records are becoming more and more difficult to read (some of the records were written in pencil).

The Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council has given their approval for these records to be digitised. For reasons of confidentiality, the copies deposited with the British Library and made available online will have patients’ names redacted.

These records will be used by researchers throughout the world to generate further research that holds promise for further improved health outcomes in Uganda and other countries. The content will thus be preserved for posterity.

Project Outcome