MANY will be familiar the TV drama series Call the Midwife and some readers, especially if they were in the nursing professional themselves will be familiar with some of nursing practises commonly used nearly 60 years ago.

Now an exhibition of memorabilia from the nursing past, The Memories of Nursing, has been put together and is on display on the top floor of Bournemouth Library.

The project is a collaboration between the Retired Nurses National Home and Bournemouth University supported financially by the Heritage Lottery Fund and with advice from the Dorset History Centre.

The project originated in 2009 when a small group of nurse academics from Bournemouth University joined with a trustee at the Retired Nurses National Home started to record some of the residents' stories. The aim of the project was to produce rich and detailed accounts of 'non-elite nurses who have no record of their lives in historical documents' .

The team wanted to capture stories from the professional lives of the group of ageing nurses, many who had memories of nursing before and during the Second World War and remembered the early days of the National Health Service. Oral history is crucial in capturing the past to explore the changes in health care practice.

"Having gained ethical approval we began recording five years ago and last year were successfully funded by the Heritage Lottery. We are now taking the project forward again," said Eileen Richardson a Retired Nurses National Home volunteer.

"The Dorset History Centre is helping us to train volunteers to work with academics to conduct more interviews and to transcribe them so we can publish the findings of the research. The display is part of a collection of memorabilia that we want to archive into an online format so we are able to share these professional records, historical equipment and information about nurse education and practise from the past," said Eileen, a former nurse, midwife and a Teacher of Nursing, including holding a number of posts at Bournemouth University School of Health and Social Care.

The outputs from the project should complement other historical compendia like the Royal College of Nursing's archive, the Nurses Voice project from St George's Hospital in London and the UK Association for the History of Nursing Bulletin from the University of Manchester.

The Retired Nurses National Home in Riverside Avenue in Bournemouth was established as a result of the recognition that many nurses in the first half of the 20th century dedicated their lives primarily to their work; never marrying and having a family of their own, living in hospital accommodation, earning small salaries and not owning their own property. On retirement, with fairly meagre pensions, many nurses struggled to pay rent as well as buying food and covering other expenses.

A committee was set up to raise money to build a home for retired nurses in Bournemouth with its cornerstone laid in 1937. The first two residents, a cook and a matron moved in just before Christmas the following year. Due to the war the formal opening of the building did not take place until 1946 and ever since then retired nurses have come to live in the home. Today it is home to 52 residents, including nurses and other older people needing assistance and care and also has ten flats for independent living.

Professor Gail Thomas, dean of health and social sciences at Bournemouth University, as well as a nurse and wife said of the project: "Memories of Nursing will help us preserve more of these highly experienced nurses' experiences. Personally I have been socially visiting some of the residents over the past seven years and always find it so interesting to hear about nursing and midwifery practice in years gone by. It is important that we share these with the new generation of nurses and midwives to enhance their learning.

"The Retired Nurses National Home is a natural environment in which to capture oral histories as many residents are willing to share their experiences from the past and we value the support of the Friends of the Elderly who now manage the home".

The exhibition also has a stand on nursing in World War One by Dorothy Gill, including Bournemouth Military and Auxiliary Hospitals such as the Mont Dore or Heron Court which were funded or partially funded by the War Office, as well as Edith's own diary on her visit to Scandinavian nursing schools in 1967 and information on the Scottish Women's Hospital where she trained, various nursing books, manuals and nurses records, nursing badges and information on famous nurses such as Florence Nightingale and Edith Cavell.

The exhibition runs until Saturday January 30. Contact Eileen at or phone 01425 479993 with your nursing memories.