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Aberystwyth conference to focus on the History of Medicine in Wales

The History of Medicine in Wales Conference on November 22 will give attendees an opportunity to discover the hidden treasures of the Medical Collection at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.

During the day, a full programme of presentations will be held at Y Drwm at the library between 9.30am and 5pm.Attendees will learn about various aspects of health and well-being history, such as rural sanitary conditions and the dangers of the coal industry, the quality of care in asylums, cases of fasting, the eradication of tuberculosis and healing charms.

The conference is being held as part of the Medicine and Health in Wales before the NHS project, funded by the Wellcome Trust. The project, which has been operational since November 2018, aims to raise awareness of the publications on medicine and health within the library’s collections.

The library has now developed access to parts of this vital collection by cataloguing and digitising items published before 1900.

The library is home to the largest collection of Welsh language and Welsh interest printed works on medicine and health. There are more than 6,500 items, with the earliest dating from 1745. These include books on early medicines, herbal remedies, sanitary reports from medical officers of health, and hospital and asylum reports.

Among the collection are the first editions of Nathaniel Williams’ early herbal Pharmacoepia, early books on popular medicines such as Pob Dyn yn Phisygwr Iddo ei Hun ac i’w Anifeiliaid Hefyd as well as books on the Physicians of Myddfai and the British Herbal or a British Herbalist by Nicholas Culpeper.

Conference delegates will also have an opportunity to learn more about the outcomes of the project in a pop-up, temporary exhibition at the library, which will continue for a week after the event.

Pedr ap Llwyd, the library’s chief executive and librarian, said: “We are very much looking forward to this exciting conference which will uncover some of the hidden treasures within the library’s collections that relate to the history of medicine and health in Wales before the NHS.

“Attendees will be able to learn about the outcomes of the project thus far, thanks to the generous support of the Wellcome Trust, and witness how we have brought attention and widened access to these important resources.

“In an ever-changing world, securing the health and well-being of all individuals, whether physical, emotional or social, is key. Who knows, we might be able to learn valuable lessons from the history of medicine, which has the potential to inspire present and future generations?

”Branwen Mair Rhys, Medicine and Health in Wales before the NHS Project manager, said: “The History of Medicine in Wales Conference is a celebration of the work undertaken by the project over that last year; a project that has enabled online access to the national library’s Medical Print Collection.

“I sincerely hope that the various presentations at the conference will stimulate interest in public health developments in our country. The history of health and wellbeing is inextricably linked to linguistic, social and cultural developments in Wales and access to these key resources will hopefully facilitate and in turn generate future research into the medical humanities in Wales.”