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'From Matrons to Microbes' online exhibition

matrons to microbes

Nursing Staff ‘scrubbed up’ in the North Theatre, St Thomas’ Hospital, 1908. Florence Nightingale Museum Trust

'From Microbes to Matrons: Infection control in British hospitals, c1870-1970' is a research project which was funded by the Leverhulme Trust and led jointly by Professor Anne-Marie Rafferty, Professor of Nursing Policy at King’s and Professor Marguerite Dupree, an honorary professor at the University of Glasgow, as the Principal Investigators. Dr Claire L. Jones worked as a Research Associate on the project. It explores the role of the British nurse in controlling hospital infection before 1970.

While most of the existing historical research on hospital infection has focussed upon the debates and controversies surrounding competing ideas of the causes of infection, little is known about the history of infection control in practice, in particular post-operative infection. This project aims to raise awareness of the origins of hospital infection control which traces back to the work of Florence Nightingale and Joseph Lister, who advocated systems for improving sanitary standards in hospitals.

Dr Claire L. Jones recently curated an online exhibition with Susan Gardiner (PhD student at Glasgow University) as part of the research project, exploring the history of hospital infection and the ways in which hospital staff attempted to tackle it. 

Other outputs of the project include academic articles and the project symposium, which was held on the 1-2 September, bringing together historians, healthcare professionals and policy makers. They considered the contemporary relevance of past infection control practices, and reflected on historical lessons around antiseptic and aseptic practices in the nineteenth century, as well as more recent debates such as antibiotic and drug resistance. The aim was to create synergy between disciplines.

Additionally, this project has included a public engagement element with the Florence Nightingale Museum, King’s Cultural Institute, and the Wellcome Trust, with a creative exploration of the role of the British nurse in 'From Matrons to Microbes: The Role of the Nurse in Hospital Infection Control in Britain, 1870-1970', that was led by Dr Claire L. Jones and consisted of a dramatic re-enactment in May called "Please Matron!" which was a huge success.

Visit the 'From Matrons to Microbes' online exhibition.