When you are an Anthropology student in an Italian University more time is devoted to theory than it is to practical work in the field and therefore there are few opportunities to put your theoretical knowldege into practice. The opportunity for me to enrich my practical skills came along when I became aware of an ERASMUS+ Programme - a European project that allows a student to study or do an internship abroad.
With my passion for social issues and a desire to continue my studies with a Master in Medical Anthropology I looked for a job environment that might offer me insight and a more comprehensive understanding of public health issues.
After a brief search for institutions that could host me in an anglophone country, I was immediately taken with a small but dynamic museum in the English Midlands: The Infirmary, associated with the George Marshall Medical Museum, in Worcester, England.
When Louise Price, the Curator of the George Marshall Medical Museum, contacted me with an internship proposal for a research project on national healthcare in the UK, I was in seventh heaven. I could not have asked for a better job offer or one closer to my expectations. Indeed, my expectactions have been entirely exceeded by this experience!
When I arrived in Worcester, I soon realized that I had made the right choice. The city was immediately welcoming, just as Mark Macleod and Luke Fletcher were at The Infirmary together with Louise who I got to meet at the George Marshall Medical Museum.
The job environment was immediately serene and of great inspiration. I had the pleasure of being accompanied for a tour of the Archives at The Hive by Sarah who helped me to find the first documents I'd be working on for the next few months. During the first week in Worcester, I also had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Crompton, a friend and collaborator of the two museums who is, as well, a great connoisseur of issues related to mental health, a subject which immediately made an impression on me.
I began my research on the National Health Service in Worcestershire beginnning with an examination of the psychiatric nursing institutes that existed at the time the NHS was founded. My research then focused on the Worcester Royal Infirmary at the time of nationalization of the health service, people and places dedicated to health care, and how the transition of administration from local to national plan was taking place.
I was able to grasp and understand the dynamics of this transition from the voluntary and independent care system it had been to the present and actual national healthcare network through my research in the archives at The Hive, and on-line among British Medical Journal articles.
The hours spent reading and researching were offset by the fun workshops with children and families at The infirmary and then at the George Marshall Medical Museum. The crowning glory of my experience at The Infirmary was a beautiful day trip to the Wellcome Collection in London where I spent a morning between the rare archives and the medical history exhibitions.
The project will conclude with the publication of an article I wrote for the 'Worcestershire Now' magazine, an opportunity I consider both an honor and gift from Mark, my coordinator, who together with Louise, made my experience memorable and enjoyable, dedicating their time, providing a friendly atmosphere in which to work and offering me the inspiration that enriched my time with them.
I will return to Bologna with practical skills, better knowledge of the functioning of a healthcare system, the ability to use an archive of historical documents and, last but not least, the memory of a summer I will never forget.
A huge thanks to all the family at the Worcester Medical Museums.
Anastasia Maria Ciccocioppo