Treasure 39: Florence Nightingale’s letters to C B N Dunn

Florence Nightingale’s letters to Crich surgeon C B N Dunn are a fascinating read, for their social history content as well as for the insights they can provide into the life of their author.  You can find out more about them in some of our previous blog posts.  In this example (D2546/ZZ/54), Nightingale tells Dunn of candidates for membership of the local Women’s Club – not a recreational club, but a benefit society, which provided a form of insurance against sickness and death.  It was hoped that Dunn could “pass” people as being in good health on joining the club. Collection D1575 (deriving from the Nightingale family’s estates) includes the rules of Lea Friendly Society dated 1832 – this society may well have been the forerunner of the Women’s Club mentioned in the letter.

treasure-39-florence-nightingale

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Florence Nightingale letters now online

Derbyshire Record Office is among seven new contributors to the Florence Nightingale Digital Collaborative Database, a project run by the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University, Massachusetts.

We hold a small but very rich series of letters from Nightingale to a surgeon named Christopher Dunn, of Crich, on a wide variety of topics. The correspondence has been mentioned in past blog posts, and we are not averse to blowing the same trumpet now – especially as the new site lets you see the whole lot and even browse their contents by subject.  Just as an example: I have looked at these letters numerous times and never noticed that there are five references to a proposed coffee shop in Whatstandwell.  Here’s how to re-trace my steps, should you wish to dip your toe in the water:

  1. Go to www.bu.edu/florencenightingale
  2. Click “search the collaborative database”
  3. Under “choose a collection”, click Derbyshire Record Office.
  4. Click “search”. You don’t need to use a keyword first, although you can if you prefer of course
  5. Click “subjects”
  6. Click “Whatstandwell coffee house”
  7. Choose a letter. Read it!

CoffeeHouseEasy as that!

Today’s press release by the project organisers tells us there are currently 2,200 items on the database – this number continues to go up. Other contributors include the Wellcome Library and the Royal College of Nursing in the UK, and the Countway Center for the History of Medicine and the University of Illinois in the US.