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Freelance Research Brief, The Atkinson

Freelance Research Brief – The Atkinson

Sacrifice: the impact and aftermath of conflict on lives and minds

June – October 2017


The Atkinson opened its new museum in 2014, bringing together for the first time Sefton’s heritage collections.  Since then we have been seeking to develop our understanding and interpretation of little known aspects of important initiatives, developments and events that happened in our borough.  We are particularly interested in raising the profile of developments in health, medicine and medical care; and to reflect the impact of World War 1 as well as more recent conflicts on the lives of residents.

Sacrifice – the impact and aftermath of conflict on lives and minds – will explore a little known aspect of the psychiatric history of World War 1, using it as an opportunity for commemoration of this heritage and for exploring its contemporary relevance. This is an important opportunity to strengthen our collections and programmes and create an important legacy from 2018 onwards.

At the end of our project people across Sefton, Merseyside and beyond will have learned about a little known, but hugely significant aspect of our local heritage.

Research Project

During the First World War the term shell shock was used to describe either a psychological or physical condition. This type of injury was not well understood and men who were suffering were sometimes dismissed as being cowards or weak. As the war progressed the number of cases increased, with a shell shock crisis from 1916 onwards.  The increase in cases led to official recognition of this condition and treatment: the War Office decided that direct referral to specialist treatment centres staffed by trained professionals would best aid the return of men to the battlefield.

Our project is about the heritage of Moss Side Military Hospital in Maghull: the memories, the visual and written records of its role as a training as well as a treatment centre.  The hospital became a focus for experiment in the developing field of psychological medicine as clinicians from diverse backgrounds and disciplines gathered at this specialist unit.  Patients were first admitted to the 300 available beds in December 1914; the number of beds was expanded to 500 in 1917.  Between 1914 and 1919 the hospital treated a total of 3,638 patients. The clinical staff were described as “the brilliant band of workers who at that time made Maghull the centre for the study of abnormal psychology.”

We seek a researcher who will work with us to develop research, understanding and engagement with the heritage of Moss Side Military Hospital in Maghull, Sefton, which developed as a centre of excellence and innovation in the treatment of shellshock during the First World War.  This hospital no longer exists, the buildings are being knocked down, and this important social and medical heritage is in danger of vanishing.

This work will be the first step in developing community and volunteer engagement by establishing the archival records and evidence to define the content of the project.

The Researcher will:

Undertake a short piece of research to establish the content and narratives based on individual records at a number of institutions.  It is envisaged that this work will assess the scale and scope of records relating to servicemen treated at Moss Side Military hospital; develop greater understanding of the work carried out at Moss Side as a centre of treatment for shell shock; identify a number of key records and individual stories to be explored in more detail so that they can be used to develop public awareness and engagement with the trauma, treatment and ongoing impact of shell shock

It is envisaged that this research will be carried out using collections held by:

National Archives, Kew

Lancashire Record Office,

Museum of Military Medicine

Imperial War Museum

Sefton Libraries & Archives Service

Liverpool Record Office

A number of research trips will be expected

The researcher will be expected to liaise with academics and historians, nationally and locally, to contextualise the findings

The researcher will work closely with the Project Co-ordinator to help develop the research skills of volunteers involved in the project

Research Outputs

Report with patients’ case studies to form the basis of exhibition and displays

Background material for exhibition and displays, including content suitable for a variety of audiences

Key stories and content that can inform the development of PR and marketing to raise the profile of Moss Side Military Hospital in the local, regional and national press

Final report to be delivered by October 2017.

You will be an experienced social history or archive researcher, ideally with interest in the history of medicine and psychiatry; with excellent skills and experience in research, written and verbal communication

Contract fee

Up to £3000 + VAT total fee including all travel costs and expenses

It is envisaged that this will deliver approximately 12 days’ work to be delivered flexibly as required by the demands of the project.

How to Apply

If you are interested in applying you can request electronic copies of the support documentation, namely the outline Project Activity Plan and Brief for the Learning Resource

Please send or email your CV, plus a covering letter (up to 2 pages) telling us why you are interested in the role, describing your relevant experience and suitability for the role, and when you would be able to start if successful.  You may wish to include web links to relevant projects that you have delivered.  The names and contact details for two referees must be included

Deadline  – Noon on 4th May 2017; Late applications cannot be considered.

Interviews – We will interview shortlisted candidates on 11th May 2017 at The Atkinson, Southport.  We can also use Skype for interviews if required as unfortunately interview expenses cannot be reimbursed; this is part of Council policy to meet savings. 

To request background information, make project enquiries and to submit your application please contact:

Emma Anderson, Director, The Atkinson, Lord Street, Southport, PR8 1DB; 0151 934 2322; 07971 033 275