The Medical Sciences Video Archive is a notable collection of video interviews created between 1985 and 2002 and initiated by Professor Max Blythe of Oxford Polytechnic (now Oxford Brookes University).
The 130 interviewees were important figures in clinical medicine and science from the United Kingdom and Australia, including Dr Denis Burkitt, Professor Sir Roy Calne, Sir Richard Doll, Sir James Gowans, Professor Dorothy Hodgkin, Sir Andrew Huxley, Lord Phillips of Ellesmere, Dame Cicely Saunders and Professor Maurice Wilkins.
The collection provides a rich picture of clinical medicine and science from the 1930s to the end of the 20th century. The interviewees talk about their lives, describing their early influences, schooling, university education and medical training; they give a personal view of the role they played in the development of clinical medicine and science in the period.
The collection is particularly rich in: anaesthesia, epidemiology, immunology, medical genetics, pharmacology and respiratory medicine. Other subjects covered include: neurophysiology, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, nutrition, occupational medicine, transplant surgery and x-ray crystallography. There are also a number of interviews relating to policy areas such as health services administration, health education and health promotion, and science funding.
The Medical Sciences Video Archive has been digitised thanks to a grant from Wellcome and is available online via RADAR, the Brookes digital repository.
The collection was founded in 1985 when Oxford Polytechnic (now Oxford Brookes University) and the Royal College of Physicians entered into a collaborative agreement to record on videotape, interviews with Fellows of the College and distinguished medical scientists. Professor Max Blythe, a principal lecturer and then reader in the School of Biological and Molecular Sciences at the University, was instrumental in founding and developing the collection. Early interviews were conducted by Max Blythe and Sir Gordon Wolstenholme, who was at that time Harveian Librarian at the College and responsible for the historical resources of the College.
In 1989 Sir Gordon Wolstenholme retired from the College but he continued to support the project as a visiting interviewer. Lord Walton of Detchant and Sir Christopher Booth, who succeeded Sir Gordon Wolstenholme as Harveian Librarian, became visiting interviewers in 1991, and since then a number of others joined the interview team. Max Blythe remained the principal interviewer.
Most of the interviews were filmed and edited in the University's television studio, under the technical direction of David Dillon, the production officer in the Audio Visual Unit.
In 1992 the first international links were established with the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Australian Academy of Science. Max Blythe conducted three programmes of interviews in Australia and the University collaborated with the Academy in the Video Histories of Australian Scientists project.
In 1995 Wellcome awarded a grant to fund the development of the collection over the next two and a half years. This helped finance technical advances in filming and editing of tapes, and during this period the number of interviews recorded annually increased from approximately 10 to 30. As well as maintaining links with Australia, the project had associations in the UK with the Nuffield Trust, the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland, and the Royal College of Anaesthetists. From 1995-98 interviews were conducted with 11 prominent British anaesthetists, providing a fascinating account of the development of anaesthesia as a speciality in the UK.
The project was assisted by a distinguished advisory board with members who included: Sir James Gowans, Dame Bridget Ogilvie, Sir Rex Richards and Lord Phillips of Ellesmere.
Between 1999 and 2001 the School of Biological and Molecular Sciences and the School of Humanities at Oxford Brookes University led a joint project to publicise the Archive, and to transcribe and index interviews, to improve access to the collection. The work was carried out by Dr Carol Beadle and Susannah Wright, and was funded by a grant from the Wellcome Trust held by Professor Anne Digby of the School of Humanities.
In 2016 Stuart Hunt of Learning Resources at Oxford Brookes University submitted a successful bid to Wellcome for a Research Resources award to fund the digitisation of the collection. In 2017, with Eleanor Possart (Archivist) as Project Manager, Emily Chen as Project Cataloguer, and support from Dan Croft (Scholarly Communications and Research Team Leader) and Tamsin Rothery (Digital Infrastructure Manager), the collection was digitised and was made available on RADAR, the Brookes digital repository.