Sir Joseph Verco’s Ophthalmoscope

This 1870’s ophthalmoscope sits in a purpose built leather case, lined with blue velvet and taffeta. A strip of braid on inside the lid contains a large (5cm) convex lens. The ivory and brass handle, detaches by a screw thread at the base to enable storage in the case. Two lenses are of different strengths […]

Telling Their Stories: Oral Histories at Hampstead Rehab Centre

The CALHN Health Museum is very excited to be undertaking an Oral History project with Professional Oral Historian Sally Stephenson. The project, funded through a History Trust of South Australia’s MaC Programs Grant, is focusing on staff from the Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre (HRC). Sally, who has more than 15 years of experience in oral histories, […]

Flinders Ward

Flinders and Light Wards opened in 1894 as part of the Adelaide Hospital’s new East Wing. Originally Flinders Ward was a 36 bed, female medical ward treating patients with diseases like typhoid fever, heart disease, gastric ulcers and pneumonia. On the ground floor was Flinders and above it was Light Ward. Wards at the Adelaide […]

Photographs of TQEH Trainee Nurses

Some of my favourite objects held in The Queen Elizabeth Hospital (TQEH) heritage collection is a group of photo albums that contain individual photos of most of the nurses who did their training at the TQEH. These photos, taken when trainee nurse’s began their training, were usually passport photo size and taken against a plain […]

Mortuary Tour

In a non-descript building lies a wasting corpse, not that of a human, but that of a decommissioned mortuary. Thousands of cars drive past it on their daily commute along Hampstead Road, unaware of its existence behind a tall fence. The mortuary provided services for the former Metropolitan Infectious Diseases Hospital, now the Hampstead Rehabilitation […]

The Humble Bedpan

When the first white settlers arrived in Australia, in their possession was the humble bedpan. Potteries soon began to be established and amongst the first items made were bedpans. Throughout nursing and medical history, the bedpan has played its part. The bedpan was there when Florey was experimenting with penicillin (he used it as a […]


Unrest amongst the Royal Adelaide Hospital domestic staff had been building for a least two years, culminating in a strike that caused major disruption to the hospital. Before World War II, job opportunities for women were limited, with working-class women being employed in such roles as cleaners, laundresses and domestics, both privately and in large […]

Hello, Switch!

If you have ever had reason to call the Hospital, you would likely have first been greeted by staff in the switchboard. While now the switchboard are able to transfer calls using computerised technology, originally it was a manual operation. Constance Wright and Con Gray were two long time switchboard operators beginning in the late […]

Second World War Tea Rationing

“those who refuse to give up coupons, will not be allowed to have tea!” Royal Adelaide Board Minutes, 22 July 1942 It was common during the Second World War, for there to be shortages and restrictions on certain household items and foodstuffs. Tea, which was an imported good, was particularly disrupted, due to ships and […]

A Visit to the Hospital in 1878

Ever wondered what being a patient at a South Australian hospital was like over 140 years ago? Fortunately, we can get a glimpse of this experience from an account that appeared in the Adelaide Observer newspaper on the 28th December 1878. The writer, who gives his name as only ‘A Casual Patient’, describes himself as […]

Vale Dr Harry

Doctor Richard (Harry) Burnell, 1936-2021 Last month, Adelaide lost one of its veteran medical devotees. Dr Harry, as he liked to be called, served the children of South Australia throughout his career spanning several decades. Dr Harry grew up in Adelaide, attending St Peter’s College, and graduating from the Adelaide University Medical School in 1959. […]

The Two Towers of St Margaret’s Hospital

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit St Margaret’s Hospital. A former convalescent (and later rehabilitation) hospital in the seaside suburb of Semaphore. Thanks to my fantastic guide, I was given a tour of the site that gave me a small insight into the history of St Margaret’s. St Margaret’s was built as a convalescent […]