[Note: Sotiria in Greek means “salvation”. It is also used as a female first name.]
Is there any chance that one can visit a museum and a historical archive within a hospital? Yet, in Sotiria Hospital in Athens you can!
The Sotiria Museum begun to grow gradually in 2007 and is expected to acquire a definite form within the next three years approximately (2018-2020). In its collections it includes mainly medical equipment and tools, hospital furniture, medical books and other printed material, hospital uniforms as well as certain personal belongings of patients. The collections of the Sotiria Museum, directly related to the history of tuberculosis, are housed in the so-called Military Pavilion, which was built in 1913 with money from Greek expatriate fundraisers for the financing of the Balkan Wars, mediated by Sophia Schliemann to Eleftherios Venizelos.
The chronicle of finding the Sotiria Archive states that the material was literally fitted behind plasterboard in a hospital area and came out at random in 2015, on the occasion of some buildings reconstructions. There were specifically 8 suitcases and 2 wooden trunks filled with various personal items and documents of the mortal patients of the Sotiria sanatorium, as well as some administrative documents of the hospital from the decades 1930 to 1980. The suitcases were initially considered worthless and placed in dumpsters that existed outside the military pavilion. There they suffered severe damage from downpour and were left in high humidity conditions over three days; a period capable of developing suitable living conditions of microorganisms. Part of the material was destroyed to such an extent that eventually was thrown in garbage. Thanks to the contribution of a group of volunteers, composed by workers of the Sotiria Hospital, the material entered the museum’s premises and was rescued.
In the context of the sponsorship of the Eugenides Foundation in May 2018 the Collection Condition Survey (C.C.S.) began in order to prepare a plan for preventive and invasive maintenance. The ultimate aim of the project is open access to researchers eg. historians and relatives of patients, thus the rescue, the prominence, the exploitation and generally the dissemination of this valuable material.
In particular, the following were carried out:
- Collection Condition Survey (C.C.S.)
The C.C.S. includes the recording, documentation and evaluation of the conservation status of the collection, in order to assess the state of the whole collection and plan for its future. Due to the limited time available for research and the unknown size of the collection, the survey was carried out by sampling, covering all kinds of material (for example: letters, notebooks, passports, identities, wallets, booklets, valuables, books, photographs, negatives, amulets, service documents, etc.).
- Estimation of the size of the collection.
The calculation of the volume of the collection per item and by extension by type of material (paper, metal, book, photographs, etc.) was carried out. In total, the items amount to approximately 16,000.
- Proposal for necessary maintenance and storage operations.
The results of the C.C.S. were elaborated with statistical methods and very useful conclusions were drawn regarding the general conservation status of the material, contributing to the establishment of maintenance priorities.
Diagram illustrating the maintenance priorities of the Sotiria Archive.
4 Proposal for the classification, archival recording and digitization of the material.
During the processing of the material for the purposes of this study, certain personal parcels of mortal patients had to be opened, which were cleaned rudimentarily and kept with respect to the original classification, inserting acid free paper and isolating as much as possible the objects affected by microorganisms.
The study was successfully completed in July 2018 and showcased detailed results and budgets. The main conclusion is that while seemingly it is a small collection (16,000 items) the need for maintenance, proper storage, recording and digitization is imperative because of the high historical and anthropological value. Through the Sotiria Archive are portrayed in a separate way, interesting aspects of contemporary history of Greece (20th century) and medical science.
Video of Iphigenia Dimitriou that was created for the event “Open Doors”, which took place on 5 July 2018 at the Sotiria Hospital.
Link to the Sotiria Hospital Museum: https://www.sotiria.gr/index.php?id=140