Together with catheters, leg drains, wound replicas, mouth gags and hip protheses, the instruments were used to teach students at the schools of nursing formerly based at City Hospital, Selly Oak Hospital, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Good Hope Hospital and East Birmingham Hospital. These were gradually amalgamated into a single health faculty, which is now one of the largest in the UK.
The library is named after the Jamaican-born nurse Mary Seacole (1805-81), who believed that her knowledge of tropical medicine would be useful in the Crimean War. After her offer of help was rejected by Florence Nightingale, arguably on racial grounds, she borrowed money to make the 4,000-mile journey from London to the Crimea under her own devices.
Despite receiving several awards for her work, Seacole was largely forgotten until recently, when her pioneering achievements won renewed recognition.
The Seacole Library also houses the records of inmates in Birmingham's mental asylums during the 1880s and 1890s.
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