Walking through a hospital is not often something people associate with art and live music.
However, some of the most recent projects led by the Launceston General Hospital Historical Committee are breathing new life and an artistic edge into the 155-year-old institution.
From live music at the cafe, to performers serenading patients in wards, the committee is working hard to ensure the hospital’s past is treasured and its future remains brighter than ever.
Formed in 1988 on back of the hospital’s 125-year-celebrations, the historical committee had one main goal – to make sure the hospital’s history was not lost.
Now 30 years later, it has turned its focus to ensuring the experience of visitors and patients are a little bit brighter, through regular musical performances, art installations and ward galleries.
One man who has been involved with the committee since its inception is Paul Richards AM.
The hospital’s former head of neurological medicine, Mr Richards said the committee was very unique to the Launceston General Hospital.
“Initially there were about five or six of us, all representing different disciplines in the hospital – medical, allied health, nursing and administration,” he said.
“We formed the committee, meeting on a regular basis with the object of getting all of the memorabilia of the hospital together and making sure it would go off to the museum, which we did for many years.
“But I would say there has been more activity in the past 10 years than in all of the previous years combined.
“It has always been really special and I think now more than ever the committee has a real role to play.
“Really and truly, sometimes you only hear about the bad stories coming out of the hospital.
“We are trying to provide some good ones. It is a bit of a balance.”
One of the committee’s first major projects was the Archive Newsletter, which ran from 1996 for 36 monthly editions.
Next, the members set their sights on gathering of all the donations and bequethment plaques that had been removed from the hospital’s original site at Mulgrave Square, before being reopened in Charles Street.
One thing Mr Richards’ credits to bringing a new surge of interest to the committee was the hospital’s 150-year celebrations held in 2013.
It was around this time that former Launceston General Hospital nurse educator Deanna Ellis became involved.
After retiring in 2010 after more than 20 years at the LGH, Ms Ellis said she never fully appreciated the history of the hospital until she began to dig a little deeper.
With a keen interest in the contribution of nurses during both World Wars, Ms Ellis recently published a book on the topic – Courage, Calmness and Caring: Nurses trained at the LGH and served in World War I and Wold War II.
She said now more than ever the history of the hospital needed to be recognised, crediting the committee with ensuring just that.
“The Centenary of Armistice was a big event for us and we were able to highlight a number of medical and nursing staff who contributed to the war effort,” she said.
“There is so much history around the hospital, and certainly in relation to the nursing history and that hadn’t really been captured that much previously.
“It is important to preserve it, because the history in the hospital in general when you look at some of the things, medically, surgically that have happened here – we have had many firsts. We should be very proud of that.”
Other books published by members of the committee over the years include Mr Richards’ Murder at the Launceston General Hospital, Other Hospitals in Launceston by Jenny Gill and On Giants Shoulders by Frank Madill.
Its latest project has been the establishment of a summer live music program, inviting professional musicians into the hospital to provide entertainment and relief for patients and visitors.
Made possible by grants from the City of Launceston Council and the state government, Mr Richards said being able to facilitate something that helped bring joy to the hospital was something the committee was happy to support.
“We know there is healing power in art and that has been proven internationally with regards to hospitals,” he said.
“Patients are actually getting out of bed and coming to listen to them and it has just been fantastic. The patients have been in tears, saying ‘this is just lovely’.”