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Capturing life in practice

Why did vets enter the profession in the past? Which drugs and techniques did they use? How did they deal with clients? What was the work like for women? Who were the early veterinary nurses? How did they develop their skills? What were the pressures of everyday practice? And the rewards?

This oral history project is documenting veterinary practice within living memory, through the life stories of those who were there at the time. The material will be used in education and research, and the original recordings will be permanently accessible at the British Library in a dedicated audio collection of veterinary lives.

"A timely initiative that will fill a significant gap in the historical record and promises long-term benefits to education and research."

Dr Rob Perks, Director
National Life Stories at the British Library

A promising start

An award of £5,000 from RCVS Knowledge has supported initial work on the project, including a recording with Alistair Clarke (Glasgow, 1947). This follows recordings with Mary Brancker (London, 1937) and Pamela and Tony Owen (Liverpool, 1953), see Early interviews.

See also the new Education page created to link with 'Taking a History on Veterinary Education' by Andrew Gardiner and Susan Rhind (Veterinary Record, 173 (16), pp. 388-393)

The project is seeking additional funds to establish a foundation collection of veterinary oral histories covering a wide range of experiences. A contribution of £15,000, made available by Newcastle University, has been an encouraging start.

Capturing Life in Practice is a collaboration between RCVS Knowledge and Newcastle University’s Centre for Rural Economy, where it is led by oral historian Sue Bradley. It aims to:

  • Create a major collection of in-depth recordings to be permanently accessible at the British Library through its world-leading centre for oral history, National Life Stories, which already holds recordings with practitioners of human medicine and other scientists
  • Develop the material as an evidence-based resource for veterinary education
  • Use the recordings in exhibitions and the media to promote wider understanding of the profession’s historical contribution
  • Host a series of seminars on themes (e.g. ethics in practice) arising from the interviews
  • Work with veterinary research networks to ensure that topics of particular concern or interest (e.g. TB testing and the feminisation of the profession) are included in the interviews in order to secure first-hand testimony to inform debates

How could you get involved?

There are many ways to be part of this important project.  You could:

  • Nominate topics that the interviews might cover, e.g. ethics, anaesthesia, client relationships, women in practice, etc.
  • Nominate a veterinary group or individual for interview
  • Make an individual donation to support the project
  • Sponsor one or a series of interviews
  • Participate in discussion forums and other project events
  • Donate personal photos of veterinary practice (these can be photocopied and returned to you)

A flyer "Capturing Life in Practice"  is available to download in the 'Related documents' box.

Mailing List

What this project is able to achieve will depend on support from individuals and the wider profession. To talk to us or if you would like to be added to our mailing list for this project simply email us at [email protected]


A collaboration between:

RCVS Knowledge logo   National Life Stories logo

Centre for Rural Economy logo