Roaming D-Day archives


In May and June 2019, regular Elevate artists Stephanie and David took our historic archives onto the wards of Salisbury District Hospital. Items in the boxes comprised of photographs, plans, objects and documents. During the sessions, patients, staff and visitors explored the origins of the hospital (as a US Field Hospital built in 1942) and discussed stories, lived memories and experiences that were stimulated by their access to these historic items.

The artists described the effects of the sessions: “The conversations contained common themes; memories of wartime experiences, personal stories and reminiscence, stories about the hospital site and working there. The project revealed a deeply held connection between people and their hospital through generations of local families.”

“This project confirmed for me that archive material is a wonderful resource that needs to be shared rather than gather dust. Tangible objects, images and words enable patients to access emotion and memories they have forgotten they had.”

“The D-Day material provided an immediate way in for those who engaged with it, unlocking both local knowledge and experience with wider historical context. When we share such material we make the ordinary and seemingly unimportant have a moment to shine with significance. This makes people feel valued and appreciated.”

The artists were shadowed by Tamsin who was learning about our archives and how our artists worked with patients on busy hospital wards. She described their work and the benefit felt by those who participated. “They are incredibly skilled at engaging people when and where they are most vulnerable – ill in a hospital bed. I heard powerfully moving conversations stimulated by the archive material that had a beneficial effect beyond being a history lesson. I witnessed rather depressed and disengaged people open up like flower to become animated and energised through these conversations.”

These memories were written onto specially commissioned postcards that commemorated the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. From the 7 days of sessions over 60 postcards were collected along with 26 further extended tales. ArtCare also took part in the 2019 National Armed Forces Day celebrations in Salisbury and we took our archive boxes and displayed them alongside the collected stories.

Find out more about our historical archive on our dedicated Salisbury Healthcare History website.