Unsung Heroes Nursing Badges

Stephen Bottomley (Designer)

Research output: Non-textual formExhibition


Unsung Heroes was a two year collaborative project between Lothian Health Service Archive, Edinburgh College of Art and the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. This project was funded by: Heritage Lottery, National Health Service and the Royal Infirmary Volunteers. The outcome of this project is on permanent display in an otherwise barren public space at the entrance/exit of Outpatients 3, Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Contributing to this research project were two enamelled brooches that are mounted in one of two bespoke cabinets inset into the wall of the corridor space.
Through presentations and consultation with the Lothian Health Service Archive, initial research was conducted into historical Nurses badges (enamelled) alongside photographic and written archive material.
The project aims were to give recognition of hitherto unrecognised human achievement working within the caring profession all too often undervalued; in this case the significance of finding and selecting a photograph of an anonymous group of volunteer nurses re-winding washed bandages taken somewhere in Spain during the Spanish Civil War.
The tradition of presenting enamel badges to nursing and auxiliary staff (no longer in practise) to mark earned status within the profession and the inherent role that jewellery (as badge) plays as public signifier and moreover symbol of professional achievement was the drive of the project. Enamelling techniques were the predominant process employed for this project; the surface application of vitreous enamel was used for interpreting and translating visual research with the addition of textured silver sheet. Unsung Heroes thus demonstrated material continuity, focus and celebration of human achievement within an historical and traditional context.
In order to translate selected visual reference and translate design ideas, experimental approaches to enamelling were employed. Enamel as a material carrier for human emotion, symbolism and professional achievement became the focus for research questions.
This research project effectively shared new knowledge and fulfilled a social role through permanent public exhibition.
Ref rating: 3
‘S Cross has been employed on a 0.8FTE contract for the duration of the census period. Working for 70 months at 0.8FTE equates to 14 months of absence, and an entitlement to reduce her submission by 1 output without penalty. As such, S Cross will return 3 outputs’.

Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationEdinburgh Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, UK
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2012


  • exhibition, nursing badges, jewelery, oral archive, historic collection, care services

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