We are pleased to announce the release of our interactive map of Cicely Saunders’ US tour in 1963. The map, using the free tool StoryMapJS, was created by our archives intern Kai Chun Tang, who worked on the project from March to July 2015. The USA tour was chosen because of its historical significance in the development of the international hospice movement and the rich documentary resources available, including reports, diary entries and correspondence from the trip.
The map provides a visual tool to frame archival material held within the Dame Cicely Saunders collection at King’s College London Archives. The map and Saunders’ US correspondence together highlight significant visits that influenced her understanding of care for the terminally ill, and pin-point initial meetings with colleagues and supporters who would become important figures both within the US and internationally, notably Florence Wald and Herman Fiefel.
When we were planning this project we considered using other potential platforms to demonstrate new ways of communicating and visualising archives. The other final candidates we considered were the interactive timeline platform, Chronozoom and the open graph software, Gelphi. The reason for choosing StoryMap suited the type of narrative that we wanted to present as the focus was more on the destinations in the tour rather than duration. The Gelphi project was planned to work in tandem with the story map work but unfortunately the software uploader was not compatible with our internal computer system and would have mapped correspondence network diffusion based on the extensive foreign correspondence in the collection. Whilst frustrating it does highlight one of the issues involved in these projects. While these sites are relatively easy to use they require a decent level of computer literacy and this work was certainly made easier by the expertise of our intern, Kai, who was studying for a Masters in Digital Humanities at the time.
What was the significance of the US tour?
The US tour was Cicely Saunders’ first major international tour abroad and was the beginning of her close association with the US hospice movement. Taking in New York, Yale, Boston, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco, she visited at least 12 different hospitals of varying types and networked with Florence and Henry Wald, Dr Herman Feifel and many health care professionals. The tour was beneficial to all parties: for Saunders, it provided her with a wealth of new ideas, access to large network of related health care professions and reinforced her own convictions; whilst for those she met, it provided a catalyst for bringing together and inspiring people to push for better care for the dying and chronically ill.