The APPle of our Eye: 80 Years of Hospital History in the Palm of your Hand!

*The following blog post was written by Dr. Pamela Peacock, Museum Curator. 

Shortly after I arrived at the Museum of Health Care as Curator in the fall of 2011, the Museum received the fantastic news that it had been awarded a grant for $52,000 from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.  This funding enabled the Museum to leap with both feet into an exciting two-year project to develop not one, but two new apps that will allow users to explore local medical and nursing history on their phones and mobile devices.  The Museum strives to have a strong online presence, with a fantastic (if I do say so myself) website, blog, and social media presence; but, an app was new and exciting territory for us.

The Transformation of the Kingston General Hospital, 1835-1914 evolved out of a physical walking tour that the Museum offered for many years.  We wanted to translate this tour into an app so that tourists could guide themselves on the walk, digging deeper into the issues and stories that interest them most.  At the same time, we wanted to reach a wider audience, one that might not be able to be in Kingston, Ontario, and share the case study of KGH and the history of hospital development in the 19th century.

Did you know?

In 1891 the three wings of KGH had a medical staff of 4 attending physicians, one specialist, and a house surgeon. 

In 2011 KGH had a medical staff of 450 physicians and surgeons.

Over its 175 year history, KGH has been a part of many major evolutions in health care, from the introduction of anaesthetics and antisepsis, to nursing training and x-rays.  As one of the few hospital campuses in Canada on which each wing and building is still visible (to some extent), KGH provides a tangible example of how health care changed and developed over time.  The app puts this history into your hands, allowing you explore the expansion of hospital care building by building, from the original Main building to the Empire Wing.


Each of the seven buildings explored in the app offers you the opportunity to find out why they were built and where they fit within broader changes in medical practice.  Archival and artefact images present intriguing looks into the past.  The Kingston General Hospital Archivist, Lorna Knight, was an enormous help in finding and accessing many of the photos.  We are also proud to present <drum roll please> the Voices from the Past feature.  For this, we collaborated with local actors and CFRC 101.9 FM to enact primary documents and plausible imagined scenarios to create audio-visual vignettes relating to key events from the hospital’s past.  You can connect to fascinating historical figures and moments in multiple ways in this app.

Did you know?

In 1914 the average length of stay of a patient at KGH was 14.6 days.

In 2011 it was 7.34 days.

iOS Simulator Screen shot 2013-06-24 10.12.31 AMIMG_0426

In conducting the research for this project I learned a great deal about the history of medicine and about local history.  Although many of the developments featured are broadly applicable to North America, the people and places help define Kingston’s heritage.

I hope you’ll download it and find out more about this history.  Let us know what you think – What did you learn?  Did anything surprise you?  How did you do on the quizzes?

Mobile App Launch and Lecture, Thursday, September 19th, 2013, 7:30pm, Botterell Hall, B139, Queen’s University, 18 Stuart Street, Kingston, ON. 

Did you know?

By the beginning of the 20th century, approximately one-third of patients admitted to KGH underwent surgery.

In 2011-2012 KGH performed 9,116 surgeries, meaning surgeries were performed on approximately 44% of 20,927 patients admitted.

This project was funded in part by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, an agency of the Government of Ontario

CFRC_Primary_Station_Logo OTF-HORIZ_colour2013

Leave a Reply