Stories from the Store – Joan Monica Standing

Kelly van Doorn, Heritage Collections Officer

Today’s “Story from the Store” is that of Joan Monica Standing, as told to me by a family member.

Joan was born on the 28th of May 1923 in Eastbourne, the middle sister of three. She attended Eastbourne High School until 1939 and soon went on to train, and qualify, as a midwife and orthopaedic nurse.  Joan’s school reports show that she excelled at languages such as French and Latin but Maths needed work (I know the feeling)!

 Following her first marriage to Edward (Ned) Howe from Jevington, they moved to Norfolk where, after Ned’s death whilst herding cattle and her marriage to John Gillings, Joan continued to work in a hospital. She retired in 1980 after more than 30 years in the medical profession.

Some of the certificates kindly donated to Heritage Eastbourne show how varied a medical career Joan had. She trained in the Princess Alice Memorial Hospital, General Lying-In Hospital and the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, where she trained in “surgical tuberculosis”.  Her passion for nursing may have stemmed from looking after her frail sister Vera, who unfortunately died young.  As a nurse at the Princess Alice Memorial Hospital, Joan was awarded the Jane Potts medal. Jane Potts was the governess of Princess Alice and lived in Meads Street. The medal was awarded to the best all-round nurse who completed training.

Some of the most incredible parts of this collection are the photographs from the wards Joan worked on. They show Joan and patients having a wonderful time at Christmas and making the best out of what for most wouldn’t have been an ideal situation.

Stories like Joan’s show how important it is for museums to collect more than just objects. Knowing about the life of an individual adds such a personal aspect to everyday objects. It also allows museums to move away from the idea of a museum being a stuffy and sterile place with long and boring labels about impersonal items. Heritage Eastbourne make it our mission to learn as much about the person as we do about the objects.  

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