Life as an inmate inside a Victorian workhouse is explored in an exhibition at the Florence Nightingale Museum in Lambeth Palace Road. The exhibition, Workhouse – Segregated Lives, examines the design of the workhouses as well as the inmate’s diet, work and health while living there. Rare artefacts, firsthand accounts, pictorial representations and publications will all help to bring to life the “world of the workhouse” in this display which opened in February and runs until 5th July. There’s a program of events accompanying the exhibition including lectures by historians looking at subjects like the food served in the workhouse and how to find your workhouse ancestors. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.florence-nightingale.co.uk.

The Salter Statues campaign is appealing for funds for a new statue of former Bermondsey resident Dr Albert Salter after a famous statue of the doctor, known for his work with the area’s poor in the early part of the 20th century, was stolen from its location on Bermondsey Wall in 2011. A fundraising campaign has so far raised more than £16,000 with Southwark Council matching all donations made but £100,000 is needed. As well as a replacement statue of Dr Salter, the funds will also be used to buy a new statue of his wife, Ada, who was the first female Labour councillor in London. The new statues have been designed by artist Diane Gorvin, sculptor of the original group of statues which were erected in 1991 and, as well as the seated statue of Dr Salter, also included the couple’s daughter Joyce – who died aged eight of scarlet fever – and her cat (the statues of Joyce and her cat were removed after the theft and are being held in safekeeping). Donations can be made via www.salterstatues.co.uk.

The community of a residential complex at the former Arsenal football stadium in North London – Highbury Stadium Square – comes under examination in a new exhibition running at the Geffrye Museum in Hoxton. Photographer Simone Novotny, who is a resident of the complex herself, looks at the lives and stories of residents in 30 of the 700 new homes in a series of intimate portraits. Runs until 26th August. Admission charge applies. See www.geffrye-museum.org.uk for more.

On Now: Saloua Raouda Choucair. This exhibition at the Tate Modern on South Bank is the first major museum exhibition of the works of Lebanese artist Saloua Raouda Choucair and consists of more than 120 works – many of which have never been seen before – including paintings, sculptures and other objects. The Beirut-born artist, now aged 97-years-old, is credited as being a pioneer of abstract art in the Middle East and her works reflect her diverse interests in science, maths, Islamic art and poetry. Works in display include sculptures in wood, metal, stone and fibreglass (1950s-1980s) as well as early paintings including Self-Portrait (1943) and Paris-Beirut (1948). Runs until 20th October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

Known as “The Lady with the Lamp”, Florence Nightingale is remembered for her contribution to the development of the profession of nursing and the reform of medical practices during the Crimean War and the latter half of the 19th century.

Born on 12th May, 1820 in Florence (it’s from her birthplace that she gets her name), Florence Nightingale was the second daughter of William Edward Nightingale, son of a wealthy Sheffield banker, and Frances Smith.

She had a relatively privileged childhood at her family’s homes of Lea Hurst in Derbyshire and Embley Park in Hampshire (her father was named High Sheriff of the county in 1828) as well as occasional visits to London and received a broad education.

Believing herself to be called by God into His service when in her mid-teens, she chafed at the life set before her. It was a during visit to  convent which holidaying in Rome with family friends that she became convinced she had a mission from God to tend to the sick.

This was only furthered during a subsequent visit to a religious community at Kaiserswerth am Rhein – a training school for nurses – that finally convinced her of the possibility of making nursing a vocation for ladies. Returning to England, Nightingale took up her first official post – as superintendent of the Hospital for Invalid Gentlemen – in 1853.

The Crimean War broke out in March, 1854, and later that year, aware of reports of the suffering sick and wounded English soldiers were enduring, Nightingale offered her services to the War Office following an invitation by the Secretary for War Sidney Herbert.

Charged with authority over all the nurses (her official title was later Superintendent of the Female Nurses in the Hospitals in the East), Nightingale embarked for Crimea on 21st October with 38 nurses (there’s a plaque at 90 Harley Street – site of the hospital from which Nightingale left for the Crimea). She reached Scutari in Turkey on 4th November, the night before the Battle of Inkerman.

Headquartered in Scutari, Nightingale set about organising the military hospitals, improving general hygiene and conditions and supplies of essentials like clothes and other equipment. The wounded men soon recognised her efforts and began calling her ‘The Lady of the Lamp’ – referring to sight of her checking the wards at night.

Visiting hospitals near and in Balaclava in 1855, Nightingale fell ill from “Crimean fever” but recovered and was able to return to Scutari and continue her work. The following March Nighingale returned to Balaclava and continued to work there until the hospitals closed in July. She returned to England and the family home at Lea Hurst the following month.

In September, 1856, Nightingale had an audience with Queen Victoria at Balmoral – she used the occasion to inform the Queen and Prince Albert of the reforms needed in the military hospital system (and subsequently met with the Queen many times). Backed by data she had collected in the Crimea, Nightingale also pushed for a commission into military hospitals – it was commenced in April 1857 and Nightingale’s written evidence was critical to its recommendations.

In 1860, the Nightingale School and Home for Nurses was established at St Thomas’ Hospital in London (it was funded with £50,000 raised through the Nightingale Fund which had been established in 1855). She as unable to take up the post of superintendent due to ill health and other reasons but continued to take an active interest.

Nightingale – who wrote more than 200 books, reports and pamphlets on hospital planning and organisation, including the famous Notes on Nursing (1859), and interestingly is also said to have invented the pie chart – was also involved in establishing the East London Nursing Society (1868), the Workhouse Nursing Association and National Society for Providing Trained Nurses for the Poor (1874) and the Queen’s Jubilee Nursing Institute (1890).

Her accolades included the German Order of the Cross of Merit and the French Gold Medal of Secours aux Blessés Militaires and the badge of honour of the Norwegian Red Cross Society. She was the first woman to be awarded the Order of Merit and the Freedom of the City of London.

Nightingale died at the age of 90 in South Street London (just off Park Lane – there’s a Blue Plaque marking the spot), on 13th August, 1910. She was buried in the family plot at East Wellow, Hampshire.

There is a memorial to Nightingale as part of the Crimean War Memorial at Waterloo Place and a chapel dedicated to her at Westminster Abbey which is involved in the annual service commemorating her held there on her birthday, International Nurses Day, every year. For more on the service, see our earlier post here.

Well worth a visit is the Florence Nightingale Museum, located within St Thomas’ Hospital.    Highlights include her pet Owl Athena and the Turkish lantern she used in the Crimean War and the museum archives include around 800 letters from Florence Nightingale. For more on the museum, see www.florence-nightingale.co.uk.