The BAPRAS Collection - The Emerin Keene Album

13th March 2024


KeeneAnother little-known artefact retained within the BAPRAS Collection is the remarkable album containing written accounts and images by American Red Cross Nurse Emerin Keene. Donated by her son, they were collated by Keene as she worked at the Ospedale Stomatoiatrico, located in Villa Massimo, Rome during 1918. Under the direction of surgeon, Amedeo Perna and an American dentist named Webb, this was another European hospital devoted to the management of injured servicemen with massive facial injury using early plastic surgery techniques. 

The album and written account arrived unheralded in the post at the BAPRAS office one morning when Roger Green was Curator/Archivist. Keene took “before and after images” of these shattered warriors and the remarkable, and forgotten work undertaken by Colonel Perna. His results appear to be of a standard equivalent to that being done by Gillies’ team. Perna contributed a paper to the Interallied Congress in Paris, 1916, also attended by Gillies(1).

bapras-Keene (23)

As well as clinical photographs using her “much overworked camera” Keene took group shots of the servicemen and one of Perna. We owe Keene a debt for her rare account, virtually the only record of the Italian’s work during this war. It emphasises that efforts to establish Plastic Surgery as its own specialty were going on all over the European continent at that time. Emerin Chute, nee Keene, died in England in 1976. 

(1) facial reconstruction in Italy During the First World War. E. A. Stone, A. N. Bamji EJPS. 2019, 42:1, 75-84

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