TAM-arkiv mobilmeny

The scent of pharmacy

Posted on April 26, 2023 by Leif Jacobsson

Translation from Swedish by Andreas Lindahl

During its history, TAM-Arkiv has published many collections of professional memories. One of the most interesting is about pharmacy employees and is called “Doften av apotek” (Eng. ”The Scent of Pharmacy”), published in 2014.

Is there a specific scent attributed to pharmacies? Most people can probably agree that pharmacies are not significantly different from other stores in that regard. But there was a time when they distinguished themselves with their distinctive air.

”The Scent of Pharmacy: 22 Stories of an Industry in Transition” is a collection of professional memories where we get to follow the development of the pharmacy system through the stories of 22 pharmacy employees from 1940 to the present day. The professional memory collection reflects a wide range of experiences from pharmacies, told by people in different professional roles.

It’s an exciting story that pharmacy employees can testify to. A myriad of stories emerge. “Man kan inte vara en hoppjerka” (Eng. ”You can’t be a little jackrabbit”)  is the title of one of the bids. “FASS var hemligt för oss flickor” (”FASS was secret to us girls”) was the title of another one. And – to refer to the title of the book – the name of a third professional memory is: ”It doesn’t smell like a pharmacy anymore”. 

”A professional narrative is never just a depiction of a profession,” the book’s preface points out. The stories can also shed some light on the changes in work in a larger – societal – perspective. And few businesses have undergone such major changes in such a short time as pharmacies. Since the middle of the last century, they have gone from being privately owned, via state monopolies to being players in a free market. Pharmaceutical production has gradually been replaced by information, advice and value-added sales. Previously male-dominated professions have increasingly been taken over by women.

The book contains not only professional memories but also in-depth texts that place the stories in their context. Sofia Kälvemark Sporrong, researcher in social pharmacy, portrays the history of pharmacy in “Mysteriet som försvann” (Eng. ”The mystery that disappeared”). A lot has improved over time, says Sofia. But at the same time, she can feel a nostalgia when she reads the stories. She mentions that she experienced a time when manufacturing dominated in pharmacies, and it is described so well by the employees that she thinks she sees it in front of you. ”Wouldn’t it be nice to have a fragrance addition to the book – to smell the old pharmacy!” she concludes.

Another exposé of the history of pharmacy is given by Anders Cronlund. He begins his history with the oldest pharmacy that was established in Baghdad in the 8th century. At that time, the roles of doctor, priest and pharmacist were united in one and the same person. In Europe, Christianity played a major role in the development of pharmacy. The monasteries provided medical care and medicinal plants were also grown there. The first pharmacies were founded in trading cities such as Venice and Marseille in the late 12th century. The first publicly accessible pharmacy in Sweden was opened in 1575 in Stockholm.

A concluding chapter, ”Three unions – one pharmacy” by Lars-Erik Hansen and Leif Jacobsson, describes developments in the trade union field. In this chapter, it is clear that interest in a trade union can be traced at an early stage. In 1861, the work of creating a pharmaceutical society was crowned with success. In the chapter, we then follow the trade union changes. (se

The stories of the book were collected by Arbetets museum, Liv i Sverige and TAM-Arkiv 2013-2014. Some stories also originate from the Farmaciförbundet’s collection Veteranminnen (Veteran Memories). TAM-Arkiv has made a great contribution by highlighting the pharmacy employees and their history. “Doften av apotek” is a book well worth reading!

TAGS: #book #pharmacy #thescentofpharmacy #oldestpharmacybaghdad #anindustryintransition