For our final #MuseumWeek post we're talking about why we LOVE medical history and why we hope that love is contagious! #loveMW
It's not uncommon for the Dittrick Medical History Center to be referred to a bit like a cabinet of curiosities, a niche museum, or perhaps more kindly, a "hidden treasure." Although we've always worked to make collections accessible and major public engagement efforts are underway, we still often have to make the case for the (sometimes not so) implicit question "Why should I care about medical history?"
The answer tends to go a little like this:
Medical history is the history...
With the recent global attention on the Zika virus (we won't say emergence, as Zika virus itself is not new), public health programs focused on controlling the mosquito vector enter a debate with its own long and storied past.
Pick up any early 20th century book on infectious disease management and you'll find confident statements assuring the victory of humans over illness and death. One text from 1909 called Mosquito or Man? speaks of this inevitable triumph over disease with an air of colonial domination, stating:
The tropical world is today being steadily and surely conquered...The campaigns show that the three great insect-carried scourges of...
When the museum receives donations from the community, sometimes little surprises find their way into unexpected collections. Frequently, we classify artifacts based on the donor's description and our expectations. Until we dig into their stories for an exhibit, these unexplored artifacts sit on shelves among surgical sets, microscopes, and pharmaceuticals, waiting to be discovered. One such specimen found its way into our work space as we pulled items for a recent installation on Obstetrical Anesthesia from 1850 to 1890.
We were familiar with the Bennett Inhaler (Fig. 1), a handheld device intended to be filled with chloroform for laboring women to self-administer...
Throughout 2014, the Dittrick Museum shared our enthusiasm for the history of medicine with a growing audience. Whether you're from our home campus of Case Western Reserve University, the greater Cleveland area, or part of a larger digital community, we appreciate all of these opportunities to meet and learn with you.
Our growing public outreach led us to work with the wonderful Cleveland Bazaar, host a book talk for author Kate Manning, and hear a lecture on WWI medicine from scholar Beth Linker. We explored a cemetery, rare book archives, and museum galleries with diverse groups of visitors. What's more, these events were beautifully captured...