By: Julia Balacko, BA, MA
Case Western Reserve University
Traveling cross-country this summer? Or happen to be in a new city for a conference, or perhaps a pesky extended stay somewhere after a flurry of flight cancellations? Worry not, fellow medical anthropologists and scholars of medicine– here we present you a list of medical museums to visit no matter where the summer season takes you. (Want to add a museum to our list? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the city/location, name, and short description of your museum’s collections.)
The Warren Anatomical Museum in partnership with Harvard University contains the skeletal remains and the infamous tamping iron of Phineas Gage, as well as phrenological casts and other objects in the history of the study of the human body.
The Public Health Museum is located on the grounds of the former Tewksbury Hospital, and features exhibits on the development of public health in history.
The International Museum of Surgical Science, located on the shores of Lake Michigan just north of “The Magnificent Mile,” is a collection of surgical instruments, medical artifacts, and displays on the history of anatomical and surgical learning housed in a beautifully restored former mansion.
The Museum of Science and Industry in the Hyde Park neighborhood is an enormous building which houses not only a permanent collection of plastinated and preserved cadaveric specimens, but features many exhibits on human health, the body, and other areas of scientific and industrial development.
The Dittrick Museum of Medical History houses a newly-renovated exhibit on medical instruments and devices, as well as the Percy Skuy Collection of artifacts in the history of contraception and abortion. It also features exhibitions on the history of birth and on medical practice in the Cleveland area.
The McDowell House Museum is the restored home and office of Dr. Ephraim McDowell, who for the first time in history in 1809 successfully removed an ovarian tumor. The museum features a collection of early medical equipment in the USA, gardens, and a recreated 19th century apothecary.
The Health Museum features a series of interactive exhibits about the human body and disease, with rotating exhibitions on various aspects of biomedical technology and science. It is a family-friendly destination if you happen to be in town with little ones.
The Indiana Medical Museum can be found on the grounds of the former Central State Hospital, inside the old pathology building. The museum highlights the early history of biomedical psychiatry, and in its own words: “maintains a collection of scientific artifacts from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in a completely authentic setting. Constructed in 1895 and inaugurated in 1896, the nineteen-room Pathological Department Building, as it was then called, is equipped with three clinical laboratories, a photography lab, teaching amphitheatre, autopsy room, and library.”
The Museum of Osteopathic Medicine at A.T. Still University is the first museum dedicated to osteopathic care. It is home to an impressive collection of over 50,000 artifacts in the history of osteopathy, many from the founder of the field: Dr. Andrew T. Still, whose cabin is on the museum grounds.
New York, NY
The Morbid Anatomy Museum, newly opened by independent scholar Joanna Ebenstein, is located in Brooklyn. It features an array of exhibits on the intersections of death, art, and medicine, as well as a coffee café on the bottom level.
The Mütter Museum is a world-renowned collection of medical oddities and human pathological specimens, including (not for the faint of heart) the mummified body of a woman whose fat chemically decomposed into a soap-like material. The Mütter Museum has partnered with the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology to offer a one-price two-museum admission ticket, if you wish to visit both institutions.
The Wilhelm Reich Museum, situated inside the former home and estate of psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Dr. Wilhelm Reich, displays Dr. Reich’s collection of scientific devices and artwork. It also features a bookstore with the widest selection of his publications, as well as a conference center on the estate grounds.
The Rochester Medical Museum and Archive is located in the Rochester Academy of Medicine, and houses a collection of photos, articles, and vignettes on display that document the history of medicine in the Rochester area. The museum also features a climate-controlled storage area for clinical costumes and other artifacts in the history of medicine.
The National Museum of Health and Medicine highlights not only the historical development of medicine in America, but the impact of medicine during important moments in American history, such as the Civil War and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
The NIH US National Library of Medicine, an impressive collection of medical books and artifacts, is open to the public.
The National Museum of Civil War Medicine features exhibits on medicine and care in the Civil War era, as well as highlighting the changing roles of women and medical professionals in the delivery of treatment at that time.