Showing posts with label Historical Collections. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Historical Collections. Show all posts

Friday, May 27, 2011

Canadian War Museum exhibit borrowed from Medical Museum

War and Medicine exhibit shows healing in conflict
CBC News May 26, 2011

-the exhibit is from Britain, but the Canadians jazzed it up with material from North America.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Treasurely finds at the warehouse

This photo shows what the Historical Collections guys came across in a wooden footlocker/trunk at the warehouse. It's about 3/4 filled with boxed paraffin blocks that appear to date, based on the label, from the late nineteenth century. The boxes for each tissue sample are marked with a diagnosis, representative examples of which include bubonic plague, yaws, variola, syphilis, Leishmaniasis, and acute pancreatitis.

The labels on the boxes associate the collection with Dr. B.C. Crowell, and include a catalog number and a case number. The boxes may be from three different collections:

1 of BC Crowell
1 of people w/ Hispanic names in white boxes
1 in boxes w/ typed labels from American College of Surgeons.

It's still under investigation as to exactly what they are.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Letter of the Day: March 10

We’d like to again thank COL Barnes and Mr & Mrs Weaver.



Presentation of Instrument to Medical Museum

10 March 1959



Col F M Townsend, USAF (MC)  Deputy Director, AFIP

Capt W M Silliphant, MC, USN  The Director, AFIP

Col Joe M Blumberg, MC, USA  Deputy Director, AFIP

IN TURN (copy for each)


1.       Mr. B. Woodruff Weaver, a Washington lawyer, and his wife would like to present on behalf of their uncle, Colonel Theodore Barnes, USA (Ret), now living in Florida, a signed, 16-blade scarificator to the Museum.


2.       The circumstances which led to this presentation are:


a.       Mrs. Weaver first saw this instrument at the Antique Show at the Shoreham Hotel and telephoned to ask if the Museum would be interested in having it and, if so, she suggested that a representative of the Museum examine this instrument. If it would make a worthwhile addition to the Museum’s collection, and if the price seemed to be fair, to so inform her and she would take steps to purchase it.

b.      A member of the staff of the Museum examined the instrument. It was found to be a signed model and unlike any other in the Museum. The price of $35.00 seemed reasonable and Mrs. Weaver was so informed.

c.       As Mr. Weaver had been asked by his uncle to procure rare or unique items for museums, he took immediate steps to purchase this instrument for the Medical Museum.


3.       It would be very much appreciated if Captain Silliphant would formally accept the scarificator and Colonel Townsend and Colonel Blumberg could be present. As Mr. and Mrs. Weaver seem interested in donating rare and unusual items to Museums, formal acceptance of this scarificator might be the opening wedge for them and for other philanthropic persons to take a more active interest, in a material way, in the Medical Museum.

4.       Assuming Captain Silliphant would be willing to accept the scarificator, information is requested as to whether he would be available on any of the dates indicated in the following table or whether he would have a preference for any particular one. These dates are all satisfactory to the Weavers. The time would be either at 1030 or 1430 hours. [TABLE NOT RETYPED]

5.       It is also suggested that Colonel Townsend and Colonel Blumberg indicate their intention of presence.

6.       All of the scarificators in the Museum’s collection will be on display in the Curator’s office.

7.       No luncheon is planned, but tea and coffee will be served.

8.       A press release will be sent to LCdr Parker with the request that he and a photographer be present at the ceremony.


Albert E Minns Jr, Col, MSC


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Accession of the day, March 7

We have been scanning our accession records, which makes browsing them a whole lot easier. This letter is dated November 14 but I'm taking liberties with the date as it was received at the Museum on March 7. I don't know if we still have this item; if so, I'd love to see it.

Dispensary received Mar. 7, 1901

Extract from Letter of Ludwig Rosenthal, filed in the Library Branch, Mus. & Lib. Division.

Hildegard - Strasse 16
Nov. 14, 1900.

To the Library of the Surgeon General's Office,
Washington, D.C.

I beg to report if not sold meanwhile:

Little house-dispensary with contents, XVI-XVIIth century. The little shrine, worked in black ebony is inlaid and ornamented with ivory and marble. Lock, angles, rings, etc. in gilt iron with artfully worked heads and foliage. The opened (lead) lid shows 15 divisions, in which are kept little glasses with brass clasps and two engraved little silver boxes. One division is empty; the narrow sides form pushers opening little drawers and secret panels, wherein are remnants of pills and three colored tablets with the impressed inscription "Terra Sigillata" 1851 and the monograms K. B with a crown. In another secret panel a tin box with old salve. At the lower part of the shrine are two drawers, where the instruments may have been kept.

This little shrine is artistically and carefully worked and well kept. H. 16.4 cm, L 27 cm depth 16.5 cm.

Price M. 250.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ophthalmologist William Holland Wilmer's legacy in two DC institutions

Here's William Holland Wilmer's plaque at National Cathedral.


We have his ophthalmoscopes. I was surprised to see his name on a post-Christmas visit to the Cathedral.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Medical challenge coin challenge

Challenge coins have been proliferating in recent years, due to decreasing costs among other reasons.

Information can be found in this article -


We have an extremely large, but not well-catalogued, numismatics collection occupying a couple of safes in Historical Collections. To better position the Museum for the long-term addition of these to the numismatics collection, I’ve proposed that we scan the ones that people have on their desks, and record who was giving the coin out and when. I did the ones on my desk this morning


Friday, January 30, 2009

Historical Collections staffing at the Museum

Alan, our longterm collections manager, is off doing something more exciting for a year. Any queries about historical artifacts like equipment, microscopes, scalpels, wax models and the like should go to Jim Curley who's acting in his stead. Curley can be reached at 202-782-2206 or

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

New exhibit

The Historical Collections guys and the exhibit guy finished putting together an exhibit yesterday and I went over and shot some of the process as well as the finished product. Because I know for a fact, yes a fact, that not one of them will write about it, I'm doing it because I'm so responsible. And because I love behind-the-scenes stuff and assume you do too.

The exhibit is contained in one wall-mounted cabinet and is called Facial Reconstruction. We have really cool and interesting plaster models and they're what make up the bulk of the cabinet. Here are four on them on a cart, waiting to go into the cabinet. They're various stages of one person's reconstruction.

Here are two of the three guys working on the cabinet.

They used the line of the bottom row of models (the ones shown on a cart above) to mark a line for the next row up. Here's that bottom row being hung.

Here's the exhibits guy using a spiffy, bendy thing on the drill to make a hole for the next row up.

A test fit on the second row.

Here's a close-up of them on a cart.

The models are all safely tucked away again and the labels are installed.

Here are a couple different models, both from World War 1. The first one shows a nasal splint after the surgeon rebuilt his nose from a flap of skin from his forehead. Note the scar.

This one shows an appliance used to keep his fractured upper jaw aligned correctly within his face.

This is a more contemporary model. This man sustained a severe head injury and a portion of his skull was removed to allow his swollen brain to expand. A CT scan of his head allowed the doctors to create a resin model of his skull and then make a cranial plate based on a mirror image of the undamaged side of his skull. This view shows a portion of the skull removed. It's art, isn't it?

And finally, the finished exhibit. Ta-Da!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

In other news... excellent History of Embryology site launches

This press release came through the Caduceus history of medicine list today:

Making Visible Embryos,

An online exhibition by Tatjana Buklijas and Nick Hopwood, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, with funding from the Wellcome Trust.

Images of human embryos are everywhere today: in newspapers, clinics, classrooms, laboratories, baby albums and on the internet. Debates about abortion, evolution, assisted conception and stem cells have made these representations controversial, but they are also routine. We tend to take them for granted. Yet 250 years ago human development was nowhere to be seen.

This online exhibition is about how embryo images were produced and made to represent some of the most potent biomedical objects and subjects of our time. It contextualizes such icons as Ernst Haeckel's allegedly forged Darwinist grids and Lennart Nilsson's 'drama of life before birth' on a 1965 cover of Life magazine. It also interprets over 120 now little-known drawings, engravings, woodcuts, paintings, wax models, X-rays and ultrasound scans from the fifteenth to the twenty-first century. It displays the work of making visible embryos.


One image on their site is from our museum - a His Embryograph - but we have similar collections of wax models, embryos and embryo models as discussed in the article. The two photographs here are from our collection. Some of the embryological collection is on display and I've heard that a reworking of it is underway.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Anatomical Theatre website launches

Morbid Anatomy's launched a new site based on an exhibit of photographs she's done. She writes "I have finally launched the website for Anatomical Theatre, the photographic exhibition of medical museum artifacts. For more information about the project, check out the "Introduction" and "Press Release" pages."

Wax and plaster models as well as other specimens from the NMHM are included.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Body armor article noted in passing

This article raised a few thoughts about the Museum and the Pathology Institute - "Contracts for Body Armor Filled Without Initial Tests: Inspections Skipped in 13 Of 28 Deals, Report Finds," By Dana Hedgpeth, Washington Post Staff Writer, Thursday, April 3, 2008; Page D01.

"Why?" you say.

Don't worry, we're not producing armor. However over the years, the AFIP has helped evaluate armor. We've got hundreds of pictures of used (unfortunately) body armor from the Korean War in the Archives, and several actual pieces on display now on the Museum floor. Also, the AFIP currently runs the Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner which is responsible for investigating military deaths and performs autopsies that can suggest the protection that the armor did or did not afford.

And we've got a really cool piece of armor from the Civil War that didn't work at all. It's got a bullet hole right through the breastplate. Whoops. (It's not on display now, but there is a photo of it in the lobby).