Thursday, April 8, 2010

Accession of the day, April 8

Chilicothe, Ohio. April, 1873.

A linen pocket handkerchief pierced by a bullet at the battle of Nashville, Tennessee. The 32 holes which it contains were produced by the same ball, while folded up in the pocket of the officer who owned it. Specimen received April 8" 1873. Source: Staples, E.L. Miscellaneous section #71.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Installing Mr Cluckey

Visibly human install

Poetry in Wartime

I read in today's paper that April is National Poetry Month. We have a small in-house exhibit and quite a nice one online about Walt Whitman, who nursed during the Civil War, and wrote quite a bit about his experiences in both poetry and prose. The internet archive has a lot you can download for free.

April e-newsletter


E-News from the National Museum of Health and Medicine – April 2010



 Visit the Museum online at

 Welcome to this month's edition of our e-newsletter. Enjoy this brief update on upcoming exhibitions and public programs and the occasional interesting bit of news from our collections.

 Do you like what you are reading? Forward it to a friend!


 This month:

 * "Wounded in Action: An Art Exhibition of Orthopaedic Advancements" opens May 7

* "Solving the Puzzle: Lyme Disease, West Nile Virus and You," a traveling exhibition, opens April 19

* "Visibly Human: Health and Disease in the Human Body" opens April 12

* NMHM hosts 11th Annual Brain Awareness Week

* News and Notes: Did you know?

* Events Calendar: National Hairball Awareness Day (April 27), Brown Bag Lunch: Author Reading and Discussion, "What's Eating You?: People and Parasites" (May 13) and the USA Science and Engineering Festival (Oct 2010)

* Support the Museum!



"Wounded in Action: An Art Exhibition of Orthopaedic Advancements," an exhibit of art works inspired by experiences with the wounds of war, will have its first major installation at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C. and the University of Maryland Baltimore (UMB), in May 2010, after a one-week exhibition in a United States Senate office building in the nation's capital. The exhibit, which is produced and organized by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), will open at the museum May 7. Read our news release.


New Poster Exhibition Coming to NMHM: The stories of West Nile virus and Lyme disease and how they affect human health are the focus of a new traveling exhibition "Solving the Puzzle: Lyme Disease, West Nile Virus and You," which will open April 19 at the National Museum of Health and Medicine. NMHM is the first museum to display this traveling exhibit. The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History produced and organized the exhibition.


"Visibly Human: Health and Disease in the Human Body," a vivid presentation of anatomical and pathological specimens, pulled from museum collections dating back more than 100 years, goes on display April 12. The exhibit presents the body's organ systems and features normal anatomical specimens alongside specimens demonstrating some measure of pathology, be it from injury, disease or environmental factors. The exhibition will feature specimens and artifacts from the Museum's Anatomical and Historical Collections.


NMHM held its 11th Annual Brain Awareness Week March 15 – 19: Nearly 700 students from public and private schools in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., attended the event, which is sponsored by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives. The celebration featured numerous hands-on activities designed to inspire a new generation of scientists interested in the brain and the field of neuroscience. Visit our photo galleries to view pictures from the event.

BS with brain_031810.JPG

News and Notes:

·         Did you know? One of the most frequently visited sections on the Museum's Web site is an online exhibit  "Closing in on a Killer: Scientists Unlock Clues to the Spanish Influenza Virus" This virtual exhibit and the associated galleries of images are featured on an informational Web site related to the history of combating pandemic flu.

·         Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay in touch with the Museum.


Calendar of Upcoming Programs:

Check out the Events Calendar for updates:


FREE PUBLIC TOUR: Free docent-led tours are offered on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month. Tour begins at 1:00 p.m. Reservations are not required.


National Hairball Awareness Day


When: Tuesday, April 27, 2010, 12:00 p.m.


Join NMHM in celebrating National Hairball Awareness Day on April 27. Learn how hairballs (trichobezoars) form in the stomach, see a selection of human and animal hairballs on display and get a chance to hold an animal hairball. Bezoars form in the stomach of humans and some animals, and are made of indigestible matter such as hair, food and some medicines. A selection of bezoars from the Museum's collection will be on display from April 24 – May 2.


Cost: FREE


Brown Bag Lunch: Author Reading and Discussion


"What's Eating You?: People and Parasites" (Princeton University Press)


When: Thursday, May 13, 2010, 12:00 – 1:00 p.m.


In "What's Eating You" Eugene Kaplan recounts the true and harrowing tales of his adventures with parasites, and in the process introduces readers to the intimately interwoven lives of host and parasite. Kaplan will share stories about parasites from worms to lice, designed to appeal to people eating lunch. Topics will cover leeches attacking soldiers in Vietnam, lice attacking lovers in New Orleans, worms attacking eaters in Israel, and will cover what to do when you return from a trip and suspect you have parasites. Eugene H. Kaplan is the Donald A. Axinn Endowed Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Conservation (emeritus) at Hofstra University.


Cost: FREE


USA Science and Engineering Festival


When: October 23-24, 2010 NMHM is proud to be an Official Partner of the inaugural USA Science & Engineering Festival to be held in the greater Washington DC area in October 2010. The Festival, which will be the country's first national science festival, is a collaboration of over 500 of the country's leading science and engineering organizations and aims to reignite the interest of our nation's youth in the sciences. The culmination of the Festival will be a two-day Expo on the National Mall on October 23-24, 2010, which will give children, teens and adults the opportunity to explore all facets of science & engineering through hundreds of fun, hands-on activities. For more information on all Festival events, visit



WE APPRECIATE YOUR SUPPORT! Thank you for reading this monthly e-newsletter. Is there something more that we can offer? Let us know!


National Museum of Health and Medicine/AFIP

6900 Georgia Ave., NW, Building 54/Room G056

(on the campus at Walter Reed Army Medical Center)

Washington, D.C. 20307

General information: (202) 782-2200

Public Affairs: (202) 782-2672


On the Web:







Accession of the day, April 7

A.M.M. No. 2685 Miscellaneous Section

A brick implement used by Tagalog midwives, Island of Luzon, P.I., as an aid in difficult labor cases. Contributed by Capt. Geo. A. Zeller, Asst. Surgeon, U.S. Vols., Convalescent Hospital, Corregidor Island, P.I.

Specimen received April 7, 1902.

The brick was heated, wrapped in cloth, and placed against the perineum. Not as awful as it first sounds, is it? I really didn't want to know.

Letter of the Day: April 7 - mosquito hunters!


Clara Ludlow was on the Museum staff for a decade, researching and naming mosquitoes coming in, including this one from the Philippines in the genus Neomelaniconion.


Entomological Society of Ontario


London, Ont., Canada April 7, 1905


My Dear Miss Ludlow,


I have received today yours of the 5th enclosing the P.O. order for five dollars, for which I beg to thank you very much. The extras will be ready in a day or two & then I shall get the printers. I do not at present know exactly what it will amount to, but no doubt there will be some balance towards the extension of your subscription.


One April Can. Ent. [Canadian Entomologist] as mailed yesterday (44 pages) . You will notice that I gave to your new mosquito the name of lineatopennis.  This deemed to express your meaning fully & to be euphonious also. I hope you will not object to it.


Yours very faithfully,


Charles B. Bethune

Medical Museums Association Annual Meeting 2010

The Medical Museums Association (or MeMA) will hold its 2010 annual meeting at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota April 27th and 28th. This year MeMA meets jointly with the Archivists and Librarians in the History of the Health Sciences (ALHHS). Registration for the meeting has extended until today, April 7th. Museum and special collections staff, collectors, historians, students and others interested are all encouraged to attend.

Meeting registration and Medical Museums Association membership information is available at:

Highlights include tours of the Plummer Library Mayo Historical Suite, which originally contained general surgeons’ offices and the offices of William and Charles Mayo, and the Mayo Clinic Multidisciplinary Simulation Center, one of the largest medical simulation facilities in the world.

Steve Puglia, an authority on digital imaging and special media preservation from the U.S. National Archives and Records Association will be guest speaker to talk about digital production of historic collections including photographing three-dimensional objects and scanning other media; image quality standards; creating metadata; costs associated with digitization; and issues related to digital preservation including the migration of existing digital content. Digital media projects such as Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, podcasts and blogs have their turn at center stage on with presentations on current projects by MeMA and ALHHS members. Mike Rhode, Chief Archivist at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, and Steve Puglia will participate in a panel discussion afterward.

There will be feature programs by Mayo Clinic staff. Matt Dacy, Director of the Heritage Hall Museum, will highlight the history of the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Brent Bauer, Director of the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program, will detail a project using 400 year old special collections material in ‘bio-prospecting for new drugs.’ And industrial hygienists will discuss how to properly handle hazardous materials in collections.

Then stick around a few more days and attend the American Association for the History of Medicine (AAHM) annual meeting also at the Mayo Clinic. Mike Rhode from the Otis Historical Archives and Emily Wilson from the Human Developmental Anatomy Division at the museum will be delivering papers.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Installing a new human body exhibit

Rendering of the Exhibit - Exhibit Opens April 10th National Museum of Health & Medicine

Visibly human install

Visibly Human, Health and Disease in the Human Body, Exhibit Install Photos

Letter of the Day: April 6 (2 of 2)

The sketchbook Young provided is still in the Museum


Cincinnati Ohio

April 6 1866




Since I saw you last August, I have been very much engaged in arranging my business and getting settled again in civil life which together with a separation from my drawings and notes has prevented me from completing and forwarding the drawings of gunshot wounds for exchange for photographs of specimens in the A.M. Museum as agreed upon at that time. The original was sketched hurriedly, and at periods more or less separate, and it appeared at the time, I entered into the arrangement with you, a comparatively slight task to reproduce them. But when pressed with other affairs, I have found them more tegious [ie tedious]  than I had anticipated. The originals were necessarily rough but I thought at the time they generally gave fair representations of the subjects which they were intended to illustrate.  And now with better opportunities for more perfect finish, I have found it very difficult to depart from the original sketches in this respect and retain the true characteristics of the lesions that were presented in the rough originals.


I have selected injuries of the soft tissues, instead of those of the bones, as what I have of osseous structures, would be but a repetition of what you have such an abundance. The histories accompanying them are brief  from the character of the wounds, the short time we had them under our care, and the difficulty of hearing from them after leaving us. I also have been unfortunate in losing many of my notes of great interest to me upon many of the subjects. But I hope they will meet your anticipations.


Will you please be kind enough to inform me when and how if it be possible I can procure a catalogue of the A.M. Museum, also of the wood cuts, which, I understand are being prepared by the Dept. Having taken great interest in all matters of surgery during the war, I still feel a desire to procure all I can pertaining to it, that may reasonably come within my reach. And thanking your for the extreme kindness you have shown me heretofore I remain truly


Yours, most respectfully etc


D.S. Young, late,

Surge 21st Regt, O.V.Vs [Ohio Veteran Volunteers]


Letter of the day, April 6

Historical collections has informed us that the object is no longer in the Museum...

April 6, [189]5

Dr. E.T. Duke,
Secretary of Health Board,
Cumberland, Md.

Dear Doctor:

I am instructed by the Surgeon General to acknowledge the receipt at the Army Medical Museum to-day, of a " vaccination scab protector " designed by you, and to thank you for this interesting addition to the Museum collection.

The specimen has been placed in the Miscellaneous Section and numbered 1975.

Very respectfully,
Walter Reed
Surgeon, U.S. Army,

New Light on Old Bones

New Light on Old Bones

This new blog looks like it will be an interesting project. Inviting our public and past researchers to comment on experiences, particualrly those at the old locations might be insightful.

"The Secret Museum" Exhibition Opening, Observatory, This Saturday, April 10, 7-10 PM



Our friend Joanna Ebenstein of Morbid Anatomy sent this announcement. (We're blocked from a lot of images, so I don't know if hers didn't make it to the post or if I just can't see them.)


This Saturday, April 10th, Observatory in Brooklyn, New York will be hosting the opening party for my new exhibition "The Secret Museum." The exhibition will run through May 16th. Full details and a few images from the exhibition follow. Hope to see you there!



Images top to bottom, left to right: Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle de Rouen, Backroom; Natural History Museum Backroom; "Femme à barbe," Musée Orfila. Courtesy of Paris Descartes University;Tim Knox and Todd Longstaffe-Gowan Collection, London; Archives 2009-015, Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia.


The Secret Museum 

Observatory : 543 Union Street (at Nevins), Brooklyn, NY 11215


Opening party: Saturday April 10th, 7-10 PM

On view from April 10th-May 16th

3-6 Thursday and Friday

12-6 Saturday and Sunday

An exhibition exploring the poetics of hidden, untouched and curious collections from around the world in photographs and artifacts, by Joanna Ebenstein, co-founder of Observatory and creator of Morbid Anatomy.

Photographer and blogger Joanna Ebenstein has traveled the world seeking and documenting untouched, hidden, and curious collections, from museum storerooms to private collections, untouched cabinets of curiosity to dusty natural history museums, obscure medical museums to hidden archives. The exhibition “The Secret Museum” will showcase a collection of photographs from Ebenstein’s explorations–including sites in The Netherlands, Italy, France, Austria, England and the United States–which seek to document these spaces while at the same time investigating the psychology of collecting, the visual language of taxonomies, and the secret life of objects and collections, with an eye towards capturing the poetry, mystery and wonder of these liminal and magical spaces. In tandem with this exhibition, Ebenstein has organized a 2 week “Collector’s Cabinet” at the The Coney Island Museum, which will showcase astounding objects held in private collections, including artifacts featured in her Private Cabinet photo series of 2009.


Congress for Curious People at the Coney Island Museum
2-day symposium exploring the idea of collecting curiosities in the 21st century as well as the politics, history, and changing methodology of collecting and collections. Also on view will be “The Collector’s Cabinet,” an installation of astounding artifacts held in private collections.

The Saddest Object in the World
An Illustrated Meditation by Evan Michelson, Obscura Antiques and OdditiesMorbid Anatomy Library Scholar in residence
Date: Monday, April 12th
Time: 6:30 PM
LOCATION: * Coney Island Museum, Brooklyn

A Brief History of Automata
An Illustrated Lecture and Demonstration by Mike Zohn, Obscura Antiques and Oddities
Date: Wednesday, April 13th
Time: 6:30 PM
LOCATION: * Coney Island Museum, Brooklyn

A History of Taxidermy: Art, Science and Bad Taste
An Illustrated Presentation By Dr. Pat Morris, Royal Holloway, University of London
Date: Thursday, April 15th
Time: 6:30 PM
LOCATION: * Coney Island Museum, Brooklyn

Charles Wilson Peale and the Birth of the American Museum
An Illustrated Presentation by Samuel Strong Dunlap, PhD, Descendant of Charles Wilson Peale
Date: Friday, April 15th
Time: 6:30 PM
LOCATION: * Coney Island Museum, Brooklyn

Museums, Monsters and the Moral Imagination
An Illustrated lecture with Professor Stephen Asma, author of Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads andOn Monsters.
Date: Thursday, April 22
Time: 8:00 PM

Experimenting with Death: An Introduction to Terror Management Theory
An Illustrated Lecture by Michael Johns, Former Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Wyoming
Date: Friday, May 7
Time: 8:00 PM


Monday, April 5, 2010

Who knew?

Reeve 2281
Originally uploaded by otisarchives1

This photo from our Flickr account has generated almost 5500 looks since it was posted on March 17. I'm often surprised at what gets a lot of views and what doesn't. I'm glad I don't play the horses.

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.

Letter of the Day: April 5

Department of the Interior,
Washington April 5th 1872

Dear Sir,

This Department is desirous of procuring some Indian relics with a view to their presentation to the Japanese Embassy, who have made application for them.

Understanding that you have in your office some articles of this description referred to, which can be probably be procured for the purpose named, I would esteem it a favor to be informed if I have been correctly advised in this premise? If so when the articles can be obtained?

Very respectfully,
Your obt. Serv.
John Delano
Chief Clerk

To this officer, in charge,
“Medical Museum”
10th Street.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Letter of the day, April 4

Is it just me, or is this adding insult to injury?

Surgeon General’s Office
Washington City, D.C.
April 4th, 1866.


I am directed by the Surgeon General to request you to furnish this office with the following information in regard to the amputations performed on your left leg.

The name of the Surgeon who performed the first operation in July 1864. The causes which led to the 2nd operation. The date of said operation, and the name of the Surgeon. The date of your discharge from the service, and the present condition and amount of usefulness of the limb.

Very respectfully,
Your obedt. servant,
By order of the Surgeon General,
George A. Otis
Surgeon & Bv’t. Lt. Col U.S. Vols.

N.G. Frost,
Late Pvt. Co. “G” 32 Me. Vols.
Norway, Me.
East Cambridge, Mass.
Thro: Adj. General of Maine.