The idea of a medical museum likely conjures up images of primitive doctors’ tools that would be more at home in a dungeon than an operating room. Or perhaps one could imagine a series Victorian-era lithographs detailing long-abandoned practices involving bloodletting. But the University of Iowa’s Medical Museum has a distinctly modern approach, grounded in innovative science as well as stories and art that elevate stories of healing.
Here are five things to know about this unique part of Iowa City’s health care complex:
1. The University of Iowa Medical Museum’s roots stretch back to 1976 when the Hospital Architect chose several prints to put on display in the university hospital in an effort to “humanize” it. Steps along the way to the formal opening of the museum in 1989 include the launch of Project Art in 1978, a local service project called the Art Cart in 1980, the donation of 19th century surgical tools in 1982 and a National Endowment of the Arts Grant in 1980.
2. The Medical Museum is located on the 8th floor of the Colloton Pavilion, which also houses the hospital’s departments of surgery, pediatrics and anesthesia. Open daily, the museum offers a mixture permanent and rotating exhibits as well as experiential and lecture-based learning about everything from medical innovations to ethics.
3. There are more than 5,000 items in the museum’s collection including a time capsule from the first hospital building in 1889, historical records of the university’s first EKG machine in 1919 and an examining chair from the 1930s used in the movie Field of Dreams. (Because Iowa, get it?)
4. More than a collection, the museum’s past exhibits tell stories of illness and life. In 1999, the museum featured stories of women living with and recovering from breast cancer. A 25-year history of women in health sciences, Ethiopian images associated with healing and a history of cardiology called – wait for it – “The Beat Goes On” have all brought elements of sociology together with chemistry and biology.
5. In addition to permanent exhibits, current displays include a variety of temporary exhibits: visual art, including the memorabilia-driven “Stories from a Sports Fan”; a look at field medicine innovations of during the Civil War and separate histories of homeopathy and child welfare research.
For more information on the Iowa Medical Museum, visit the links above.