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Take a Tour of Medical History at the Indiana Medical History Museum

indiana medical history museumA treasure trove of medical history is on display at the Indiana Medical History Museum in downtown Indy.

Most of us take for granted all the technological advances that have made medical treatment largely bearable. But life wasn’t always so good. Imagine, if you will, what it’s like to be operated on without anesthesia. For most patients who lived during the late 19th century, this was the grim and painful reality. For those lucky enough to receive anesthesia for a surgery, chloroform was the anesthesia of choice. A vast improvement over whiskey, chloroform was administered via a gauze mask placed over the patient’s face.  Just a few drops taken from a chloroform bottle was all it took to knock the patient out cold.

This bulbous, amber-tinted chloroform bottle, in modern times, is actually quite lovely to behold if you can put aside the historical context in which it was used. At the same time, it is a chilling reminder of what life was like not long ago, and how far medical science has come since them. And it is one of many other antique medical devices on display at the Indiana Medical History Museum in downtown Indianapolis.

The Indiana Medical History Museum has preserved a collection of medical and scientific artifacts from the 1800s and 1900s. What’s more, these artifacts are presented in a setting that is both authentic and historically accurate.

Located in the Old Pathology Building on the grounds of the former Central State Hospital the museum is a living monument to the origins of psychiatry and modern medicine. In fact, the building itself, constructed in 1895 and inaugurated in 1896, is the nation’s oldest surviving pathology facility and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Back then, it was called the Pathological Department Building and contained 19 rooms, including 3 clinical laboratories, a photo lab, a teaching amphitheatre, an autopsy room, and a library.

The Indiana Medical History Museum is a great place to explore Indiana’s medical heritage and gain an appreciation for how far healthcare has come. Collectively, the exhibits, publications, and programs offered by the museum educates are designed to build a picture of the state of health care in particular, and the life sciences in general, during the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries.

The museum is staffed by Mary Ellen Hennessey Nottage (executive Museum Director), Sarah Halter (Director of Public Programs), Mark Cole (Facilities Manager) and Ann Blunk (Curatorial Assistant).

Event Info:

  • Indiana Medical History Museum
  • 3045 West Vermont Street, Indianapolis, IN 46222
  • Guided tours offered Thurs-Sat, 10 AM to 4 PM, plus Wed by appointment only.
  • Tel: 317-635-7529