DC Is Home to Many Historical Medical Sites

The Washington, DC, area is the capital of medical and health care institutions with numerous federal agencies and research facilities. Many of these institutions sprang from modest establishments that were created during the Civil War, when the DC area included as many as 85 hospitals tending wounded soldiers. For instance, the National Library of Medicine evolved from the post-Civil War duties of the Army Surgeon General’s Office. There, the archive of Civil War medical records were housed, which were essential for verification of veterans’ pension claims.

You can discover the area’s rich medical history at a number of historical sites.

The National Museum of American History of the Smithsonian Institution houses artifacts from all eras of American medical history. The diverse collection includes patent medicines, biologicals, alternative medicines, laboratory equipment, prosthetics, artificial organs, surgical instruments, dental equipment, microscopes, radiology and other body imaging devices, diagnostic instruments, quack medical devices, veterinary medicines, uniforms, public health materials, and biotechnology instrumentation.

Of particular interest to ATS 2017 attendees is the collection of the many cure-alls for lung ailments, including Eckman’s Alternative, circa 1906, which, for $2 a bottle, was indicated “for all throat and lung diseases, including bronchitis, bronchial catarrh, asthma, hay fever, coughs and colds, catarrh of the stomach and bowels, and tuberculosis.”

For immersion in Civil War medical care, visit the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, in Frederick, Maryland. Fans of the PBS series “Mercy Street” and others interested in the care and healing of the wounded during the war can tour 7,000 square feet of exhibit space. Among the exhibits is the tent of surgeon John Wiley of the 6th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry. It is the only known Civil War surgeon’s tent in existence today. Part of the larger museum, the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office Museum is located in DC itself.

Monuments and historic sites of great figures in health care, including Benjamin RushClara Barton, and Samuel Hahnemann, are sprinkled throughout the DC area. Don’t have time to tour the area? Take a web tour of these and 27 more important medical landmarks.

As the nation’s capital, Washington, DC, is also home to many other cultural, arts, and historic sites, many of which are free and open to the public.

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