One of my favorite things to do in a new city is visit some museums and take in the local culture. Chicago is home to the Museum of International Surgical Science, the only museum in North America devoted to surgery. The museum is located a few miles north of downtown Chicago, easily accessible by bus or train. The admission if $15, which I was disappointed that they didn’t offer a discount to physicians or anyone in healthcare. It’s ok, they might not make any money if they did. The museum lives in an old mansion overlooking the lake and boy, is it a workout for your eyeballs. Not only is there a bunch of stuff to look at, but there’s also massive amounts of text to read! You can tell a bunch of doctors sat around thinking: if we could create a museum, what would it look like? I know, let’s get some medical artifacts to display and write out some information about medicine in general and print it out on the computer and post it to the walls! This is no children’s museum, this is a LEARNING museum and learn people will.
The first part of the museum is mainly about different conditions, such as COPD, Chron’s disease and there’s a parrafin stomach as well as a few goldfish bowls filled with gallstones on display among the massive amounts of text. If you’re a slow reader, you’d be here for hours!
After you’ve had an introduction to the many maladies you can contract, they take you back into time and show you how medicine was done up before modern medicine. They show you a dentist chair and all of their tools that they used. It looks like a pretty plush chair to be sitting in while they yank out your teeth. Some of the tools are rusted over, which only adds to the ick level. My how far we have come with dental cleanings.
Then, you’re lead into an apothecary, early pharmacists who would make their own medicines. Fun fact, big pharma wasn’t too popular back then because the alchemist would not be able to guarantee the drugs, since they did not make them. They could also specialize their formulas to their customer’s tastes, such as adding a 24k leaf to the pills.
Upstairs they have a hall of statues of the early leaders of medicine, known as the Hall of Immortals.
There is quite a bit of artwork in the museum, depicting various medical scenes, such as the first cesarean section performed in Peru or a lobotomy.
They had an entire section on eyes. Spectacles were more of a status symbol and fashion statement, since only the very wealthy could afford them. They also have quite the collection of eyeglass cases to protect the spectacles. The ladies would have their cases hanging off their belt to be available at a moment’s notice.
They also have a full set of ophthalmology tools with ivory handles. The thought of those tools touching my eyeballs gave me the heebie jeebies.
Then there was a set of surgical tools. Imagine using these tools on your patients today.
They also had a model of an auditorium. It reminds me of the auditorium in that show, The Knick.
All in all, it was a good trip up the Gold Coast and I didn’t get completely grossed out. If you’re ever in Chicago, I recommend visiting this place.