The Mobile Medical Museum in Alabama exhibits artifacts related to the history of medical education and public health throughout the state of Alabama the Gulf Coast. The museum has an extensive collection of over 5,000 artifacts, memorabilia and archives dating back 300 years, most from the 18th and 19th centuries. The museum is housed on the campus of the University of Alabama’s Hospital for Women and Children in the historic Vincent Doan Walsh House.
The museum’s founding collection consisted of over 100 artifacts donated by Mrs. Patricia Heustis Paterson, whose father, Dr. James Heustis (1828-1891) was a physician in Mobile. Today, the collection has considerably expanded and is represented with three permanent exhibits. Polio and the Iron Lung explores the early years of the Polio epidemic in the United States and the iron lung contraption that allowed patients to breathe if and when the virus caused paralysis of their diaphragm. Medical College of Alabama: Alabama's First Legislated and Orthodox Medical School describes the history of Mobile’s first state-legislated medical college, which was founded in 1859. Two papier-mâché teaching models are on display. The larger-than-life models were made in Paris in 1859. Mobile: The Cradle of Organized Medicine in Alabama places Mobile squarely at the center of Alabama’s medical history as the home of many of the state’s ‘firsts.’ Mobile was the first city in Alabama to have a city-funded hospital, the first with a Board of Health and the first with a state-funded medical college. The museum is also home to the J.L. Bedsole Archives and Ben May Library, which includes thousands of rare books, photographs and documents relating to the medical profession.
The collection currently resides in the Vincent Doan Walsh House, the oldest surviving private residence in Mobile. The home was built in 1827 as a summer residence for Captain Benjamin Vincent, who made his fortune shipping cargo from Mobile to New Orleans. The home was renovated in 1927 when it was purchased by Alabama Walsh, and remains reflective of this time period today.
History: The museum was founded in 1962 by Dr. Samuel Eichold II, who took the initiative to display the Dr. James Heustis’ collection in the lobby of the Mobile General Hospital. As the museum’s collection grew, the display moved several times. The museum formed its own separate institution and Board of Directors in 1991. In 2003, the museum moved to the Vincent Doan Walsh house.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Guided tours of the museum are available for individuals or groups if scheduled in advance. The museum has been a valuable resource for schools, college and university groups. Junior Medcamp is a new program that began in 2017. The one-day summer camp introduces children ages 6 through 8 to the history of medicine and the use of medical equipment such as EKG’s, microscopes, dental tools and x-rays. The program is run in partnership with the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center.
Events at the museum include Military Medicine Day, during which the museum offers special tours on the subject of medicine’s war history, from the Civil War to Vietnam. Cherokee Medicine is a public talk that tackled the subject of the European’s spread of disease to Native Americans when they first arrived in North America. Halloween Healthcare Hauntings is an annual fundraising event during which the museum is open for guests of all ages to learn about the ‘ghosts’ of American history and the diseases they perished from.
Past and Future Exhibits: In addition to the permanent collection, the museum organizes rotating special exhibits which often travel within the state of Alabama to additional institutions. Recent exhibits have included Josiah Clark Nott: Pathological Specimens, a display of several anatomical models, made from wax in the mid-1800’s by the British sculptor Joseph Towne. The eerily life-like specimens were on loan from the Alabama Museum of the Health Sciences, The University of Alabama at Birmingham. In Healing Women: Medical History from a Female Perspective, photographs and documents from the museum’s permanent collection were displayed to tell the history of 300 years of women’s influence in the medical field as care providers, innovators and administrators. Orbit: Explorations of the Eye Through the Ages will open in 2018. The exhibit will focus on items in the museum’s permanent collection that are related to centuries of understanding and researching the health of the human eye.
1664 Springhill Avenue, Mobile, Alabama 36604, Phone: 251-415-1109