Exhibit explores School of Medicine’s history

By TRISHA PARAYIL | November 15, 2018

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COURTESY OF MARY SHEPARD The exhibit explores the 125-year history of the Hopkins School of Medicine.

An exhibit celebrating 125 years since the establishment of the Hopkins School of Medicine has been on display on Q-level of the Milton S. Eisenhower (MSE) library since Oct. 31 and will remain up until March 18, 2019.

A team of curators from the Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives planned, researched and assembled the exhibit. The Chesney Medical Archives are dedicated to documenting the history of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutes (JHMI). The Archives have over 30,000 square feet of documents, in addition to a multitude of artifacts and oral histories.

Dr. Landon King, the executive dean of the School of Medicine, commented on how the 125-year legacy will guide the School of Medicine in the years to come.

“We want to ensure that we are really pushing the envelope in critical care and innovation, education and training. We believe that that is the legacy that our predecessors earned for us and that we want to build on,” King said. 

According to Natalie Elder, one of the curators at the Archives, when the curators were planning the exhibit, they did not force the artifacts to fit a particular narrative. Instead, they strung the artifacts together to tell a story. 

“We thought about the narrative in terms of the artifacts and archival material we had. We had the strengths of the collection in mind when we were figuring out the stories that we were going to tell,” she said.

While the narrative was shaped by the artifacts, the curators did have an overarching intent as they constructed the exhibit.

“We wanted to communicate the tripartite mission of [the School of Medicine] which is research, clinical care and education. Rather than do a strictly chronological exhibit, we wanted to focus on certain stories that were illustrative of particular aspects of what the [School of Medicine] is like,” Elder said.

The exhibit was first displayed at the Turner Auditorium for the anniversary symposium on June 1.

Originally, the exhibit was supposed to be displayed only for a few days during the celebration but was eventually relocated to the MSE in October.

According to Elder, the exhibit is a platform to engage with the past and compare it to the present.

“When surgeons saw the surgical kit, they were amazed that Halsted was using such different instruments than what they use today,” she said.

The media presented in the exhibit was not limited to letters, photographs and biographies, there were also scannable QR codes to see exclusive interviews. Even more content is available if viewers download the augmented reality app.

Senior Dana Murray was involved in the final stages of putting the exhibit together. 

“I spent the first half hour or so just looking at those beautiful (and beautifully researched) wall displays with their little hollows and over the course of the day watched them get filled up with objects and letters from the collection,” Murray said. 

The exhibit includes sections on the School of Medicine’s encounters with ethical issues, the Flexner Report and the recent creation of the Genes to Society curriculum.

Murray appreciated the inclusion of the stories of Vivien Thomas, who developed the procedure to treat blue baby syndrome, and Mary Elizabeth Garrett, a benefactor who stipulated that women be accepted in the School of Medicine with the same opportunities as men.

“Though this was a broad (and celebratory) overview of what Hopkins does, is, and how it came to this point, there was a purposeful decision to include women, people of color and non-Hopkins actors in the narrative (and not just the famous ones),” Murray said.

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