Friday, August 31, 2007

Encountering old friends for the first time

The specimens that museum employees come to regard as familiar and even as old friends were once seen by each person for the first time. The first time I visited the Army Medical Museum it meant a trip with my father to the national mall, where the museum resided in an old red brick building (now creatively known as "the Old Red Brick") on a hot, hot, damp Washington Saturday. Deserted weekend streets. But I remember expansive black and white floors, greenery moving slightly to the whir of an old pedestal fan, and sunlit staircases graced with huge black and white photos of explosions and the casualties of war. Upstairs were rooms of cases with jars of specimens. The leg, some brains, and dozens of microscopes etched into my own brain, which must have been very young indeed. I see them now everyday, and if that first memory of seeing them is not a fresh one, it certainly is a vivid one, and it evokes wonder without fail.

3 comments:

Steven Solomon said...

The Army Medical Museum moved from November 1887 until Feb. 15, 1888 into its fifth home, the "Old Red Brick" on the north side of B. Street, (now Independence Avenue) and 7th St. at the site of the current Hirshhorn Museum on the Mall and was there until 1947 when it temporarily moved into a former barracks for U.S. Coast Guard women reservists. The Army Medical Museum became the Medical Museum of the AFIP in 1949. After another temporary location from 1960-1962, the museum moved back into the "Old Red Brick" it had previously occupied and was there until 1971. The museum moved to its ninth and current location at Walter Reed Army Medical center in 1971, closed in 1973 for the military medical school USUHS to use the space, became the Armed Forces Medical Museum in 1974, and reopened in 1976. In 1989, the museum changed its name to the National Museum of Health and Medicine. There are still many people alive who visited the museum when it was on the Mall from 1962-1971. Indeed, during those years the museum received more visitors than any other museum in Washington, DC.

A said...

I guess you can take the man out of the museum, but you can't take the museum out of the man. Thanks, S!

Mike said...

Steven needs to get out in the Florida sun more apparently