Thursday, February 16, 2012

You Have to Have a Sense of Humor!

     Every morning before the museum opens, I walk through the galleries to check on the artifacts and to ensure that the exhibits are ready for our visitors.  I never know what I am going to find.  Most times all is well, sometimes there are issues I have to address, and sometimes I find little “surprises” left by the visitors!  This morning I took along my camera to document a typical walk-through.

Here's where I start, at the entrance to the exhibits on the second floor of the museum. The lights are on already, but I still need to turn on the monitor for our Faces of Civil War Medicine, and sound system.

A couple of times a week I also duck into our conference room and check on the flags that fly from the second floor windows. If they are tangled, I lean out the window and straighten them. Our Deputy Director refers to this as “Doing a Barbara Fritchie impression!”

This is one of our interactive displays, which allows visitors to identify various bones. I make sure everything is in its proper place. I also have to keep an eye on the (nonfunctional) light fixture above it. Every once in a while someone decides to turn it upside down.

 Of course, I check all the artifacts in the exhibits. This one in our Recruitment gallery contains a bass drum and bugle. Regimental bands were sometimes used to "drum up" recruitment. 

I also check the sound stations in the galleries, and change the batteries as needed. This one is for the “Sick Call” display in our Camp Life gallery.  The doctor here is heard ordering treatments of arsenic and the “blue pill”, which contained mercury, for the soldiers.

If I am going to find anything out of place, it is usually here in our Ambulance Evacuation gallery. People love to put on the wounded soldier’s (reproduction) kepi. It makes for some interesting footage on our security tapes! We have taken notice of this though, and are currently discussing a possible new interactive display in which visitors could try on various pieces of a soldier’s uniform.

     That concludes the walk-through of the second floor, next we go downstairs to the first floor of the museum.

This display is a recreation of a Field Dressing Station on the Gettysburg Battlefield. Notice the reproduction of a medical knapsack. Visitors sometimes leave more modern medicines in the empty slots – I’ve found travel-sized bottles of over-the-counter pain relievers and even packets of Mylanta inside!

Drat! I couldn’t get through this walk-through without spotting a burned out light bulb. I’ll have to change that before the museum opens.

A few people like to pull back the sheet on the “corpse” in our embalming display. Sometimes I am tempted to put a real person there instead, who could open their eyes and say something when the sheet was moved!

Here is part of our final exhibit which shows how modern medicine has been influenced by Civil War medicine. Pictured here is Sam (Soldier At Museum), a more modern Combat Medic than the one shown on the Gettysburg Battlefield. I have to secure the various pockets and pouches on his uniform fairly regularly. People seem to be curious as to whether the actual medical gear is stored there. I imagine they feel pretty sheepish when they discover blocks of wood!

     That concludes today’s walk-through of the museum.  We’re all ready for visitors now.  I hope that their surprises are in what they learn here!

Photos courtesy of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.

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