Thursday, August 8, 2013

Acquiring an Ambulance

     One of the interesting aspects of writing a blog is in seeing the statistics for it. I can see how many people view it, what countries they are from, which posts are the most popular, and what search requests are used to find my blog. One search which appears fairly often is, “Do museums buy artifacts?” The answer varies by museum, but for the NMCWM the answer is, not often! Today I’m going to talk about an exception to that though.

     You may recall that last year I wrote about a reproduction ambulance wagon which was on loan to the Pry House Field Hospital Museum, and was on display in the barn. Since the Pry Barn was used as a field hospital during the Battle of Antietam, it has probably “seen” many ambulance wagons pass by its doors. So, it’s quite fitting to have an ambulance on display in the barn.  In case you missed it, the link to that post is here.  
     Though technically it is not an artifact, the ambulance was very popular with our visitors, and it added to our interpretation of the Pry House and Barn. So, when we were offered the chance to purchase a different reproduction ambulance, we knew we had to find a way to make it happen! Normally, we have to rely on the generosity of people who donate artifacts to our museum. In this case, we will need to raise the money to purchase this ambulance, so we will be hoping for the generosity of people to donate to our “Help Us Keep This Ambulance!” fund.

The ambulance is on loan to us for now. It is a fully-functional reproduction of a Rucker ambulance. If we are able to purchase it, we will refurbish it so that it can continue to be used in our exhibit in the Pry Barn, as well as in some hands-on programs.

      During the Civil War, ambulance wagons were essential for quickly transporting wounded soldiers from the battlefields to the hospitals. At the beginning of the war, many of the ambulances were two-wheeled wagons. While they were lighter and faster than the four-wheeled wagons, they broke down more often, and did not offer a smooth ride for the patients being transported. Soldiers often referred to these two-wheeled wagons as “gut-busters!”

      The four-wheeled ambulances were soon favored. They were equipped with springs in the undercarriage which greatly improved the ride for the patients. They also could carry more patients, they broke down less often than the two-wheeled version, and when they did break down they were easier to repair.

In this photo, probably taken at Fredericksburg, Virginia, the 57th N.Y. Ambulance Corps is shown removing wounded soldiers from the field. Notice that there are two-wheeled and four-wheeled ambulance wagons in use. My eye was also drawn to that adjustable stretcher which is visible on the left side of the photo. I’ll have to cover that in a future post! Library of Congress image.

      To read a little more about our ambulance wagon and about Civil War medicine, click here.

      So, if we want to keep this ambulance wagon, we have some fundraising work to do now. I’m hoping that in the near future I will be able to report that we own the ambulance!

Photos courtesy of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, except where otherwise noted.

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