Looking for something offbeat and interesting to do with your out-of-town (or in-town) medical professional relatives or friends when they visit Sacramento? Perhaps you are a history buff or a budding novelist. Take a couple of hours and visit the Sierra Sacramento Valley Museum (SSVMS) of Medical History on Elvas Avenue in East Sacramento. The medical museum is a resource worth checking into. If you are thinking of researching a murder mystery, they have lots of items that could give you ideas and information. They also have a library providing resources for you.
Cindy, Carol and I visited here recently. You can go any weekday during their business hours. A docent may be available if you arrange in advance. Or you and your friends can wing it like we did. The majority of display cases and exhibits at the medical museum have explanatory placards. Some things, however, may leave you with even more questions. That is not a bad thing.
A wide array of medical devices are on display. We saw quite a bit of pharmacological material as well. This made us very glad for the mini-education we’d received the prior month at the Pharmacy Museum. That helped put much of what we saw in context.
We were impressed with the history of women in medicine. There were more female doctors than I thought. Maybe not in percentage, but they were there forging alongside their male counterparts.
One can be overwhelmed by the cases crammed with items. Don’t rush past them. Stop, look, and be amazed. Among other fascinating artifacts and exhibits, you will see:
As soon as you enter the front door you find yourself standing next to an Iron Lung. This is a large cylindrical chamber that was used to control air pressure on the lungs of a polio patient keeping him alive. It is a frightening reminder of the epidemic of the late 1950s.
Epidemic globe -- we saw a few of these clear glass fixtures at the Pharmacy Museum. We learned at the medical museum that the color of the liquid inside denoted which dread disease was abounding in the community.
A display of artificial heart valves. Did you know some of these were developed in 1960s by local heart surgeons such as Dr. Ed Smeloff? We saw the device and also the newspaper article with his photo.
Collections of quackery devices and patent medicines. Some of this stuff boggles the mind. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to revisit the medical museum with a docent who specialized in that!
Nurse uniforms from past eras are on display, including several versions of the iconic nurse’s cap.
Prize-winning exhibit by local high school students on the 1918 flu epidemic. Seeing how far and how quickly this flu epidemic spread during a time without air travel was amazing. Imagine today, with air travel, how far an epidemic would reach within 24 hours.
There is a poster that depicts "Exercising in Bed." A bit weird-looking but could be useful!
Be sure to check out the historical ads posted on the restroom walls. Do you remember the cigarette ad, "More doctors smoke Camels"?
It was interesting to note, when wandering through the museum and reading the dates for when medical advances were made and cures made available, it was not that long ago. Many discoveries happened less than a century ago - some less than 50 years ago.
We wondered how people survived and dealt with many ailments back then. We take many of these cures for granted now. A trip to the Sierra Sacramento Valley Museum of Medical History will have you appreciating modern advances in medicine - that is for sure!
One marvels at the industry of people to devote their lives to curing and helping others. But some things don’t change. Many ailments and treatments, such as the treatment for a dislocated shoulder, are still the same as generations and centuries ago.