History of the Medical Museum

The stimulus for the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics (UIHC) Medical Museum was the donation of a case of surgical instruments to the UIHC by Phoebe Wilcox of Newton, Iowa, in 1982. These instruments belonged to her grandfather, Dr. Vinton S. Wilcox, who was a member of the fourth graduating class of the University of Iowa Medical Department in 1874, and who became a general practitioner in Malcom, Iowa. With these instruments as one of many exhibits designed to appeal to an audience of patients, visitors, the hospital community, and the general public, the Museum opened in February, 1989.

First University Hospital

1. First University Hospital, circa 1920. Photo courtesy of UI Libraries, Archives

The Museum serves as an educational resource focusing on the progress of medicine and patient care and emphasizing the major role of University Hospitals in these advances. In this way, the study of health in Iowa illustrates the history of medicine and the health sciences. Through rotating and traveling exhibits of photographs, artifacts, and "hands-on" activities, visitors can view the advances in patient care from the time of the ancients to the present day. The Museum also sponsors a lecture series open to the general public on topics related to current exhibitions, on the history of health care, and on medical and ethical issues.

Wide View of EyeThe makeup of the human body and the facts of disease and injury have remained basically unchanged for thousands of years. However, scientific understanding of the body and of pathological mechanisms has gradually improved, leading to remarkable advances in medical care. Major revolutions in medicine-from antibiotics to robotics-as well as rapidly changing notions of health and health care are documented by the Medical Museum. Our exhibits offer a glimpse into the structure and functions of the human body, and acquaint visitors with some of the most common diseases and injuries. They also show how the UI Hospitals & Clinics has met these challenges and continues to find new answers as we head into the twenty-first century.
2. The Medical Museum