The Museum’s four floors are filled with extraordinary artifacts, as well as paintings and sculptures that interpret the primitive and modern healing practices of Eastern and Western civilizations. The Museum’s collections and exhibits portray the mysteries and milestones that have shaped modern surgical science.
Medical artifacts, apparatus and instruments comprise the bulk of the material in the Museum’s collections. Over 7,000 medical artifacts spanning centuries of worldwide medical history, from acupuncture to X-ray therapy, are represented in the collections. Among the exceptional artifacts are an Austrian amputation saw with reversible blade (c. 1500); original X-rays taken by radiology pioneer Emil Grubbé (c. 1910); the Lindbergh perfusion pump, which enabled doctors to keep organs functioning outside the body, invented by the renowned aviator Charles Lindbergh and Nobel Prize-winning surgeon Alexis Carrel (1935); and a unique collection of heart valves donated by Dr. Juro Wada (c. 1960-80).
Fine art is featured in the collections through over 600 paintings, prints and sculptures, primarily portraits of individuals and historical depictions of specific procedures or events. Highlights include a portrait of Dr. Edward Jenner by John Russell (1790), and the original plaster cast of the death mask of Napoleon (1821). Significant artworks were commissioned by the Museum for the collections in 1950-53 including the Hall of Immortals and Hall of Murals.
The Museum Library contains over 5,000 books and bound journals, including extremely rare early medical books from the 16 th to 18 th centuries.
The manuscript collection contains over 650 letters and papers from prominent figures in medical history, extending over four centuries, donated by Dr. Max Thorek in 1954. This collection includes documents from Edward Jenner, Florence Nightingale, Thomas Guy, Laennec, Langenback, Bergmann, Billroth, Malpighi, Rush, Wistar, and many others.