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The Museum’s four floors are filled with extraordinary artifacts, as well as paintings, illustrations and sculptures that interpret the primitive and modern healing practices of Eastern and Western civilizations. From early practices to today’s revolutionary techniques, the Museum’s collections and exhibitions portray the mysteries, breakthroughs, failures, and milestones that have shaped modern surgical science. Museum exhibits are installed according to theme or surgical discipline.

Musuem Exhibits / Contemporary Art Projects

Museum Exhibits

Diagnostic Detectives: Pathology in Modern Medical Practice
Pathology is the science of the causes and effects of disease in the body. This new exhibit at the IMSS looks at the process of laboratory diagnostics as detective work, and includes a rich display of historic microscopes and calculi.

The Body Illustrated
The Museum's exhibit on the life and work of Andreas Vesalius uses the occasion of the medieval anatomist’s 500th birthday to celebrate the historic breadth of medical illustration, both in its didactic and discursive capacities. The exhibit uses Vesalius' six volume Magnum Opus “De humani corporis Fabrica” (or, “On the Fabric of The Human Body”), as a central tether for artifacts, illustrations, prints and manuscripts pulled from the IMSS permanent collection. Featuring 18th century surgeon's kits, human skulls and antique prints of the Fabrica itself, “The Body Illustrated” showcases anatomy and medical illustration as an exploration of the body's intricacy and a celebration of form.

Beyond Broken Bones
Orthopedics is the branch of medicine devoted to the musculoskeletal system of the body, which includes the bones, muscles, and joints that enable us to move. The orthopedic specialty treats people in every stage of life—from infants born with limb deformities, to athletes suffering from sports injuries, to seniors living with arthritis and osteoporosis—because mobility is a universal concern.

Japan Hall of Fame
Japanese surgeons have exported many great medical advances around the world, pioneering such surgical frontiers as ultrasound, anesthetics and surgical stapling. This exhibit highlights many of the contributions Japanese surgeons have made to modern surgical science.

Milestones in Medical Imaging: From X-Ray to Nuclear Medicine
“ I didn’t think, I investigated” – with these words in 1895, Wilhelm Roentgen acknowledged the discovery of a major landmark in modern life: the x-ray. This exhibit interprets the fascinating story of the medical imaging pioneers and the progress in over a century of medical imaging.

Milestones in Medical Imaging: 21st Century Medicine
Radiopharmaceuticals, the gamma camera, the PET scanner, and the balloon catheter have revolutionized the world of medical imaging. These new imaging technologies form the basis of 21st century medicine, allowing doctors an unparalleled look inside the body.

Nursing: Care for a Changing World
From the wise women of ancient ceremonies to certified medical specialists, nurses have made their own path in the world, innovating and organizing to bring care from the operating table to the battlefields. Nursing has rarely been more important than today and remains a profession ever striving for new roles to care for the world.

Rx for Success
Doctors and nurses may be the first professionals that come to mind when thinking about medicine, but in fact, 60% of healthcare providers fall into neither of those categories, and numerous health-related occupations do not even involve the delivery of patient care. This exhibit illustrates the rich variety of careers available within the fields of radiology, medical laboratory science, health information management, and biomedical engineering.

Polio Exhibit
In the early 20th century, polio killed or crippled hundreds of thousands of people every year, most of them children. Today, there are fewer than 400 cases a year. This exhibit tells the story of Rotary’s commitment to making polio the second human disease (after smallpox) to be eradicated globally.The centerpiece is a rare iron lung.

Supporting Structure: Understanding the Spine and Spinal Surgery
Following Hippocrates’ declaration that knowledge of the spine “is the requisite of understanding many diseases,” this exhibit pays tribute to the spine’s important role in the body by highlighting historical methods of treating spinal injury, and showcasing the technological and surgical advances that have revolutionized the field.

Surgicogenomics: Genes and Stem Cells in Surgery
This exhibit explores this cutting-edge medical field of surgicogenomics that is emerging from the intersection of genetics and stem cell research and surgical practice.

Taiwan Room
Taiwanese medical luminaries have made ground-breaking achievements in fields ranging from organ transplantation to public health. This exhibit celebrates Taiwan's outstanding contributions to global medicine through interactive touch-screen kiosks, engaging videos, and displays of hand-crafted artwork, cultural artifacts, and antique medical tools.

Turn of the Century Apothecary Shop
Rows of patent medicines, a prescription book and tools of the trade take you inside Dr. Uriah Jones’s Apothecary. This shop was created from two pharmacies originally located in upstate New York and Iowa. Near the apothecary are an early 20th century dentist’s office and an exhibit on patent medicines.

The Universal Condition: Enduring and Alleviating Pain
Nearly every human being experiences pain at some point in life. This exhibit examines issues in the perception of pain and chronicles medicine’s quest to relieve it, from the ancient use of psychoactive plants to contemporary laser therapy, focusing on milestones such as the discovery of anesthesia.

Windows to the World: The Science of Sight and the Ophthalmic Art
Through over 1,000 objects, the collection illustrates a comprehensive history of ophthalmology and the development of spectacles and other vision aids. Located in a striking gallery within the Museum’s historic landmark mansion, this exhibit is one of the most extensive exhibits on ophthalmic history in the United States, and the largest in the Midwest.

Contemporary Art Projects

Stevie Hanley: Synaesthetica
Synaesthesia is a neurological phenomenon in which one sense perception elicits the response of another. For example, a “synesthete” might hear a color or taste a smell. while pronounced forms of the condition are rare, it is not uncommon to experience some feeling of intermingled or blurred sensory perception at some point in life. For Chicago-based artist Stevie Hanley, it is these moments of “everyday synaesthesia” that inform the body of work presented here at the International Museum of Surgical Science. In “Synaesthetica,” Stevie Hanley compiles these crossed experiences as an intricate web of metonymy and double entendres.

4th Floor North
4th Floor North is a history lab. It exists as part of the International Museum of Surgical Science’s mission to conduct innovative research on its own unique collection of surgical instruments and paraphernalia, art and artifacts and archival materials. 4th Floor North exhibits an ever-changing conversation between the Museum Curator, the Artists in Residence, who utilize the gallery for research and as studio space, and the Museum’s permanent collection. The objects on display are changing constantly, and reflect the diversity of the collection and the researchers who work with it.

4th Floor North
See past exhibits  

1524 N. Lake Shore Dr.
Chicago, IL 60610 USA
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Monday: Closed
Tuesday: 10 am to 4 pm
Wednesday: 10 am to 4 pm
Thursday: 10 am to 4 pm
Friday: 10 am to 4 pm
Saturday: 10 am to 5 pm
Sunday: 10 am to 5 pm

Last admission will be taken one hour before the closing time.