New medical museum opens
If you go
Medicine’s Hall of Fame & Museum opened Feb. 19 at 6801 Hedge Lane Terrace, which is near the southwest corner of Shawnee Mission Parkway and Kansas Highway 7. The facility will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $5 per person.
Those who would like to arrange guided tours for groups of 10 or more are asked to call 913-888-0777.
No one will ask you to say “ah” at Medicine’s Hall of Fame & Museum, now open in western Shawnee. But Dr. Bruce Hodges, whose collection of more than 4,500 medical artifacts fills the attraction, can promise several “aha” moments.
Hodges, a 79-year-old physician, started his collection 35 years ago. But his fascination with medicine began much earlier, when he was stricken at age 10 by osteomyelitis, a bone infection then considered incurable. Fortunately, the ability of penicillin to kill disease-causing bacteria was discovered in 1928, and in the early 1940s, Hodges became one of the first patients to be treated with it.
Thus, Hodges and his wife, Cathy Hodges, have included penicillin’s discoverer, Sir Alexander Fleming, in the hall of fame portion of their new facility at 6801 Hedge Lane Terrace.
The Hodgeses had hoped to have the 15,000-square-foot facility opened by last October. But exhibit design and remodeling of the former Harley-Davidson dealership took a lot more time and money than expected.
“We went way over budget,” said Dr. Hodges, who is hoping for grant support to augment admission revenue. “Oh well, you can’t take it with you.”
The doctor, whose artifacts were culled from more than 20 countries, said he and his wife invested so heavily because they wanted to adequately tell the story of “Medicine Now from Medicine Past” — the attraction’s slogan.
The museum tells that story through exhibits focusing on different countries, Native Americans, diseases, medicines, medical specialties and other areas of interest.
In the Egyptian section, many visitors will experience an “aha” moment upon viewing a painting of the Eye of Horus, believed to be the origin of the Rx symbol associated with prescription medicines. According to mythology, Horus was a god whose father, Osiris, was murdered by his evil brother, Seth. In trying to avenge his father’s death, Horus’ eye was cut out by his uncle Seth. But the eye was magically restored by the god Thoth, and after Horus went on to defeat Seth, stylized depictions of his eye lived on as a symbol of restored health and divine help for the suffering.
Another enlightening story, about America’s first president, is told within an exhibit on smallpox. According to Dr. Hodges, George Washington contracted the disease in Barbados at age 19. Though he was not among the 80 percent of smallpox victims who died from the disease, Washington was left with considerable facial scarring, he said. Thus, when artist Gilbert Stuart painted the portrait of Washington that today graces the $1 bill, he had to “doctor” the image considerably, Hodges said.
According to Dr. Hodges, the smallpox exhibit also tells the broader, more inspiring story of “how a disease can be eradicated from the face of the earth if everyone cooperates with immunization efforts.” Smallpox was eradicated in 1977, and polio is expected to be the third disease eradicated worldwide in the near future.
A polio exhibit tells the story of the eradication fight launched in 1988 by the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the Rotary Foundation. It also includes artifacts, such as iron lungs, that illuminate the history of fighting the disease and its epidemics.
Other artifacts include an antique wheelchair similar to one that polio-stricken President Franklin D. Roosevelt used, assortments of everything from ear trumpets to African witch doctor masks, and one of the fluoroscopes that were fixtures in shoe stores during the 1930s through ’50s,
Asked if the fluoroscope worked, Dr. Hodges assured that it did not; otherwise the museum would be shut down. Equipped with portholes that allowed X-ray views of customers’ foot bones and the outlines of the shoes they were trying on, the devices were banned after it was discovered that they emitted dangerous levels of radiation.
Another hazard, strychnine, used to serve as an ingredient in various stimulants, Dr. Hodges said. Such concoctions are among hundreds of patent and prescription medicines on display in a collection of pharmaceutical artifacts dating to the 1600s.
Near the front of the museum is another 17th century artifact: a two-volume set of medical books by Hippocratis, the Greek physician. And nearby is a collection of medical artifacts from more than 20 Native American tribes. They include an 1870s healing drum used by a secret society of the Chippewa tribe and a rare Lakota medicine pipe. According to Hodges, it’s similar to one that was used by Sitting Bull, the chief medicine man of the Sioux who united various tribes to bring down Gen. George Custer.
Other curiosities include an example of the head-shrinking technique mastered by the Jivaro Indians of Ecuador and Peru and a pathology section that includes embalming tables and pumps. “You have to have some of the macabre,” Hodges said.
Another exhibit, featuring a barber’s chair once used in a murder, represents the macabre wrapped in mystery. But Hodges prefers that clues to the mystery be learned firsthand — by paying visitors.