Wednesday, April 13, 2011


PLACE: Saint Louis Science Center
DATES: Opens July 2, 2011 (closing date has not been determined)
COST: Free

The Civil War was fought at a time when the practice of medicine was primitive compared to today’s standards. Little was known about what caused disease; there was minimal training for doctors; and some surgical procedures were left over from the Middle Ages. During the four-year conflict more than three million men fought in the war and approximately 620,000 Union and Confederate soldiers died. Many soldiers died from a bullet on the battlefield, but disease and wounds claimed even more lives than battlefield casualties.

Throughout the war both the North and South worked to improve medical care for their soldiers and through the experience gained valuable knowledge. The lessons learned in the ramshackle field hospitals all over the country contributed to advances in medicine. Doctors became better at surgery; the implementation of medical records was established; the service of female nurses in the hospitals elevated the importance of women in medicine; and the medical community gained a greater understanding of the relationship between cleanliness and disease.

To mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the Saint Louis Science Center has produced an abbreviated exhibit that will give the visitor a glimpse into the medicine and technology of the Civil War. Drawing from the Science Center’s Collections, the exhibit features authentic medical objects from the mid- to late-1800s. The exhibit will feature a model of a Civil War-era field hospital supplied with both authentic objects and reproductions. This field hospital will give visitors the opportunity to discover what life was like for doctors and wounded soldiers on the battlefield. Period objects on display include a bullet extractor, an amputation kit, a field microscope, a stereoscope and historical photographs. Visitors will also have an opportunity to compare and contrast contemporary and Civil War-era medical instruments and objects. Interactive displays will allow the visitor to research “Mystery Medical Objects” and look through a Civil War stereoscope.

DIRECTIONS:Take I-64 west to the Kingshighway North / South exit. Turn left at S Kingshighway Blvd. Make a right on Oakland Avenue. The Science Center is on your left.

WE NEED YOUR HISTORY. Exhibition developers need help to tell St. Louis’ Civil War story. If you had a relative that served as a doctor, surgeon or nurse during the war or if you have medical or other objects or photographs from the period, please contact Debra McStay.

St. Louis Science Center website

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