Thursday, December 1, 2011

Health Museum Exhibits

HINSDALE HEALTH MUSEUM. Hinsdale, Illinois. Thousands annually visit the Hinsdale Health Museum to learn more about themselves. The exhibits, many operated by push-buttons and equipped with moving parts, telephones and loudspeakers, tell the dramatic story of human biology. [This is a view of the medical center building where the museum was located.]

This beautiful exhibit is an artist's representation of magnified body cells. Here a visitor learns how he began as a single cell which multiplied into 30 trillion cells, and all manner of other amazing things about these wonderful "units of life."

Valeda, Hinsdale's famous Talking Glass Lady, is the star attraction of the Health Museum. Created by a medical artist in Cologne, Germany, Valeda is a lifesize plexiglas figure whose organs light up one by one as she herself tells the wonderful story of how they work.

The story of human reproduction is beautifully told in a series of lifelike sculpture studies by Adam Belskie, Fellow of the National Sculpture Society, based on hundreds of X-ray pictures made by Robert L Dickinson, M.D.

Two of the many popular things to do at the Health Museum are to see and hear one's own heartbeat by means of the combined oscilloscope and stethoscope equipped with amplifier, and to test one's lung capacity with the Vitalometer.

Partial view of the unique brain exhibit. The transmission of messages along nerve pathways is demonstrated. The memory process is explained. Motor and sensory centers are located on the giant brain model by use of an electric wand.

The eye exhibit clearly demonstrates what happens in near- and far-sightedness and explains how glasses help. The ear lights up step by step, as a narrator tells of the miracle of hearing. The greatly magnified section of skin makes plain all the many functions of the body's largest organ.

The inside of the mouth, nose, and throat are visible from both front and rear of the Big Face, so that taste areas, structure of the nose, the adenoids, the tonsils, the Eustachian tubes, the epiglottis, the vocal chords, and the esophagus may be observed.

The Sepia Saturday 103 prompt is a 1961 photo of a public health nurse. The postcards of the Hinsdale Health Museum shown above are also circa 1961. The text below the images is copied from the back of the postcards. More information and images from the early years of this health museum can be found in a 1959 article about the Hinsdale Health Museum in Public Health Reports (PDF version). There are also unpublished photos in the LIFE photo archives hosted on Google. Here are a couple of the LIFE images:

The Hinsdale Health Museum was moved to a different location and renamed the Robert Crown Center for Health Education in 1974.

Visit Sepia Saturday for more vintage images.


  1. That is one place I would have loved to have visited. I was a child in 1961 and I can just imagine myself being awestruck by those wonderful exhibits.

  2. This is the sort of place I would always go to. I'm glad it still exists albeit in a different location. It would be interesting to see what has been updated and what is new in today's museum.

  3. Looks like they have some interesting, hands on exhibets.

  4. Interesting indeed. I walked through the heart at the Benjamin Franklin Science Institute in Philadelphia. I think it's extra interesting that your postcards are from the same year as the inspiration photo.

  5. That glass lady looks a bit scary! lol ♥

  6. What an interesting place - I wonder if they had anything which would make you squeamish! Jo

  7. So very interesting! I would have been fascinated. Great post.

    Kathy M.

  8. These are superb postcards and ones I'd love to have myself. I've been trying to build up a medical related set of cards but it isn't too easy.

  9. I love these. I'd love to visit the Muckenthaler Museum, which is a medical museum that has some really crazy exhibits!

  10. That really does look like a fascinating place to visit. We have some medical and health museums over here - but not as inventive and interactive as the one you feature.

  11. Great post - would love to visit the museum. I love the Medical History Museum that is part of the Smithsonian. Sadly, it is rarely included in DC tours!

  12. I believe I would have enjoyed visiting this when I was young.
    It looked good for the time.


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