The exhibit “Life in ‘The Lung': Polio and the Modern Respirator” explains the causes, history, mysteries, and effects of the dreaded polio virus and the large, metal contraption that was used to keep its victims alive–the respirator or “iron lung.”
Polio, or more properly poliomyelitis, was one of the most feared diseases of the twentieth century. This exhibit presents the evolution of the iron lung in drawings and illustrations from an 1864 design by Alfred F. Jones, to the modern respirator of J. H. Emerson, an example of which is on display in the gallery. An educational video on the development of the polio vaccine accompanies the exhibit, as well as a time-line that traces the history of the disease from its earliest evidence in ancient Egypt to its eradication from the Western hemisphere in the late 1970s. Accompanying the video are twenty historic photographs and text explaining the mass polio immunization in the Youngstown area. Youngstown was one of the first cities in the United States to conduct a massive immunization using the Sabin oral vaccine. This story is presented in great detail, which adds a local flavor to the exhibit.