Albert Sabin archival collection digitized

June 5, 2013


June 3, 2013 –The University of Cincinnati Libraries have completed a three-year project to digitize the correspondence and photographs of Albert B. Sabin, developer of the oral polio vaccine and distinguished service professor at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Research Foundation from 1939-1969.

The collection is freely and publicly available via the Albert B. Sabin website at and includes approximately 35,000 letters and accompanying documents totaling 50,000 pages of correspondence between Sabin and political, cultural, social, and scientific leaders around the world. Also included are nearly 1,000 photographs documenting the events and activities worldwide that were part of Sabin’s crusade to eradicate polio.


The project, funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, is a “We the People” initiative designed to encourage and strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture through the support of projects that explore significant events and themes in our nation’s history and culture and that advance knowledge of the principles that define America.

In addition to providing easy access to the 50,000 pages of digitized correspondence and photos, the Albert B. Sabin website includes a biography and timeline of Sabin’s life and career, a section about the vaccination program referred to as “Sabin Sundays,” and information about the complete Sabin Collection, which encompasses 400 linear feet and consists of correspondence, laboratory notebooks, manuscripts, photographs, audio and video recordings, and other research papers generated by Sabin during his long and active medical career from 1930-1993. Also included on the website are lessons plans created to encourage high school teachers to use the Sabin digital collection in their classrooms.

More on the replica Iron Lung

September 18, 2012

“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if people could get into (the iron lung),’ but I couldn’t let them into the real one that we have,” said Cassie Nespor, museum curator.

Enter Andy Phillips, YSU carpenter and primary force behind the effort to build a replica “iron lung” that visitors could get in and experience the feeling patients would have had 60 years ago when the devices were used to treat polio.”

Read the full story from our campus news here.


Its here!

July 8, 2012

The replica Iron Lung is finally here!

This custom-made Iron Lung was created so that visitors can actually go *inside* an Iron Lung and experience what it felt like to be encased in the bright yellow chamber. Polio victims would have lived like this for weeks- or even years!

It has a bed that slides out, LED lights inside, and a mirror above the head rest. It is modeled after the Emerson respirator at the museum which was built in the early 1950s.

The Emerson respirator

The Emerson respirator

We hope you can visit the museum for this unique experience. Its sure to be a highlight of any trip to the Rose Melnick Medical Museum!

“Life in the Lung” photo exhibit

June 22, 2012

Bobby Hill, three months old, is the youngest polio victim ever treated in an Iron Lung at Cincinnati General Hospital. (1954)

The Rose Melnick Medical Museum will host a new temporary exhibit called “Life in the Lung” from Friday, July 6th to Friday, August 17th. The museum will hold special weekend hours for Summer Festival of the Arts.
Saturday, July 7th: 10am to 7pm
Sunday, July 8th: 11am to 5pm

Betty Sue Martin, 5, can still smile after 35 days in an Iron Lung at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The child was brought from North Carolina when her respiratory system was paralyzed after an attack of diphtheria. (1937)

The exhibit will feature 20 photographs of patients in respirators, many in Iron Lungs. The photographs range from 1930 to 1959, when polio was at its peak in the United States and respirators were just coming into use. Most of the photographs will be accompanied by their original captions in the exhibit.
The photographs were loaned to the museum by Steve DeGenaro, a YSU graduate of the Respiratory Care program who collects historical medical photography and lives in Poland, OH.
Admission to the museum and the special exhibit is free.

“Love is the winner” (1959)
Calvin Leonard, 30, leans over to pose with his polio-stricken bride, Margaret Schreiber, 30, following their wedding here [New York] yesterday. Margaret, paralyzed from the neck down for eight years, wears a portable respirator. They met in the hospital where Margaret was a patient and Calvin was a volunteer worker. He proposed last summer, but it was not until Christmas day that Margaret finally consented.

Anyone want to try out the Iron Lung?

March 7, 2012

Its time to announce an exciting addition to the Rose Melnick Medical Museum- a replica iron lung!

Right now its still under construction, but it should be ready to go in April. Once its installed in the “Life in the Lung” exhibit, visitors will be able to go inside and experience what it felt like to be “inside the Lung.”

Our replica is made to full scale and features windows, arm ports (to be added), interior lights, and a padded bed that slides into the chamber. It will be painted yellow to match the real Iron Lung.

I’m not aware of any other museum that has something like this were visitors can get this first-hand experience. Please let me know if you’ve seen one somewhere!

Radio interview

August 15, 2011

Last week I had my first radio interview! It was for the Ohio Reading Radio Service, which is a special radio station that reads newspapers and magazines to blind people. I did 2 half hour segments for their “Insights” show. We talked about my educational background, the museum collection, and plans to make the exhibits more accessible to blind onsite visitors through audio clips and touchable objects. It was a lot of fun!

To hear the interview click here.

Hear the Iron Lung at work!

January 27, 2010

The Melnick Museum has digitized a recording of a March of Dimes fund raising drive from 1952. The drive was held to replenish funds after a recent polio epidemic. During the 20 minute radio program, the announcer Mr. Caldwell interviews three families who were affected by polio. (One of the interviewed children, Judy Shakley, donated the phonograph recordings to the Museum in 2002.) The recording also features the sound of the iron lung while in operation. The three children (ages 7 to 11) talk about what it was like to be inside of iron lung.

Download the mp3 recording here.

The iron lung respirator provides artificial respiration for patients who have a temporary condition that weakens or prohibits their natural breathing capabilities. It is often associated with polio victims, but it can be used to treat many other diseases and conditions.

At the time of this recording in 1952, a vaccine for polio was right around the corner. Jonas Salk performed a trial of his killed vaccine that same year, and it was approved for mass immunizations by 1955. The Sabin vaccine, which provided protection against all three strains of polio, was developed by 1962.

To see an Iron Lung respirator used for polio patients and to learn more about polio, visit the Rose Melnick Medical Museum’s online exhibit “Life in the Iron Lung: Polio and the modern respirator.”

Polio survivors face new challenges

May 13, 2009

On Monday, National Public Radio aired a story about Dr. Lauro Halstead, a doctor who published his research about what would come to be known as post-polio syndrome (PPS) 25 years ago this month. Halstead’s research described PPS as a condition that affects polio survivors decades after they were first struck by the disease and causes new weakening in muscles and joints, as well as general fatigue and exhaustion after minimal activity. For his work to educate the medical community about PPS, some polio survivors call him the “champion of the post-polio community.”

One of the reasons Halstead can speak with authority about the condition is that he survived polio and now experiences the symptoms of PPS himself. At 73 years old, he continues to work and the list of patients waiting to see him is growing. He uses a motorized scooter to get around, wears a leg brace, and takes naps in the afternoon to help his fatigue. When he talks with patients about ways to live with PPS, he often suggests some of the techniques that have helped him. Sometimes its a hard sell. Polio survivors have usually worked hard to regain a “normal” life and are proud of being independent people. Trying to convince them that they need to slow down and use canes, braces, or wheelchairs is difficult because they feel like they’re giving in to the disease.

National health and polio organizations estimate that there are between 440,000 and 775, 000 polio survivors alive today. PPS may effect 25-60% of them. At the same time, the number of doctors specializing in polio is falling as the disease is defeated. The number of people infected with polio was greatly reduced in the 1950s and 1960s as vaccines were created and there hasn’t been a new case of polio in the United States since 1979. Dr. Halstead is one of just a handful of doctors who specializes in polio but he’d like to retire. He’s hoping to find a young doctor that he can mentor to take over his practice first.

The NPR website for this story contains the original radio broadcast and a summary of the story. It also includes many postings from polio survivors suffering from PPS in which they talk about the ways they have learned to cope with the symptoms.

PBS “Polio Crusade”

February 4, 2009

On Monday night, “The Polio Crusade” aired on PBS’s American Experience. The hour long show documented the role of President Roosevelt and the March of Dimes organization in the effort to eradicate the disease. While new advances were being made in the treatment of polio patients, scientists were also racing to find a vaccine. Dr. Albert Sabin, who worked at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and was the head of pediatric research at the University of Cincinnati, was steadily developing a vaccine using live strands of the polio virus. Another scientist, Dr. Jonas Salk, received support from the March of Dimes and set up a bustling laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh. He quickly developed a vaccine using the killed virus and was ready to test his vaccine by 1954. Thousands of children received shots. Sabin’s live vaccine, while more effective against multiple types of polio and providing lifelong immunity without booster shots, was not fully licensed until 1962. It quickly became the preferred vaccine. It was effective and easy to administer because was mixed with distilled water and taken orally. During the winter of 1961-1962 Youngstown, OH was one of the first immunization programs to use Sabin’s vaccine. It was administered in schools and even at sporting events.

The Youngstown State University Archives has digitized photographs of this immunization program given by Dr. Kurt Wegner. Dr. Wegner was the Polio Program chairman of the Mahoning County Medical Society.

To see an Iron Lung respirator used for polio patients and to learn more about polio, visit the Rose Melnick Medical Museum’s online exhibit “Life in the Iron Lung: Polio and the modern respirator.”


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 25 other followers