Interesting Smithsonian exhibits on medicine

Common Threads exhibit by Jean Shin at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art:

This exhibit is made out of a collection of similar everyday objects. For example, “Chemical Balance III” makes lighted stalactite- and stalagmite-like sculptures out of empty prescriptions containers. According to the artist, this part of the exhibit speaks to a dependency on prescription medications.” Other installations include “Chance City” which is a cityscape made out of thousands of losing lottery tickets. “Everyday Moments” mimics the landscaping of the National Mall with old donated trophies. Find out more about the exhibit here. Look at behind the scenes photographs of this exhibit being installed at Jean Shin: Common Threads on Flickr.


“Balm of America” collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History:

This is an interesting and valuable database of patent medicines that has a wide range of audience and use. The product names and ingredients are amusing to almost anyone. For example, Dr. Strong’s Life Force Pills, Kickapoo Indian Sagwa Renovator, and Johnson’s Carbolic Salve. At the same time, this is a valuable tool for anyone researching over the counter medicine, drug use, or popular culture during the 19th century. Here’s the description from the Smithsonian website:

The Smithsonian Institution began to collect objects related to health and medicine in 1881. It first obtained examples of patent medicines in 1930, acquiring packages of Haarlem Oil (or Dutch Drops), Dr. John Hooper’s Female Pills, and Roche’s Herbal Embrocation.  Since then the Smithsonian’s collection of patent medicines has expanded to over 4,000 products, dating from the 19th century to the present day. The online exhibit “Balm of America” features examples from this collection, found in the Division of Medicine and Science at the National Museum of American History.  Each entry includes a photo of the object, the product’s name, maker’s name, place of manufacture, and a date range.  Ingredients and therapeutic claims are included when indicated on the product packaging.

Lane's Cold Tablets

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