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National Medical Museum Celebrates 150th Anniversary with Grand Opening Celebration, New Exhibits in New Maryland Home

May 16, 2012, Silver Spring, Md.: The National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM), founded as the Army Medical Museum in 1862, is celebrating its 150th anniversary with a grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house at its new location in Silver Spring, Maryland. Grand opening activities will take place on May 21, the precise date of the founding of the Army Medical Museum.

The ceremony is hosted by Maj. Gen. James A. Gilman, commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command at Fort Detrick, Maryland. NMHM's new location is on Fort Detrick's Forest Glen Annex in Silver Spring, and NMHM recently became an element of the USAMRMC.

The ceremony (by invitation only) will feature: Dr. Adrianne Noe, Director, NMHM; CAPT Craig Mallak, U.S. Navy, Armed Forces Medical Examiner; U.S. Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland; U.S. Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland; and former U.S. Army Surgeon General and former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Lt. Gen. James Peake (Ret.) A U.S. Air Force Brass Quintet will perform for the festivities.

The actual ribbon-cutting, however, will feature its own brand of medical-museum uniqueness: the official party will ‘cut' a strand of nerve-regeneration scaffolding developed by the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine, a program of the USAMRMC. Also known as bioactive conduits, these bio-synthetic products are being tested as platforms for nerve re-growth in service members recovering from nerve damage.

"One hundred and fifty years ago, this Museum's founders set out to study the nature of military medicine and under the most brutal of circumstances, learn what could be learned and share that knowledge with the world at large," said Adrianne Noe, Ph.D., director of the NMHM. "That mission continues today. Our new building and the momentum of this milestone event will serve as the catalyst for increased awareness of the national medical collection. We intend to remain committed to a mission as a museum that reminds the public of the value of military medicine."

After the formal ceremonies have concluded, the Museum will be open so that the public can participate on the actual day of the Museum's special anniversary. The Grand Opening Open House is set to run from 2-8 p.m. May 21. Admission and parking are both free and families are welcome.

NMHM's new 20,000 square foot facility opens on its 150th anniversary exactly two years since its official groundbreaking ceremonies in 2010. The new building project was led by the Baltimore District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers through their Fort Detrick, Maryland office. A design-build contract was awarded to Costello Construction of Columbia, Maryland in late 2009, and construction officially began during the summer of 2010. Building occupancy occurred just over one year later, in August 2011, to coincide with NMHM's required relocation from the Walter Reed campus in northwest Washington, D.C.

Costello Construction partnered with renowned architecture/engineering firm KlingStubbins of Washington, D.C., to design and build this one-of-a-kind facility. Its unique angled limestone exterior evokes a monumental feeling, while the building successfully qualifies for LEED-Silver status from the Green Building Council. The building's superstructure features an award-winning array of concrete, cast-in-place, tilt-up hung panels.

"Tilt-Up presented itself as the most cost effective way of constructing the building and delivering the 50-foot-clear spans of the museum's gallery spaces while creating a substrate that facilitated the vapor resistant requirements of the project," said David Costello, President of Costello Construction, in an online article about the project.

Exhibition design and installation was a team effort, bringing together two world-class locally-based firms. Gallagher and Associates also recently moved to Silver Spring, Maryland and led the nearly two-year exhibition design process from conceptual drawings to final artwork. Explus, Inc. of Dulles, Va., brought innovative solutions to challenging design issues and delivered a sterling package of exhibit cases designed to last decades. The Gallagher/Explus team-up was the result of another partnership: both firms were contracted through the Army's Corps of Engineers, but through different Corps district offices. The complicated process was negotiated by the Baltimore and Norfolk districts, bringing to a close a long effort perturbed only once by an earthquake (August 2011.)

NMHM's newest exhibit installations will showcase the institution's 25-million object collection, focusing on topics as diverse as innovations in military medicine, traumatic brain injury, anatomy and pathology, military medicine during the Civil War, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln (including the bullet that killed him), human identification and a special exhibition on the Museum's own major milestone—the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Army Medical Museum. Objects on display will include familiar artifacts and specimens: the bullet that killed Lincoln and a leg showing the effects of elephantiasis, as well as recent finds in the collection—all designed to astound visitors to the new Museum.

NMHM will continue to feature Civil War medicine in its new installations, calling back to its legacy as the Army Medical Museum and continuing a tradition of exhibitions on this topic that date to the institution's earliest days. The exhibit will feature a comprehensive examination of the Museum's holdings from that era, including skeletal remains and wet tissue specimens, surgical kits and other medical tools, examples of prosthetics and models showing efforts at medical evacuation during the war. The exhibit also features several rarely-seen, if ever exhibited, artifacts: the right arm of Captain Henry Wirz, known for his time as commander of the Confederate prisoner-of-war camp at Andersonville; a steamer trunk that belonged to renowned nurse Dorothea Dix; a pocket surgical kit that belonged to Mary Walker, the first woman to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor; the lower right leg of Major General Daniel E. Sickles, a perennial favorite at the Museum; the skull of a soldier of the revered 54th Massachusetts Volunteers, one of the war's first entirely black regiments; and a 40-foot wide hospital garrison flag.

Military medicine -- past, present and future -- is featured in the exhibit "Advances in Military Medicine" opening at NMHM as part of the 150th anniversary celebration. The exhibit features several topics related to innovations and challenges overcome by military medicine during the past 200 years, with artifacts drawn from across the Museum's collections. The war in Iraq is highlighted with the Museum's largest, heaviest artifact: the floor of an Air Force tent hospital that had been in service in Iraq for four years; the floor became known as the place where the most American lives were saved or lost since Vietnam. Other features of the military medicine exhibit are a presentation of advances in surgical kits and facial reconstruction, as well as artifacts relating to how military medicine has seen innovations in protecting, repairing, and rehabilitating the wounded service member. One of the many unique objects included in the new exhibit is Chauncey, a one-of-a-kind thermal manikin developed by the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine

A special feature of the military medicine exhibit is the Object Theater. Ten objects were selected from the Museum's collection and paired with video presentations by interviewees who spoke to those objects as testimonials to unique challenges or innovations in and throughout military medicine. Body armor, hand surgery, 3-D printing and field surgical kits are installed alongside another new acquisition: the doctor's kit from the White House physician who served during Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton's administrations. Each of the ten interviews yielded fascinating stories that collectively exemplify the ongoing evolutionary march of military medicine. The object theater was created in collaboration with GTOO Media, a museum media design company based out of Silver Spring, Maryland.

One of three multimedia installations at the new NMHM is Anatlab, brought to the Museum through a research collaboration with Eolas Technologies, Inc. AnatLab is a virtual anatomy laboratory for medical education. The web-based environment allows users user to navigate through human anatomy, using a knowledge base of more than 700,000 annotations covering more than 2,500 different named anatomical structures. The application derives from data in the National Library of Medicine's Visible Human Project, which includes images of a male human cadaver that was first frozen then sectioned prior to photographing and scanning each section. The data was eventually reconstructed using 3-D computer imaging software, and then resolved into the Anatlab application. Anatlab is installed on a multi-touch table that will offer visitors a unique interactive contrasted with the natural human specimens installed in nearby exhibit cases.

Visitors will be offered another unique feature of NMHM's new building: tremendous glass windows open onto the Museum's primary collections storage room while a smaller window allows visitors to peer into a future working museum conservation laboratory. "The windows are intended to invigorate the connection between the public and the collection itself," said spokesman Tim Clarke. "Visitors will be able to watch the Museum at work, as staff re-house artifacts and archival materials and prepare artifacts for future exhibits and study. We hope visitors will also be intrigued by new views into a working museum laboratory."

The view through those windows will also show the ends of the Museum's massive mobile shelving systems, and the ends of those towering shelves will be adorned with art from a long-time NMHM collaborator: Alexander Tsiaras of Anatomical Travelogue, LLC. Tsiaras is a groundbreaking artist and photojournalist, and his work with the Museum has included several previous installations. Images from Tsiaras's collection will be enlarged and installed on the shelf's endcaps, and will be seen to move about the storage room in one sense, as staff go about the business of managing the collection. NMHM is thrilled that Tsiaras partnered with the Museum for this unique installation.

Another artist is featured at NMHM as the Museum opens on its 150th anniversary, but this time with an original work commissioned for this special purpose. Ted Meyer, a Los Angeles artist, "portrays the beauty and humor of physicality while exploring narratives of the human condition," according to his website. Meyer recently completed "Disco Infirmary" at the NMHM, a work that features stylized human forms in various states of anatomical presentation. Meyer said, "For years I have focused my artwork and energies on medical and health issues. I could not think of a better location for one of my pieces than The National Museum of Health and Medicine. I'm thrilled to be represented in the new building."

Interested media representatives must call Melissa Brachfeld, NMHM Public Affairs Specialist, at (301) 319-3313 or email USArmy.Detrick.MEDCOM-USAMRMC.List.Medical-Museum@mail.mil to register in advance to cover the Museum's exhibit opening. Media representatives must present the following information: name, media organization, contact phone number, and vehicle info (tags, year, make, and model).