Springfield Museums to Present ‘Heroes in Healthcare’ Exhibit

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Museums will present “Heroes in Healthcare: Celebrating Springfield’s Medical Community” at the Wood Museum of Springfield History from Aug. 3 through Jan. 24, 2021.

As a complementary exhibit to Hall of Heroes, located on the first floor of the Wood Museum of Springfield History, “Heroes in Healthcare” pinpoints the deep appreciation we all feel for those who put themselves in harm’s way in order to help others.

From the Civil War through present day, doctors and nurses, public-health employees, social workers, and philanthropists have contributed significantly to improving the health of this community with their skills, compassion, and vision. This exhibit examines that history in Springfield.

As stewards of the Baystate Medical Center archives, including materials from its Training School for Nurses, museum staff were able to gather a rich history of healthcare in Springfield, said Maggie Humberston, curator of Library and Archives for the Springfield Museums. “We drew on that collection with its assortment of photographs and institutional history to recount a story of outreach and care, and a long history of striving to meet the public need.”

The Visiting Nurses Assoc. archives are also held at the Wood Museum. Humberston delved into that collection to share remarkable stories of how visiting nurses traveled to the homes of people of all economic backgrounds to not only treat disease, but also to offer wellness training, childcare advice, and, often, a sympathetic ear.

As she researched the local response to the Spanish influenza of 1918, Humberston discovered similar efforts to our own today as we work together to stem the spread of COVID-19 by wearing masks and maintaining social distance. “Gauze masks and open air were deemed very important in combating the Spanish influenza,” she said. “Social distancing was practiced, and people were encouraged to walk to reduce crowding in railroad and streetcars, while streetcars were disinfected every night. The clergy decided to close the churches, and the Board of Health closed just about everything else.”

With the World Health Organization’s declaration of 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, the museums dedicate a part of this exhibit to specifically celebrating the city’s nurses. The museums will also present a Wall of Healthcare Heroes to honor the courageous and dedicated work of area hospitals’ frontline responders.

“When we brought the Hall of Heroes to the Museums, we knew how important it would be to celebrate real-life heroes with a complementary exhibit,” said Kay Simpson, president and CEO of the Springfield Museums. “Our healthcare heroes are helping us all face these unprecedented times with endless examples of heroic service and compassionate care. Thank you to our Healthcare Heroes!”

The Springfield Museums are also grateful for the assistance of Mercy Medical Center and the archives of the Sisters of Providence in documenting the history of their organization.

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