YOUNGSTOWN — After nine years as a museum without a physical building, the Melnick Medical Museum reopened on Wednesday with a new location on the Youngstown State University campus inside Cushwa Hall.
The museum was hosted at an open reception by curator Cassie Nespor and featured speeches by YSU President Jim Tressel, among others.
Tressel said the exhibit is a great way for people to learn and understand the complex history of medicine and how we got to where we are today.
In 2013, the museum was located in Melnick Hall before YSU decided to use the location for the YSU Foundation and the WYSU-FM radio station.
This left Nespor in limbo, but it worked diligently to continue showcasing the museum’s historic medical equipment despite its location limitations.
“It’s been hard to think of ways where I can still use the medical collection, but we’ve adapted by doing things we never thought we’d do before,” Nespor said.
One such method was to create a “suitcase program” in which Nespor said it would place small artifacts in a toolbox on wheels and take them to elementary school classrooms, allowing children to make circulate objects and learn what doctors looked like in the early 1900s.
With the help of various local partners, the museum has reinvented itself by offering more than 280 programs, events and presentations at venues throughout Mahoning and Trumbull counties, including the Mahoning Valley Historical Society, the Youngstown Historical Center for Industry and Plowing, the Sutliff Museum, OH WOW! children’s museum and Mill Creek Park.
Nespor said the new location is beneficial because it puts the museum in a more central part of campus, making it more accessible to students.
“The old building was the one the students drove by and didn’t really have a reason to go in because there were no classes there,” Nespor said, noting that she hopes the new location will help increase traffic throughout the museum.
Some of the exhibits at the Melnick Medical Museum include the Emerson Iron Lung. Nespor said the exhibit features a 1952 yellow iron lung respirator. When the iron lung was invented in 1927, it was considered state-of-the-art in life support technology during the first half of the 20th century.
The coffin-shaped ventilator works by creating pressure inside the machine allowing patients to inhale and exhale.
“Visitors are always fascinated by the machine, it was best known since the polio epidemic,” Nespor said. “For people of a certain age growing up, they will remember their parents scaring them into being in one.”
Nurses cared for patients in the Iron Lung who had poliomyelitis and were generally paralyzed. This meant that nurses had to learn how to take care of a patient’s bodily functions and give them liquids as well as small foods while the patient was lying down.
The museum features a replica iron lung created by YSU Carpenter Andy Phillips that allows visitors to lie inside and get a sample of what the machine looked like.
The reception included the unveiling of a newly researched and developed 2D panel exhibit titled “Class, Housing, and Health in Youngstown,” which was created by YSU graduate student Becky Jasinski, who is pursuing a Master of Arts.
Jasinski spent his entire summer leafing through studies, archives and other resources at the public library to put together his exhibit. It examines the working and living conditions of immigrants and African Americans arriving in Youngstown to understand how class-based housing discrimination has affected the health outcomes of these groups.
The Office Recreation exhibit features recreations of medical and dental practices from 1890 to 1930 from these periods. It includes commonly used tools, including early versions of capacitor bowls, flashlights, and drills.
“It’s a great visual to show people how much the dental and medical fields have changed over time,” Nespor said.
Other exhibits will present ancient radiology, with an X-ray machine made in 1929 in Germany by Dr. Erhard Weltman. The machine was powered by a large generator in a cabinet that produced high voltage electricity. Weltman brought the machine to Youngstown by boat after fleeing Nazi Germany in 1937. While there, he opened a practice in the Home Savings and Loan building.
Other exhibits share lessons about the history of polio and the oral Sabin vaccine which teaches how Youngstown became the first city to conduct a mass polio vaccination program in 1961, helping immunize more than 130,000 people in just two days using the vaccine.
When transitioning to a new building, Nespor took the time to do more research which helped her rewrite all the information displayed next to the museum exhibits.
The museum is open to the public from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays, with free admission and visits by appointment.