Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Obscura Day 2010 From Washington DC: The National Museum of Health & Medicine

In the middle of everything else happening for Sum of Change and America this weekend (you know, like the passage of health care reform bill, a giant march on Washington in favor of immigration reform, and a conference we covered for feminist campus to name a few), I made a quick stop at an event that was specifically off the beat and path, the 1st Annual Obscura Day, hosted by Atlas Obscura (atlasobscura.com),‘a compendium of this age's wonders, curiosities, and esoterica’ or a guide the unusual and hard to find treasures across the world.

I, (obviously) went to the DC event at the National Museum of Health and Medicine on the Campus of Walter Reid Army Medical Hospital (more on that in a bit) but Obscura Day was celebrated in over 80 cities around the world. The event kicked off in Australia with a tour of a bio-luminescent glow worm filled tunnel in Australia, and featured such diverse events, such as a trip the world’s largest tree house, an underground tour of the Atlantic avenue tunnels in NYC, a time travel buss tour of 1050s LA, and our event at the Museum of Health and Medicine in DC.

Though few artifacts at the museum were unusually obscure, the museum collects very important items to the survival of our society that many of us take for granted, such as the largest collection of microscopes and brains for research. It is one of the only museums dedicated not only to the overall history of health, but also to the study of military medicine. So it features areas on the development of human beings, from pre-birth to death, in addition to more military specific sections, such as a room about the identification of human remains.

The museum however is quite large and diverse and has over 25 million items in its collection. The most unique artifacts are probably the bullet that killed Abraham Lincoln and a fragment of his skull. This is a true rarity, not only for the historical significance of the artifacts themselves but because this is one of the few displays of the actual ‘mortal remains’ of one of our country’s most historic figures, as Tim Clark, the Museum’s communications director describes it.

From all accounts Obscura day was quite a success around the world and I know everyone in DC had a great time. To see videos, pictures, blogs and tweets from all the Obscura Day events, go to obscuraday.com.

For more info on the museum, please go to their website (http://nmhm.washingtondc.museum) and visit them on the campus of the Walter Reid Army Medical Hospital (while it still exists) in Washington DC.
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