The Country Doctor Museum

Contributed by Marlena Barber

Country Doctor Museum pictureThe Country Doctor Museum in Bailey, North Carolina is the oldest museum in the United States dedicated to the history of America's rural health care and is managed today as part of the Laupus Library’s History Collections at ECU.

The museum held a culminating anniversary event on Saturday, December 8, 2018 to commemorate 50 years since the museum opened in 1968.

Recent object accessions from The Country Doctor Museum:

  • Collection of 21 hand-turned reproduction monaural stethoscopes from a wood-work artist in eastern North Carolina
  • Five mid-20th century nursing school textbooks
  • Collection of nursing figurines
  • An early 20th century umbilical cord wrap
  • Collection of turn of the century drug store items
  • Collection of mostly mid-20th century archival materials from Dr. Charles E. Parker, a Chicago-based chiropractor, including documentation about Violet Ray machines

Recently processed museum archival collections:

  • J.M. Phelps Papers (CD01.114)— contains a number of doctor’s ledgers dated 1940s-1950s.
  • Bryant Hinnant Papers (CD01.116) contains a number of doctor’s ledgers dated 1940s-1950s.
  • Evan A Erwin Papers (CD01.117) includes images of Dr. Erwin dating from 1910 and 1912, an undated photograph, and his 1906 copy of Wellcome’s Excerpta Therapeutica.
  • Walter S. Hunt Jr. Papers (CD01.118) contains Dr. Hunt’s military records. The documents include his certificate of service and other United States Army communications.

New and upcoming exhibits from The Country Doctor Museum:

  • Cabinet of Wonder features unusual and wonderful curiosities from the museum’s collection and is currently on view at East Carolina University’s Family Medicine Center.
  • Fighting for their Lives: Medical Practices During the American Civil War examines how doctors and medical staff cared for the soldiers, looking specifically at surgery, disease, infection, and the role of hospitals and will be on display at Wake Tech Health Sciences Library in Raleigh February - July 2019.
  • Doctors on the Go will be on display at Cumberland County Public Library & Information Center in Fayetteville, NC, through March 2019. Distance and access to care have long been important factors in healthy lives and communities. From the reliable doctor’s horse to modern medicine, advancements in transportation and technology have had a long-lasting and significant impact on the practice of health care in rural America. This exhibit illustrates the importance of house calls to the country doctor and features such items as a country doctor’s saddle, medicine cases, and a wagon’s foot warmer as well as nursing items from Highsmith Hospital School of Nursing.
  • Models of Care, on view in the passageway from East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine to Vidant Medical Center through summer 2019, this exhibit highlights some of the diverse narratives of doctors and nurses whose histories are preserved by The Country Doctor Museum. Items on display include nursing and military uniforms, surgical equipment, and unique medications used in the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • A new display with the working title Segregated Healthcare: History of Racial Assumptions in North Carolina will be installed at the museum in January 2019.
  • Nursing School Memories: Nursing Education in the Mid-20th Century, currently on display within the lobby of East Carolina University’s College of Nursing, focuses on the history of 3-year diploma training programs at local hospitals from 1940-1960 with photographs and artifacts, such as a nursing school uniform, caps and nursing supplies. Combined, these items help tell a story of shared camaraderie of nursing school students as they advanced through their often rigorous programs marked by enduring traditions, high expectations, and long hours.
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