We are winding up our series on Digital Collections, and will be hosting the last of our Summer/Fall contributors in the coming weeks. In October, we will have a round table discussion among these curators and librarians–and, given the overwhelming response, we will probably be doing the Digital Collections again in the Spring. Today, I am pleased to present the Melnick Museum, also in Ohio, USA. Radiologist Dr. John Melnick, founded the Rose Melnick Medical Museum at Youngstown State University in 2000. He wanted to help foster an appreciation for the history of medicine for students and the community. The museum consists of about 10,000 artifacts and a historical collection of medical books–and a number of fascinating short videos! The present Curator, Cassie Nespor, began in 2009. Today, I’ve invited her to the Dose to talk about her use of digital platforms and media to promote their collections. Thank you for joining us, Cassie!
I began as curator in 2009. One of the first things I did was to start a blog so that the collection and exhibits could reach a broader audience. I was surprised at how quickly the blog became popular. The highlights of the museum are several recreations of doctors’ and dentists’ offices from the 1900s, an Emerson Iron Lung, and a wooden x-ray machine from the 1920s. Those quickly became popular themes on the blog, as well as a medicinal alcohol prescription pad from Prohibition. In addition to the thousands of readers, the blog also brought in several loan requests from other museums. Currently, the museum is in the process of relocating to the College of Health and Human Services. In the future, I hope to use the blog to document the projects that come out of new partnerships with students and faculty in that college, specifically Respiratory Care, Social Work, and Nursing.
I started the YouTube channel because I felt like our students would be most interested in videos. I had one video that I had produced in partnership with the local historical society about the history of medicine in the Mahoning Valley. Both the museum and the historical society wanted to share this video with local elementary school teachers. Putting it on the web seemed like a great way to provide wide access. After that, I started thinking about other videos I could make that would elaborate on themes that were popular on the museum’s blog. A video seemed like a great way to explain how the Iron Lung and wooden x-ray machine work. Those topics would have been very difficult in text, and the videos are very popular. I have also done videos on bleeding instruments, amputation kits, medicine making, and some interesting respiratory care artifacts. I was producing about one video/month with the help of our Media department on campus. (A reorganization of the Media department has interrupted this project but I hope to get back to it soon.)
Although the YouTube channel was started to expand the reach of the museum, I’ve been able to use the videos to enhance the on-site visitor experience as well. I have posted QR codes that connect visitors to videos about the artifacts in the exhibits like the Iron Lung and wooden x-ray machine. Other QR codes play portions of oral histories from local doctors talking about doctors’ offices at the turn of the century, surgical practices in the 1920s, and the beginning of x-ray technology at the local hospital.