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Mobile Medical Museum

Peter R. Thomas, Auburn University
The Mobile Medical Museum in Mobile, Mobile County, houses more than 5,000 medical artifacts and documents related to local, national, and world medical history. Located in the Vincent-Doan-Walsh House (ca. 1827), one of the oldest surviving private residences in Mobile, the medical museum is one of few regional museums dedicated to the history of the practice of medicine.
Mobile Medical Museum
Mobile physician Samuel Eichold II founded the museum in 1962 with a small collection of medical artifacts donated to him by Patricia Heustis Paterson, the daughter of renowned Mobile physician James Heustis (1828-1891). Eichold, also a prominent physician and lifelong resident of the city, taught at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine. The original collection that Paterson donated contained more than 100 medical artifacts, books, and documents from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Over the years, the museum's collection continued to grow, forcing it to move locations several times.
Samuel Eichold II
In 1991, the museum was formally organized as a professional institution and formed a board of directors that largely consists of medical professionals and academics. The nonprofit museum moved into the historic Vincent-Doan-Walsh House on the campus of the University of South Alabama Children's and Women's Hospital in 2004. The raised cottage-style house has a brick first story with brick pillars that support a wooden second-story porch. It was built in 1827 as the summer home of Capt. Benjamin Vincent, a wealthy seaman from Pennsylvania, and has undergone several renovations over the course of its existence. Various people owned the home until it was purchased and restored by the Doan family who later sold it to the University of South Alabama in 1991. The house was documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey in 1937 and listed as a contributing property to the Old Dauphin Way Historic District established in 1984 by the National Register of Historic Places.
Iron Lung
The museum aims to preserve and exhibit medical artifacts and archival resources and to commemorate Mobile's prominent place in the history of medical education and public health in the state of Alabama and the Gulf Coast. Exhibits and research materials are intended to inform the public about the evolution of the art and science of health care. It also partners with public and private educational institutions and organizations, such as the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center and the Mobile Urban Growers, to promote the role healthcare has played in the intellectual and cultural development of the city.
1930s Doctor's Office
The museum's collection now houses more than 5,000 items, including artifacts, documents, and books. Its document collection spans the past 300 years. Within the J. L. Bedsole Archives and Ben May Library are more than 50 cubic feet of letters, doctor's registers, photographs, and rare books. Permanent exhibits focus on the history of medicine in Mobile, the history of the Medical College of Alabama, and polio, the exhibit for which features an Emerson-model iron lung from the 1930s. Special exhibits, which rotate annually and seasonally, have ranged from perspectives on war and medicine to the history of particular medical fields such as optometry. Material collections include pre-Civil War anatomical models, Civil War-era medical instruments, a variety of medical devices, examples of x-ray equipment, and others. Outside, the Robert Thrower Medicinal Garden focuses on expanding the public's knowledge about non-traditional and herbal medical practices. The garden was named for the late Poarch Creek historic preservation officer and ethnobotanist who died in 2017.
Eichold Gallery
The museum sponsors events such as book talks and guest speakers. Visitors may become members of the museum, with fees directly benefitting the site. It is located at 1664 Springhill Ave. Operating hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and the first Saturday of every month from 1:00 p.m. until 3:00 p.m. Guests are encouraged to make an appointment if interested in touring the location due to limited staffing; there are admission fees.
Published:  October 29, 2019   |   Last updated:  October 29, 2019