Artifacts from the Past

As pharmacists you know more than most professions about how drug development has evolved. This is because you have been the ones to make the advancements.

Stephen Pike Pink Palace Family of Museums director, Stephen Pike, chats about the new health science exhibit due to unveil in 2010.

But if you ever want a reminder of how far we have come, a well-stocked pharmacy of the early 1900s is not far away. A drive through the core of Memphis will lead you to the storefront pharmacy, right inside the Pink Palace Family of Museums.

Located on Central Avenue in the historic district of Chickasaw Gardens, this city-operated museum is frequented by more than 250,000 visitors each year. It is one of the city's oldest museums that offers a wide variety of new and existing exhibits.

The museum's mission is to inspire people to learn how history, science, technology and nature shape the Mid-South. Through rich collections, thought-provoking exhibitions, and engaging programs, it encourages the community to reflect on the past, understand the present and influence the future.

The 'From Saddlebags to Science' exhibit Wesley Creel, administrator of programs, Pink Palace Family of Museums, Mary Boles and Dick R. Gourley, dean of the College of Pharmacy, take a trip down memory lane and discuss the evolution of pharmacy as they tour the "From Saddlebags to Science" exhibit.

Using the history of health care in Memphis as a theme, the Pink Palace Family of Museums has duplicated the triumph and tragedy of the medical arena in the exhibit, "From Saddlebags to Science: A Century of Health Care in Memphis, 1830-1930." It is a compilation of dramatizations, items and images that tell the story of health care in Memphis during that century. The exhibit features many artifacts donated by the Health Science Center.

Since the early 1970s the exhibit has intrigued museum visitors. A nurse's cap, old bottles of medicine, graduation invitations, cap and gowns, football paraphernalia from the "UT Docs" team, and a yearbook are just some of the items that have been donated to the growing collection during the past 30 years.

The exhibit is located upstairs in the east wing of the museum. It includes dioramas that portray a frontier doctor "leeching" a woman with tuberculosis, a Civil War amputation, a 1890s doctor's office and a 1920s dentist office.

Many of the artifacts located in the exhibit's apothecary belonged to Ralph Julian, PharmD, who collected the items and placed them in a museum in the basement of his drugstore in Morristown, Tenn. After his death, funds were made available by the Tennessee Pharmaceutical Association for the Health Science Center to purchase the items.

During this time, a volunteer worker and longtime friend of members of the Health Science Center faculty took a keen interest in the artifacts. According to Mary Boles, who was on the Pink Palace Family of Museums committee for 22 years, once the items were shipped to Memphis, they were stored in a damp area and were damaged. "Along with a group of women, we cleaned and catalogued more than 3,000 items over a three-year period. It was a chore and one that I enjoyed," she said.

Portion of Exhibit: Doctors
Portion of Exhibit: Copper Kettle
Portion of Exhibit: Drugstore
Portion of Exhibit: Wall

Boles is noted for her outstanding cataloguing of shop furnishings, apothecary bottles, equipment and archival materials. The history of the exhibit grew out of the work of Boles, and her colleagues. She meticulously continues to collect pharmacy items from around the world.

The museum is in the process of planning a new medical awareness exhibit. Medicine has changed significantly. To show the contrast, Stephen Pike, director of the Pink Palace Family of Museums, is working to include an exhibit that will allow visitors to see current health care practices.

"The new exhibit will be science-center focused and teach people about nutrition, diabetes, obesity and stroke. I want to see the Memphis community take a more proactive approach to combat these current issues, and the Pink Palace will provide the space for it," said Pike.

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center will soon open a museum of its own. Located in the new pharmacy building due to open in Spring 2010, the museum will showcase artifacts that were not donated to the Pink Palace Family of Museums.

Jim Eoff, PharmD, professor in the UT College of Pharmacy, was responsible for requesting some of the items from the UT Alumni Association that are currently in the Pink Palace. "The Pink Palace has a great exhibit. The artifacts that will be on display in the new pharmacy building will provide an avenue for pharmacy students to see the evolution of their profession. The new museum will take up little space and will serve as a teaching component," he said.

Dick R. Gourley, PharmD, dean, College of Pharmacy toured the Pink Palace exhibit and recognized some of the artifacts. He said the exhibit provides a way to help people understand the road the field of pharmacy has traveled to get where it is today.

Aside from the many exhibits and attractions, the Pink Palace Family of Museums is home to the Crew Training International IMAX Theater and the Sharpe Planetarium.