People started collecting Civil War artifacts, including medical artifacts, even before the battles had ended. While the National Museum of Civil War Medicine is proud to be a part of that tradition of learning from the past, our story starts a little closer to the present … in 1971 to be specific.
Dr. Gordon E. Dammann, D.D.S. and his wife, Karen, began collecting medical artifacts from the Civil War in ’71. Their collecting soon surpassed a casual hobby, and the Dammann’s began dreaming of sharing their collection and the lessons they had learned from it with the public. They wanted to start a museum.
The Dammann’s dream became a reality. With the help of F. Terry Hambrecht, M.D.; Sam Kirkpatrick, M.D.; John Olson; the Reverend John Schildt; and Thomas Adrian Wheat, M.D., the National Museum of Civil War Medicine was incorporated in 1990. Even before the Museum has physical location, it began holding an annual conference on Civil War medicine.
In 1993, historic Frederick, MD was chosen to be the home of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. During the Civil War, wounded were sent from the nearby battlefields to recuperate in Frederick. The city became “one vast hospital” as the churches, municipal buildings, and homes, were transformed into makeshift hospitals. Not only does Frederick’s connection to Civil War medicine make it a perfect home for the museum, it’s a short drive from the museum to Gettysburg, Antietam, Baltimore, Washington, and more, making it perfect for a Civil War day-trip.
The National Museum of Civil War Medicine is located in the historic Carty Building in downtown Frederick. This building stood during the Civil War. It saw soldiers march through town, going to battle. Richard Burr, the most dastardly embalmer of the Civil War, operated out of the building … sometimes embalming the dead in the building’s front windows so passersby could watch.
The National Museum of Civil War Medicine first opened its doors to the public in 1996. Since then the Museum has continued to grow, in large part due to the support of our community. The National Museum of Civil War Medicine is a private non-profit museum, which means it receives no guaranteed funding from the state or national government to keep its doors open. Instead, the Museum subsists on profits from events and gift shop sales, as well as grants, memberships, and donations.
Thanks to the support of the community, the Museum has continued to grow.
- In 2000, the Museum renovated and expanded the exhibits
- In 2001, the Museum press published its first book, One Vast Hospital
- In 2005, the Museum partnered with the National Parks Service to run the Pry House Field Hospital Museum
- In 2008, the Museum began giving the Major Jonathan Letterman Medical Excellence Award to recognize those that keep Letterman’s legacy alive by making outstanding contributions to improving medical processes and patient outcomes
- In 2014, the Museum partnered with the General Services Administration to interpret the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office Museum
- In 2015, renovations to the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office Museum were completed, and the Museum officially opened to the public.
The Museum continues to grows, change, and improve. Currently, the staff of the Museum is working hard to make the Museum’s collections and collected knowledge digitally accessible, available for anyone who would like to learn. “We’re concerned with the future, that’s why we talk about the past,” explains the Museum’s Executive Director, David Price, “We believe that the lessons of the past can help us improve the world around us now and in the future. That’s what drives us in everything we do, and why we want to keep improving how we do it.”