Anyone interested in medicine and the history of it will love the National Museum of Health and Medicine. It’s tucked onto the campus of Walter Reed Army Medical Center. But once you get through security (don’t forget your picture ID), it’s well worth the visit.
WHAT YOU SEE: If someone would have asked me a few weeks where they could see the bullet that killed President Lincoln, I would have been completely stumped for an answer. But one of the first things you see at the National Museum of Health and Medicine is just that. Along with pieces of the 16th president’s skull, strands of his hair and the bloody cuff that the doctor wore when he operated on Lincoln. There’s even a plaster cast of the president’s face and hands.
So you’ve probably guessed by now that this museum is not for the squeamish. Some of the exhibits are pretty graphic, including plaster casts of severe bullet injuries, as well as internal organs. Some of the organs that you’ll see in jars include a human brain, fetuses at different stages of development, a coal miner’s lungs, a city dweller’s lungs and conjoined twins. Not sure if any of this stuff is real but it’s pretty convincing.
Some of the less graphic displays include a large collection of microscopes that show how they’ve evolved from the first microscope used by Galileo, as well as an impressive art exhibit on orthopedic advancements. One piece of art is made of spent ammunition casings depicting the “chronic patience required by the physically disabled.”
The museum is largely focused on military medicine and has some detailed displays of medicine during several wars.
GOOD FOR KIDS: The question of whether kids should be at this museum is a tough one. It really depends on the kids and their “ick” tolerance. Some might think it’s plain creepy and others might really dig the grossness, especially if they’re a budding doctor.
GIFT SHOP: The gift shop is basically none existent. There are a few books and knick knacks like brain erasers and brain wind-up toys. But this is not a museum that’s known for its gift shop.
WHERE: 2500 Linden Lane, Silver Spring, Md.
HOURS OF OPERATION: Open daily from 10 AM to 5:30 PM. Closed on December 25.
PARKING: A free parking lot is available next to the museum.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: The closest Metro stop is Silver Spring or Takoma Park and then a taxi or bus is necessary to get to the museum.
TELEPHONE NUMBER/WEBSITE: 301-319-3303/ http://nmhm.washingtondc.museum/index.html
SPECIAL EVENTS: The museum has a public tour every second and fourth Saturday of the month at 1 PM. Reservations are not required.
WHAT’S CLOSE BY: Walter Reed Army Medical Center is close to Silver Spring, which is a busy neighborhood in Maryland. It’s not walking distance but you’ll find lots of restaurants and places to shop if you drive a few blocks up Georgia Avenue. The Walter Reed campus also has a few places to eat during the week including a dining hall in the main hospital, as well as a Subway, Dunkin Donuts, Burger King and Shopette. But they’re not open on weekends.