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Guide to Collections Relating to the History of Artificial Internal Organs


National Museum of Health and Medicine, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology


Building 54, Walter Reed Army Medical Center Washington, DC 20306-6000


(202) 782-2208

Fax Number

(202) 782-3573


Contact Person

Alan Hawk, Collections Manager


Access and Services

Researchers should make an appointment to see collections. Museum hours: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily


The National Museum of Health and Medicine is dedicated to preserving, collecting, and interpreting the objects, specimens, photographs and documents chronicling the history and practice of medicine over the centuries. Our collections represent archival materials, anatomical and pathological specimens, medical instruments and artifacts, and microscope slide-based medical research collections. The collections focus particularly on the history and practice of American medicine, military medicine, and current medical research issues.



Historical Collections, early 19th century to present day

Collection ID


More than 12,000 objects

Biographical Note

The National Museum of Health and Medicine was established during the Civil War as the Army Medical Museum, a center for the collection of specimens for research in military medicine and surgery. In 1862, Surgeon General William Hammond directed medical officers in the field to collect "specimens of morbid anatomy . . . together with projectiles and foreign bodies removed" and to forward them to the newly founded museum for study. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Museum staff engaged in various types of medical research. They pioneered in photomicrographic techniques, and led the Museum into research on infectious diseases while discovering the cause of yellow fever. They contributed to research on vaccinations for typhoid fever, and during World War I, Museum staff were involved in vaccinations and health education campaigns, including major efforts to combat sexually transmissible diseases. By World War II, research at the Museum focused increasingly on pathology; in 1946 the Museum became a division of the new Army Institute of Pathology (AIP), which became the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) in 1949. The Army Medical Museum became the Medical Museum of the AFIP in 1949, the Armed Forces Medical Museum in 1974, and the National Museum of Health and Medicine in 1989.

Collection Description

The Historical Collections document changes in medical technology since the early 19th century. Included in this growing assemblage of more than 12,000 objects are x-ray equipment, microscopes, surgical instruments, numismatics and anatomical models. The Division of Historical Collection acquires and preserves both artifacts of record and of note documenting the history of the practice of medicine, innovations in biomedical research and the evolution of medical technology. The collection emphasizes the role of the Armed Services of the United States, United States Public Health Service and the United States federal government as it relates to the above themes.

Collection items relating to the history of artificial organs include:

  • Extracorporeal Circulation, 1960
    • 1 item
    • The collection includes an example of the Gibbon-May pump oxygenator, the first heart-lung machine, used at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center
  • Hemodialysis, 1947-present
    • Approximately 5 items
    • Highlights of the collection include the Kolff-Brigham artificial kidney that was used by Walter Reed Army Medical Center, replacing one sent to the 11th Evacuation Hospital during the Korean Conflict. Also included in the collection are the Travenol RSP artificial kidney, designed for use in the home by non-medical people and a peritoneal dialysis machine
  • Joint Prosthesis, 1890s-present
    • Approximately 120 items
    • The history of joint prosthetics is represented by the mock up of the Jules Pean's artificial shoulder implant of 1890, a collection of joint prosthetics tested or developed by the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, the prototype UCI Total Knee and the Neer I and II Artificial shoulder. Artificial knees, hips, shoulders and fingers joints are represented by the collection
  • Surgery, Cardiovascular, 1950-present
    • Approximately 50 items
    • Consists primarily of artificial heart valves developed in the late 1960s and 1970s, including the Hufnagel valve, the first artificial heart valve. Also included is the ventricular bypass developed by Michael Debakey

Finding Aid

Consult Collections Manager



Related Material

Anatomical Collections - more than 5,000 skeletal specimens and 10,000 preserved organs document medical cases of disease and injury. The collection supports research in pathology, physical anthropology, forensic anthropology, and paleopathology.

Otis Historical Archives -- photographs, illustrations, and documents related to health and medicine. More than 350 different collections document, in pictures and words, the practice of medicine from the Civil War to the present.