Half of knowing where you are headed is about looking back to where you have been. The same is true for the future of orthopedics, orthopedic surgery and prosthetics. Methods and tools have drastically changed over time, especially in recent years, making it of special interest for practitioners and the public to take a look at the evolution of these fields.
The International Museum of Surgical Science (IMSS) has taken on the task of presenting the history of these disciplines as well as the present, while also looking ahead to the possibilities of future technologies. The long-term exhibit called “Beyond Broken Bones: The Story of Orthopedics and Prosthetics,” will be on display at the museum in a historic lakeside mansion in Chicago for at least 3 years. The official exhibit opening and reception takes place on Saturday, May 5 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The founder of IMSS, Max Thorek, MD, donated the earliest works of the growing collection from his personal compilation.
“He and his colleagues also commissioned artwork to represent the great figures and discoveries over surgical history,” Lindsey Thieman, assistant curator, said. “They sought out important artifacts to tell the story of surgical history from all over the world because they wanted to represent both chronology and geography.”
Since then, the museum has relied on physicians and members of the museum’s parent organization, The International College of Surgeons, for ongoing artifact donations.
“We also approach product manufacturers for specific donations that are representative of contemporary instrumentation when we are putting together each new exhibit,” Thieman told O&P Business News.
IMSS also encourages participation on the part of sponsors and individuals for continuing support as they have received support from these groups in the past.
Beyond broken bones
IMSS decided to update and expand their previous exhibit of the same nature due to the rapid development in orthopedics and prosthetics. Currently, prosthetics is especially topical because of the number of amputees returning from Iraq, Thieman said.
“We wanted to include the current topics and developments which were not covered in the former exhibit to show the whole continuum in advancement in these two fields up to the present day and looking beyond to the future,” Thieman said.
The exhibit features a number of different artifacts including archival manuscripts, portraits, paintings, sculptures, prints and photographs representing great moments in the field.
Among the numerous historical artifacts are ancient cutting tools, civil war amputation instruments and 19th century splints and artificial limbs. A number of contemporary devices will be on display and accompanied by equally technology savvy audio-video presentations.
“One of my favorite artifacts is called an osteoclast or bone crusher from around the turn of the 20th century,” Thieman said. “It was used to intentionally break children’s bones so you could set them and allow them to mend in correct alignment.”
This instrument as well as before and after photographs of children who were treated with the mechanism will also be showcased.
The exhibit aims to educate the public about orthopedic problems that have been resolved over the years and how other issues are becoming more prominent now that human life spans are expanding.
“We hope that visitors will take away a greater understanding of the historical arc that brought us to the present point and where orthotics, prosthetics and orthopedic surgery might go in the future,” Thieman said. “We want them to understand the impact of specific historical events, like the Civil War and the Industrial Revolution, that brought about progress in prosthetic design.”
IMSS would also like to raise awareness of current orthopedic conditions and the treatment options available as well as where historically those treatments have their roots.
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Jennifer Hoydicz is a staff writer for O&P Business News.