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Binding Wounds, Pushing Boundaries: African Americans in Civil War Medicine

by Michael Kronenfeld
University Librarian
A.T. Still Memorial Library
Mesa, AZ

In honor of Martin Luther King’s January 17 birthday, the Arizona Branch of the A. T. Still Memorial Library, at the A.T. Still University of the Health Sciences, working with the University’s Cultural Competency Educational Committee, hosted Binding Wounds, Pushing Boundaries: African Americans in Civil War Medicine. From December 7, 2012, to January 23, 2013, this traveling exhibit from the National Library of Medicine (NLM) explored the roles that slaves, former slaves, and African-American freemen/women played in the medical theater of the American Civil War.Image from NLM's Binding Wounds Pushing Boundaries Travelling Exhibit Their successes in a time and place with extreme prejudice against African Americans in both the North and the South are inspiring.

The staff set up the exhibit at the only entrance of the Library. This was a successful plan, as many people were observed stopping and looking at this exhibit upon entering and leaving the Library. Several viewers commented favorably about the exhibit, and more than a few went through the entire exhibit panel by panel. This is not surprising, due to the fact that text captions were short and well written. Plus, the exhibit had excellent, attractive graphic design work and intriguing primary source photography. The A.T. Still Memorial Library is looking to bring in other exhibits from the program in the future.

The NLM’s History of Medicine Division creates traveling exhibits that promote interest and knowledge about the cultural and social history of medicine on 18 topics, which are made available free of charge to public, university, and medical libraries, as well as cultural centers across the country. However, anyone interested in hosting one of the exhibits needs to plan carefully, because individual exhibits are often booked for years in advance. Details about the exhibits and their availability are available at the exhibition web site listed above.

This exhibit consists of six, free-standing graphic panels (7’ H x 2-1/2’ W), and is transported in two plastic wheeled graphics tubes. NLM provides detailed instructions for the set up and take down of the exhibit, which only takes about half an hour. The only expense involved for the hosting institution is the shipping cost of forwarding the exhibit to the next venue, which was about $250.

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