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LA Health Sciences Librarians Visit National Hansen’s Disease Museum

2013-05-31 16.02.06

Last month, the NN/LM SCR was invited to attend the spring meeting of the HSLAL (Health Sciences Library Association of Louisiana), held at the National Hansen’s Disease Museum in Carville, LA. This fascinating Museum, located between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, was the only National Leprosarium in the United States, and today the Museum collects, preserves, and interprets the medical and cultural artifacts of the Carville Historic District and promotes the understanding, identification and treatment of Hansen’s Disease (for more information, see MedlinePlus Health Topics page on Hansen’s Disease or leprosy).

The Museum today is a monument to those who battled Hansen’s Disease (HD) – researchers, health care professionals and patients who suffered from the affliction. Today, a patient diagnosed with HD is treated as an outpatient. In 1894, when the Louisiana Leper Home was established on an old plantation site, a diagnosis of leprosy meant forced quarantine, little treatment, and no cure, as well as separation from family, home and community. The federal government took control of the facility in 1921, and continued to house patients until 1999. Currently, the Louisiana Military Department occupies the 400-acre site and only a handful of elderly patients remain at the facility.

Learn more about this interesting U.S. Public Health Service site and part of U.S. history by visiting in person or through virtual tours on the website. The autobiography of Stanley Stein (an alias chosen to protect his family from stigma), Alone No Longer, provides great insight into the life of millions of leprosy patients around the world in the 20th century. Within months of his arrival at Carville, Mr. Stein had founded a newspaper to campaign for the rights of leprosy patients around the world. “Hansen’s disease victims who today may enjoy a normal life owe much to the efforts of one man – Stanley Stein” (from the forward to the book by Lawrence G. Blochman).

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