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Melnick Medical Museum reopens

After 9-year closure, gallery gets new spot in Cushwa Hall

YOUNGSTOWN — After nine years of existing as a museum without a physical building, the Melnick Medical Museum reopened Wednesday with a new location on the Youngstown State University campus inside Cushwa Hall.

The museum was welcomed back during a reception opened by curator Cassie Nespor and featured speeches from YSU President Jim Tressel, among others.

Tressel said the exhibit is a great way for people to learn and understand the complex history of medicine and how we got where we are today.

In 2013, the museum was located in Melnick Hall before YSU decided to use the location for the YSU Foundation and WYSU-FM radio station.

This left Nespor in limbo, but she has worked diligently to continue showcasing the museum’s historical medical equipment despite her locational limitations.

“It’s been challenging to think about methods where I can still use the medical collection but we’ve adapted by doing things we never would’ve previously thought to do,” Nespor said.

One of those methods included creating a “Suitcase Program” in which Nespor said they would place small artifacts in a toolbox on wheels and take them to elementary school classrooms, allowing kids to pass around objects and learn what early 1900s doctors were like.

With the help of various local partners, the museum reinvented itself by providing more than 280 programs, events and presentations to locations across Mahoning and Trumbull counties including the Mahoning Valley Historical Society, the Youngstown Historical Center for Industry and Labor, the Sutliff Museum, OH WOW! children’s museum and Mill Creek Park.

Nespor said the new location is beneficial because it places the museum in a more central part of campus that makes it more accessible to students.

“The old building was one that students drove by and didn’t really have a reason to go into because there were no classes there,” Nespor said, noting she hopes the new location will help bring more traffic throughout the museum.

Some of the exhibits at the Melnick Medical Museum include the Emerson Iron Lung. Nespor said the exhibit features a 1952 yellow iron lung respirator. When the iron lung was invented in 1927, it was considered to be cutting edge in terms of life supporting technology during the first half of the 20th century.

The casket-like respirator works by creating pressure inside the machine allowing for patients to inhale and exhale.

“Visitors are always fascinated by the machine, it was most known about it from the polio epidemic,” Nespor said. “For people of a certain age growing up they’ll remember their parents scaring them about ending up in one.”

Nurses cared for patients in the iron lung machine that were stricken with polio and typically paraylzed. This meant nurses needed to learn how to take care of a patient’s bodily functions and feed them liquids along with small foods while the patient was lying down.

The museum features an iron lung replica created by YSU Carpenter Andy Phillips that allows visitors to lay inside and get a sample of what the machine was like.

The reception featured the unveiling of a newly researched and developed 2D panel exhibit called “Class, Housing and Health in Youngstown,” that was created by YSU graduate student Becky Jasinski, who is pursuing a Master of Arts degree.

Jasinski spent her entire summer thumbing through studies, archives and other resources at the public library to put together her display. It examines the working and living conditions of immigrants and African Americans coming into Youngstown to understand how discrimnation in housing based on class affected the health outcomes for these groups.

The office recreation exhibit features recreations of 1890 to 1930’s medical and dental offices from those time periods. It features tools commonly used, including early versions of capacitor bowls, electric lights and drills.

“It’s a great visual component to show people how much the dental and medical fields have changed over time,” Nespor said.

Other exhibits will showcase early radiology, featuring an X-ray machine manufactured in 1929 Germany by Dr. Erhard Weltman. The machine was powered by a large generator in a cabinet that produces high voltage electricity. Weltman brought the machine to Youngstown by boat after fleeing Nazi Germany in 1937. While here, he set up a practice in the Home Savings and Loan building.

Other exhibits share lessons on the history of polio and the Sabin oral vaccine that teaches how Youngstown became the first city to conduct a mass polio immunization program in 1961 helping to immunize over 130,000 people in only two days using the vaccine.

During the transition to a new building, Nespor took the time to do more research that aided in her rewriting all the information displayed alongside the museum exhibits.

The museum is open to the public 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, with free admission and viewing by appointment available.

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