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Defending the Homeland: NMHM opens ‘virtual doors’ to the public during COVID-19

Image of two rows of empty hospital beds in the early 1900s Interior of a hospital ward at the Base Hospital, Camp Jackson, South Carolina, during the influenza epidemic. September and October 1918. (NCP 11066-3)

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In the current climate of COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders, virtual environments have become an invaluable means of entertainment and education.

Although the Defense Health Agency’s National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM) was founded in 1862 as the Army Medical Museum, it has evolved into the virtual worlds with new online learning resources, including access to exhibits and educational programs.

On the education page of the museum’s website, educators and students alike can browse a variety of resources that coincide with the history, research, and advancement of military medicine.

Most recently, the museum  developed a “Pandemic: Comparing Influenza to COVID-19 Teacher’s Guide,” virtual resource, which pulled from the museum’s archival collections to engage students about the military’s involvement and history of combatting pandemics from the 1918 “Spanish” influenza to COVID-19.

“Pandemic” is packaged with a downloadable PowerPoint presentation featuring images from the museum’s collections, a document analysis worksheet, and an image analysis worksheet. The guide includes activities to help students develop their research and critical thinking skills. For example, one of the activities is a video of the October 2018 Medical Museum Science Café titled, “On the Centenary of the 1918 Influenza: Lessons from the Past and Planning for the Future.”

While “Pandemic” is geared more toward high school students, other online materials like the Color Our Collections 2020 Coloring Book are for all ages. The themed coloring book highlights the Otis Historical Archives collection of World War II public health posters.

Even though the museum is currently closed to the public, pre-visit tour materials and teacher guides are available online for most grades. These resources allow a glimpse into the museum’s collections and outline the major themes and exhibitions presented in the galleries.

“While all of us experience the effects of distancing, we are able to achieve our mission by staying relevant and connecting with our audiences in unique ways,” explained the museum’s Public Programs Manager Andrea Schierkolk. “These distance learning tools provide opportunities for us to join other museums worldwide in efforts to provide service and share our collections through #MuseumatHome programs.”

The museum is also leveraging its social media channels by sharing museum materials using the popular #MuseumZen and #MuseumBouquet hashtags to engage with visitors on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. These interactive engagements offer meditative and relaxing content during this stressful period.

Keep an eye on the museum’s website https://www.medicalmuseum.mil/ and social media channels, more online learning resources for educators, students, or those of an inquisitive nature will continue to be added.

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