International Museum of Surgical Science

International Museum of Surgical Science The mission of the Museum is to enrich people's lives by enhancing their appreciation and understanding of the history, art and advances of surgery.
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Since 1954, the International Museum of Surgical Science has provided education on the history and progress of surgery and related medical sciences to hundreds of thousands of visitors. As a not-for-profit division of the International College of Surgeons, the Museum depicts contributions from around the world to the history, development and advances of surgery and related subjects in health and medicine. Housed in a historic mansion, the Museum building is a City of Chicago Landmark and is listed in the National Register and Illinois Register of Historic Places. The elegant structure, known as the Eleanor Robinson Countiss House, is patterned after Le Petit Trianon, a French chateau built on the grounds of Versailles for Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Designed by noted Chicago architect Howard Van Doren Shaw, the building was completed in 1917. Original interior finishes of marble and cut stone; decorative plaster work, metal fixtures and hardware; eight fireplaces; and a gilded metal grand staircase are among the features, which have been preserved. The building truly embodies the Gold Coast splendor of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. GENERAL INFORMATION
The Museum is closed on the following holidays: Easter Sunday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. IMSS is also closed during the Chicago Air and Water Show weekend. ADMISSION

Adults - $17.00
Senior Citizens (ages 65+) - $13.00
Students, Educators & Members of the Military (with ID) - $13.00
Children ages 4–13 (Free for ages 3 & under) - $9.00
Children ages 3 and under - FREE

IMSS Members - FREE


No Refunds • No Exchanges • No Re-Entry

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

The Museum is easily accessible by bus or train.

* The CTA bus #151 stops at North Avenue, half a block north of the Museum.

* From the Clark/Division stop of the Red Line elevated train walk east on Division until you reach Lake Shore Drive. Turn north and walk a few blocks to the Museum.

* From the Sedgwick stop of the Brown Line and Purple Line Express elevated train, walk east on North Avenue until you reach Lake Shore Drive. Turn south and walk a block to the Museum. For train and bus schedules call the RTA/CTA at 312-836-7000. PARKING

Ample discounted parking is available in 3 locations within a few minutes’ walk of the Museum. Retrieve a discounted validation voucher/stamp at the Museum box office to present to the parking attendant upon exiting the lot/ramp. PARKING OPTION

Standard Parking Lot - Behind the Chicago History Museum located on Clark and LaSalle Streets, Chicago, IL 60614; entrance on Stockton Drive

Standard Parking Lot - in condominium building at 1445 N. State Parkway, Chicago, IL 60610; entrance on Burton Place. Standard Parking Lot - in condominium building at 1350 N. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60610; entrance on E. Banks Street

Temporarily closed

Some people want buns of steel, but here at IMSS we’ve got lungs of iron! They may not be as healthy as buns of steel, b...
02/13/2021

Some people want buns of steel, but here at IMSS we’ve got lungs of iron! They may not be as healthy as buns of steel, but they are a useful tool.

This iron lung, in a gorgeous seafoam green (the next color trend for medical equipment, we’re pretty sure), helped those who suffered from loss of muscle control and became unable to breathe on their own.

Though commonly used for polio survivors, negative pressure ventilators are also used in cases of botulism and cases of poison. There were even conversations about using iron lungs to supplement the number positive pressure ventilators in our current pandemic! A potent reminder that understanding modern medical decisions requires an understanding of the past.

Treat yourself! Whether you're spending Valentine's Day socially distanced or snuggled up with a loved one, the time is ...
02/08/2021

Treat yourself! Whether you're spending Valentine's Day socially distanced or snuggled up with a loved one, the time is always right to snag some goodies. 💕💗💖

USE CODE VDAY21 FOR 20% OFF! CODE VALID THROUGH 2/14/21.

(Discount does not apply to products under "Local Artists.")

Shop here: https://imss.ecwid.com/Gift-Shop-c15857083

We're thrilled to showcase more of the contemporary women scientists in our exhibits. Please join us in welcoming Megan ...
02/04/2021

We're thrilled to showcase more of the contemporary women scientists in our exhibits. Please join us in welcoming Megan Prescott, Dorothy Tovar, Dr. Ritu Raman, and Dr. Danielle Robertson to the walls of the International Museum of Surgical Science!⁠

This exhibit is made possible in part by a #GenderEquityGrant from Association of Science and Technology Centers and IF/THEN . We’re proud to be part of the community of science museums promoting equity in STEM, including equitable gender representation.

We're thrilled to showcase more of the contemporary women scientists in our exhibits. Please join us in welcoming Dr. Ni...
02/02/2021

We're thrilled to showcase more of the contemporary women scientists in our exhibits. Please join us in welcoming Dr. Nina Niu Sanford, Dr. Arlyne Simon, Dr. Kirsten Tulchin-Francis, Sarah Wilson, and Dr. Monica Rho to the walls of the International Museum of Surgical Science!⁠

This exhibit is made possible in part by a #GenderEquityGrant from Association of Science and Technology Centers and IF/THEN. We’re proud to be part of the community of science museums promoting equity in STEM, including equitable gender representation.

Due to the inclement weather, IMSS will be closed today, January 31, 2021. Stay safe and warm, everybody! ❄️
01/31/2021

Due to the inclement weather, IMSS will be closed today, January 31, 2021. Stay safe and warm, everybody! ❄️

CW: mention of sexual assaultHow is Medusa connected to Asclepius, the god of medicine? 🐍Whilst there are many variation...
01/27/2021

CW: mention of sexual assault

How is Medusa connected to Asclepius, the god of medicine? 🐍

Whilst there are many variations of the Medusa myth, one of the most popular can be found in Ovid’s Metamorphosis. In this iteration, Medusa was not born a Gorgon but as a mortal woman. She was raped by Poseidon in Athena’s temple and Athena, angry that her temple had been defiled, transformed Medusa into a Gorgon with snakes for hair and a gaze that could turn an onlooker to stone.

Medusa was killed by Perseus and her body was dissected; her head was added to Athena’s shield (in some retellings, so was her skin) and her blood was given to Asclepius, god of medicine. The blood taken from the veins on her left side was said to be a magical curative that could raise the dead, but the blood from the veins on her right side was said to destroy anyone who drank it.

There is also a modern link between Medusa, blood, and medicine. Caput medusae (head of Medusa) is the medical term for a network of dilated veins surrounding the umbilicus (naval). It is seen most commonly in newborns and those with cirrhosis of the liver. It was called caput medusae because the pattern of the veins was said to look like Medusa’s snake hair.

Images of Medusa have also been used as an apotropaic symbol to ward away evil, illness, and bad luck, similar to the ever popular Nazar eye talisman. Medusa’s head was a popular motif on women’s jewellery for this reason. 🧿

Although we have temporarily halted our in-person tours in order to combat the spread of COVID-19, we are currently offe...
01/25/2021

Although we have temporarily halted our in-person tours in order to combat the spread of COVID-19, we are currently offering virtual tours of the Museum! Discover the history of medicine and surgery through our fascinating collection of art and artifacts. These tours are available to anyone, from groups of students to families to groups of friends. Email [email protected] to inquire.

IMSS has officially reopened! We are thrilled to welcome you back to the Museum after our second period of closure due t...
01/20/2021

IMSS has officially reopened! We are thrilled to welcome you back to the Museum after our second period of closure due to COVID-19. We are open during normal operating hours, 9:30-5 on weekdays and 10-5 on weekends. We’ve missed you! 🎊💀

Visit imss.org for more information about our COVID safety procedures and get in touch at [email protected] with any questions.

This beautiful image of a seemingly sleeping Japanese woman hangs in our museum. The painting shows her lying in peacefu...
01/18/2021

This beautiful image of a seemingly sleeping Japanese woman hangs in our museum. The painting shows her lying in peaceful repose; her arms down by her side, her face in a serene slumber and her black hair spilling over the cushion supporting her head and onto the floor beneath her. She wouldn’t be out of place in a fairytale. However, she is not simply sleeping. The woman in this painting is the wife of Hanaoka Seishū and she is under a general anesthetic...40 years before the so called ‘birth of anesthesia’ took place in the US and Europe.

Using his training in the medicinal properties of herbs and plants, Hanaoka Seishū (1760-1835) sought to find a medicine that would render surgery painless. Initially, he tested his mixtures on animals until he created Tsusensan. Tsusensan was a mix of 7 plants, which notably included ‘Datura stramonium’ (which you may know as Devil’s trumpet), ‘Aconitum carmichaelli’ (also known as wolfsbane) and Angelica dahurica. These contained active ingredients which, in the right dosage, caused temporarily paralysis and general anesthesia in those who consumed it.

Once he settled on his formula, he needed a human test subject. Whilst reports say that both his mother and his wife both volunteered and tested Tsusensan, it was his wife that underwent repeated experimentation. Unfortunately, she went blind as a result of this, probably due to anticholinergic poisoning. Hanaoka’s wife played an unbelievably important role in ensuring the success of Hanaoka’s anesthetic, which was first successfully used during a lumpectomy performed on Kan Aiya, a 60 year old woman with breast cancer. The life of Hanaoka’s wife has been fictionalized in Sawako Ariyoshi’s novel The Doctor’s Wife (1966) and a 1967 film called ‘The Wife of Seishū Hanaoka’ (1967). In both adaptations, she is known as Kae.

Hanaoka’s anaesthetic made him an influential practitioner but due to Japan’s Sokoku policy (closed country policy) his work was not available outside of Japan until well after general anesthetic had been independently established in America and Europe.

IMSS is thrilled to announce the Spring 2021 Artist-In-Residence, Kathleen Gallo!Kathleen Gallo’s work finds its home at...
01/14/2021

IMSS is thrilled to announce the Spring 2021 Artist-In-Residence, Kathleen Gallo!

Kathleen Gallo’s work finds its home at the intersection of science and art. She creates post-mortem facial reconstructions, or the artistic approximation of the facial characteristics of an unidentified deceased person based upon the person’s unique skull structure. She will be creating 2D post-mortem facial reconstructions from the Museum’s unique collection of trephined skulls from ancient Peru.

“My body of work aspires to a seemingly impossible goal: bringing life to the dead. Centering around my affinity for examining the human condition, mortality, anthropology, and anatomy, my art culminates in the field of anatomical/forensic art, primarily in the creation of post-mortem facial reconstructions. Using the structure of the skull as directions, I reassemble the idiosyncrasies of the face to construct a recognizable person with distinct features, bringing to life a face forgotten by time.”

Visit https://www.kathleengallo.com/ to see more of her work!

Ernst Wertheim (1864-1920) was an Austrian gynecologist known for his pioneering procedures to treat cervical cancer. He...
01/08/2021

Ernst Wertheim (1864-1920) was an Austrian gynecologist known for his pioneering procedures to treat cervical cancer. He received his doctorate from the University of Graz in 1888 and started his career in experimental pathology. While serving as the chief surgeon at a women’s hospital in Vienna, he performed his first hysterectomy. During that time, removing the diseased uterus was standard procedure, but the procedure had a mortality rate of 72%. Rather than solely remove the organ, Wertheim proposed cleaning up the surrounding tissue, including the upper portions of the vagina, and lymph glands to minimize the spread of cancerous cells within the abdominal cavity. He performed the first radical hysterectomy, known as the Wertheim surgery, in November 1898, maintaining a much lower mortality rate of 38%. This number later fell to just 10% with practice, saving the lives of countless women. He also conducted important research on female gonorrhea and uterine prolapse and developed a type of forcep specifically for hysterectomies known as Wertheim’s vaginal clamp. He published his successes in his 1911 book Die erweiterte abdominale Operation bei Carcinoma Colli Uteri. He died during the influenza pandemic of 1918-1920.

During the 16th century, one of the most popular treatments for syphilis was made from mercury. While it did show some p...
12/31/2020

During the 16th century, one of the most popular treatments for syphilis was made from mercury. While it did show some positive outcomes in curing syphilis, mercury had terrible side effects, including neuropathies, kidney failure, severe mouth ulcers and loss of teeth, and even death. Despite this, mercury was the preferred treatment for syphilis for over 200 years, which gave rise to the saying, “a night with Venus, and a lifetime with mercury”. In 1910, Salvarsan, the first effective treatment for syphilis, was invented. Salvarsan was an arsenic derivative first synthesized in 1907, but it was not until 1910 that Paul Ehrlich and his assistant Sahashiro Hata discovered its anti-syphilitic effects. Although adverse effects were reported, including rashes and liver damage, the drug was on the market within a year after its discovery and was quickly adopted as syphilis treatment until penicillin was introduced as a safer treatment option in the 1940s.

Image courtesy of the Wellcome Collection.

The best known STD throughout history is syphilis, which first became widely recognized and reported in the late 1490s w...
12/29/2020

The best known STD throughout history is syphilis, which first became widely recognized and reported in the late 1490s when an epidemic swept through Europe. The disease starts with genital ulcers, then progresses to a fever, general rash, and joint and muscle pains. Weeks or months later follow large, painful, and foul-smelling abscesses and sores, or pocks, all over the body. Muscles and bones become painful, especially at night. The sores become ulcers that can eat into bones and destroy the nose, lips, and eyes. They often extend into the mouth and throat, sometimes causing early death. If left untreated, syphilis can also cause neurosyphilis, an infection of the nervous system affecting the brain and spinal cord. The loss or lack of a nose was often a tell-tale sign of syphilis, and people without noses were sometimes stigmatized as a result. In the novel Amelia, written by Henry Fielding in 1751, the reader is expected to assume she is suffering from syphilis since she has no nose. However, it is later revealed that she was in a carriage accident that caused the removal of her nose.

Image courtesy of the Wellcome Collection.

Dr. Francisco Graña (1879-1959) was a Peruvian neurosurgeon known for his work with trephination, widely regarded as the...
12/23/2020

Dr. Francisco Graña (1879-1959) was a Peruvian neurosurgeon known for his work with trephination, widely regarded as the oldest form of surgery. While serving as Chief of the Department of Surgery of the Hospital Obrero in Lima, Peru, he successfully removed a subdural hematoma, or pool of blood, from the brain of a 31-year-old cabinet maker using a 2000-year-old tools, including a saw of volcanic obsidian glass, a bronze chisel, and a silver-copper-iron alloy hammer, borrowed from Peru’s National Museum of Archaeology. He and his colleague Dr. Estaban Rocca studied hundreds of pre-hispanic trephined skulls from the Paracas, Huari, and Inca societies of ancient Peru, observing evidence of ancient surgical techniques and practicing on cadavers in Lima’s morgue. The 1953 procedure put years of research to the test and demonstrated the skill and precision of the same procedures performed thousands of years earlier. The accomplishment gained international media recognition and the doctors published their findings in “Cranial Trepanations in Peru During the Pre-Hispanic Era” the following year.

12/19/2020
UnScarred: Reclaimed with Ink

In 2018, IMSS hosted the exhibit David Allen: Mastectomy Tattoos and Post-Surgery Healing, all about the remarkable work that tattoo artist David Allen does with breast cancer survivors in order to help them reclaim their bodies post-surgery. His work will be featured in an upcoming documentary UnScarred.

"Your body is all you really truly possess. It is the physical space that houses your soul. If that gets taken away, it can completely reduce who you think you are, unless you can find a way to reclaim it. UnScarred will tell the story of people who have been physically scarred, through trauma or illness, losing something that was uniquely theirs and, through the art of tattoo, have become empowered and reclaimed their bodies."

Learn more about Unscarred: Reclaimed with Ink and help them reach their funding goal at https://www.unscarredfilm.com/

"When we think about the qualities or traits that a surgeon needs to have to be successful, words such as intelligence, ...
12/17/2020
The Hands Have It: The Importance of Manual Dexterity in Medicine

"When we think about the qualities or traits that a surgeon needs to have to be successful, words such as intelligence, courageousness, ability to focus, adaptability, stamina, and analytical thinking come to mind. But no matter how intelligent, courageous, focused, adaptable, strong, or analytical a surgeon may be, they would be nothing without the proper use of their hands. Their hands are what allow them to apply everything that they know intellectually and intuitively to their trade. Their hands are the first tool that they use in every surgery they perform, and as such their fine motor skills/manual dexterity must be impeccable. Could you imagine a surgeon trying to do ophthalmic surgery, neurosurgery or a c-section without nimble fingers? The results could be catastrophic for the patient."⁠

Read more in our newest blog post written by volunteer Sandy Bechtolsheim!

Published by Sandy Bechtolsheim “Handy”, original watercolor, 2020, by Sandy Bechtolsheim, Artist When we think about the qualities or traits that a surgeon needs to have to be successful, words su…

FINAL DAY! Take 25% off our order in our online store with code HOLIDAYS20!⁠Discount does not apply to items under the c...
12/15/2020

FINAL DAY! Take 25% off our order in our online store with code HOLIDAYS20!⁠

Discount does not apply to items under the category "Local Artists."⁠

Shop here: https://imss.ecwid.com/Gift-Shop-c15857083

The Museum’s doors are currently closed due to a state mandate, which means its time for the return of #MuseumsAfterDark...
12/14/2020

The Museum’s doors are currently closed due to a state mandate, which means its time for the return of #MuseumsAfterDark! 💀⬛️

For the next week, take 25% off our order in our online store with code HOLIDAYS20!Discount does not apply to items unde...
12/08/2020

For the next week, take 25% off our order in our online store with code HOLIDAYS20!

Discount does not apply to items under the category "Local Artists."

Shop here: https://imss.ecwid.com/Gift-Shop-c15857083

For Day With(out) Art 2020, Visual AIDS presents TRANSMISSIONS, a program of six new videos considering the impact of HI...
12/07/2020

For Day With(out) Art 2020, Visual AIDS presents TRANSMISSIONS, a program of six new videos considering the impact of HIV and AIDS beyond the United States. The video program brings together artists working across the world: Jorge Bordello (Mexico), Gevi Dimitrakopoulou (Greece), Las Indetectables (Chile), George Stanley Nsamba (Uganda), Lucía Egaña Rojas (Chile/Spain), and Charan Singh (India/UK).

The program does not intend to give a comprehensive account of the global AIDS epidemic, but provides a platform for a diversity of voices from beyond the United States, offering insight into the divergent and overlapping experiences of people living with HIV around the world today. The six commissioned videos cover a broad range of subjects, such as the erasure of women living with HIV in South America, ineffective Western public health campaigns in India, and the realities of stigma and disclosure for young people in Uganda.

As the world continues to adapt to living with a new virus, COVID-19, these videos offer an opportunity to reflect on the resonances and differences between the two epidemics and their uneven distribution across geography, race, and gender.

To view the video program online, head to visualaids.org/transmissions.

Congratulations to Selva Aparicio, whose work as IMSS Artist-In-Residence was featured in the Chicago Reader! Thank you ...
12/06/2020
Frenzied, lascivious, and licentious: a woman in hysterics

Congratulations to Selva Aparicio, whose work as IMSS Artist-In-Residence was featured in the Chicago Reader! Thank you to S. Nicole Lane for writing this beautiful piece.⁠

"Aparicio, whose work is closely tied to nature, combines the sterilization of the museum with objects found in the woods. In the IMSS’s Obstetrics and Gynecology gallery, her piece Velo de Luto, which translates into “mourning veil,” includes 17-year-old cicada wings and women’s hair. The artist drove from Chicago to Kansas to collect the cicada wings. “I waited for them to die. I wait for all of my materials to be discarded or dead before I use them,” she says. The work is in a uterine shape and sits behind museum glass, displayed as a fragile object.⁠

The combination of the hair and the wings represent the decay of life, two materials that represent the end. When viewing the work, gentle and fragile, it’s easy to imagine this is a cathartic process for Aparicio, as each wing is stitched together to create a larger piece. She says, 'The fragility of this piece forces you to be aware of all of yourself, including the way you are breathing. Exhale too strongly and you would break the piece, walk by it too fast and it would fall on the ground.'"⁠

Click below to read the whole piece. Photo credit: Robert Chase Heishman.

Artist Selva Aparicio puts obstetric devices on the examination table.

Address

1524 N Lake Shore Dr
Chicago, IL
60610-8157

Opening Hours

Monday 09:30 - 17:00
Tuesday 09:30 - 17:00
Wednesday 09:30 - 17:00
Thursday 09:30 - 17:00
Friday 09:30 - 17:00
Saturday 10:00 - 17:00
Sunday 10:00 - 17:00

Telephone

(312) 642-6502

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Our Story

Since 1954, the International Museum of Surgical Science has provided education on the history and progress of surgery and related medical sciences to hundreds of thousands of visitors. As a not-for-profit division of the International College of Surgeons, the Museum depicts contributions from around the world to the history, development and advances of surgery and related subjects in health and medicine. Housed in a historic mansion, the Museum building is a City of Chicago Landmark and is listed in the National Register and Illinois Register of Historic Places. The elegant structure, known as the Eleanor Robinson Countiss House, is patterned after Le Petit Trianon, a French chateau built on the grounds of Versailles for Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Designed by noted Chicago architect Howard Van Doren Shaw, the building was completed in 1917. Original interior finishes of marble and cut stone; decorative plaster work, metal fixtures and hardware; eight fireplaces; and a gilded metal grand staircase are among the features, which have been preserved. The building truly embodies the Gold Coast splendor of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. GENERAL INFORMATION The Museum is closed on the following holidays: Easter Sunday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. IMSS is also closed during the Chicago Air and Water Show weekend. ADMISSION Adults - $17.00 Students, Educators, Members or the Military (with ID) - $13.00 Senior Citizens (ages 65+) - $13.00 Children ages 4–13 (Free for ages 3 & under) - $9.00 Children ages 3 and under - FREE IMSS Members - FREE No Refunds • No Exchanges • No Re-Entry PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION The Museum is easily accessible by bus or train. * The CTA bus #151 stops at North Avenue, half a block north of the Museum. * From the Clark/Division stop of the Red Line elevated train walk east on Division until you reach Lake Shore Drive. Turn north and walk a few blocks to the Museum. * From the Sedgwick stop of the Brown Line and Purple Line Express elevated train, walk east on North Avenue until you reach Lake Shore Drive. Turn south and walk a block to the Museum. For train and bus schedules call the RTA/CTA at 312-836-7000. PARKING Ample discounted parking is available in 3 locations within a few minutes’ walk of the Museum. Retrieve a discounted validation voucher/stamp at the Museum box office to present to the parking attendant upon exiting the lot/ramp. PARKING OPTION Standard Parking Lot - Behind the Chicago History Museum located on Clark and LaSalle Streets, Chicago, IL 60614; entrance on Stockton Drive Standard Parking Lot - in condominium building at 1445 N. State Parkway, Chicago, IL 60610; entrance on Burton Place. Standard Parking Lot - in condominium building at 1350 N. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60610; entrance on E. Banks Street


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Comments

WOW! I have never been there, and I am very impressed. Thank you.
My friend is a fanatic about surgical museums and we attended the very enjoyable Morbid Curiosities and Surgical History Tour of the museum. The tour happens after hours; so, the small group has the museum to itself which is fantastic. I loved the Vesalius and Albinus anatomical folios, learned about Seishu Hanaoka, and stared at the 4000 yr old trephined Incan skulls. The guide Miranda was very informative and funny and Catherine, the Assistant Manager of Education and Events, was very helpful and welcoming. We joined as members and bought some swag. Highly recommended. 5 stars.
I really enjoyed our visit to your museum...me and my classmates learned a lot and I look forward to coming back soon!
My Microscope said I use for histology.
Karen Ann Steele & I had a great time at the David Allen Reception. The Museum is amazing!
Hi! I'm looking for tickets for 2 for the Valentines event on the 15th? Anyone have them and unable to go? Message me!
Donald and Laney..we gotta check this museum out! Right up my alley
I'm chairing a session at the 2018 ASECS (American Soc. for Eighteenth-Century Studies) Conference in Orlando, FL: "Anatomical Instruction in the Netherlands in the Long Eighteenth Century." Email cv and proposal to graciano at mailbox.sc.edu. Please share. Interested in papers dealing with topics as late as 1820.