A woman holds up a glass tube

Making Exhibition Connections: Melnick Medical Museum

National Library of Medicine traveling exhibitions are hosted throughout the United States and across the world. The host libraries, museums, and organizations plan and present enriching and engaging programs to connect their communities with the information in the exhibition and the wide-variety of NLM resources available to the public. This is the third post in a series called “Making Exhibition Connections,” which invites host venues to share their partnerships, programs, and public engagement experiences with Circulating Now readers. Today Cassie Nespor, curator of the Melnick Medical Museum and University Archives at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH talks about hosting Pick Your Poison: Intoxicating Pleasures and Medical Prescriptions.

Circulating Now: Tell us about your museum. Where is the museum located? What exhibition did you host and when did you host it?

Cassie Nespor: The Melnick Medical Museum is a small, medical history museum that is part of Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio. It was the dream of Dr. John Melnick to share his love of local and medical history with students, fellow medical professionals, and citizens of the Mahoning Valley. Right now, the museum is in the process of relocating to a new space on campus and the exhibits are closed. The NLM banner exhibits are a great way for the museum to keep a presence on campus and engage a variety of academic subject areas during this time. A recent banner exhibit was Pick Your Poison: Intoxicating Pleasures and Medical Prescriptions, hosted in the Fall of 2017.

Graphic banners line the walkway of a museum
Pick Your Poison on display during Silly Science Sunday at OH WOW Children’s Center for Science and Technology, 2017

Circulating Now: Who visits your museum on a regular basis?

Cassie Nespor: During the relocation project, students and visitors in the College of Health and Human Services (HHS) will see the museum’s exhibit cases throughout the building. Other museum visitors are classes who arrange suitcase tours from the museum in their classrooms on a variety of medical history topics.

Circulating Now: Why did you want to host Pick Your Poison: Intoxicating Pleasures and Medical Prescriptions?

Cassie Nespor: This topic is closely related to one of the popular exhibits at the museum on Quack Medicine and the development of the FDA. I also felt that college students, particularly in the HHS College, would be interested in the exhibit’s discussion of the historical shifting of regulations on substances like alcohol, opium, and marijuana.

Circulating Now: Were you trying to connect with specific groups within your community?

Cassie Nespor: Yes, as a university museum, connecting with students (from any discipline) is a necessity; however, I also look for ways to reach the general public as well. Partnering with the OH WOW Children’s Center for Science and Technology for their big Silly Science Sunday event really helps me reach members of the community that would never know about the Medical Museum.

Circulating Now: You hosted some unique programs. Please tell us about the programs and how you came up with the ideas for the programs.

Cassie Nespor: I had Pick Your Poison reserved for our Fall Semester and displayed it in the lobby/café of the College of Health and Human Services. Since Silly Science Sunday was scheduled during this time, I wanted to find a way to use the exhibition for the event. Silly Science Sunday is hosted by a children’s museum, so the main audience for the event is children. I needed an interactive activity and a simple educational concept appropriate for grade school children. My activity focused on the negative health of effects of smoking and tobacco use that we know about today.

Kids and adults work at an activity station
Kids learn about the dangerous effects of smoking by comparing two sets of pigs’ lungs (at right) during Silly Science Sunday, 2017

The YSU Respiratory Care department owns two sets of pigs’ lungs that they use to demonstrate how healthy lungs work compared to lungs affected by tobacco smoke. Both sets of lungs are connected to a small bellow and a set of PVC pipes. The kids really enjoyed seeing the working lungs and pumping the bellows themselves (with supervision)! The pigs’ lungs are delicate and shouldn’t be touched, so I also borrowed a set of rubber lung models from the Mercer County Behavioral Health Commission. They had models of a healthy lung and one with a tumor that are durable enough to be touched by a lot of kids.

The Behavioral Health Commission also gave me brochures about their cessation support programs. While the children looked at the lung models, I saw parents/grandparents/guardians looking at the Pick Your Poison banners that were set up next to the table. Some of the adults asked me questions about the exhibit and took printed brochures. The impact on the children was outstanding. They were surprised and fascinated by seeing real lungs. Many of them were encouraging their parents to stop smoking after seeing the pig lungs with the tumor.

Circulating Now: How did you reach out to your community about the programs?

Cassie Nespor: My program was part of a much larger event (Silly Science Sunday) organized by the OH WOW Children’s Center for Science and Technology. They have major sponsors for the event and a lot of advertising. I simply took advantage of the large audience with a general interest in science. Attendance at SSS is usually about 3,000-5,000 people.

Circulating Now: Do you think you were successful in connecting the exhibition topic with your community?

Cassie Nespor: Yes, in a small way that focused on the tobacco banner. The pigs’ lungs were very effective in showing people how lungs work and the delicate nature of their pink tissues. The activity clearly showed the harmful effects of smoking that we know about today.

Circulating Now: Were you able to tie in any National Library of Medicine resources to the exhibition? If you did, how did you incorporate them into the visitor experience?

Cassie Nespor: I always use the NLM suggested press release text to send to our university marketing department. I also use the digital images and graphics to create my own fliers and slides for the digital message screens on campus. I did find the NIH website for the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teachers. It had some cool tools for tobacco use prevention for high school teachers.

Headshot of a womanCassie Nespor has been the curator of the Melnick Medical Museum and University Archives at Youngstown State University since 2009. What she enjoys most about her job is working with university faculty and students, and doing creative outreach in the local community.

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