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Southern California Medical Museum set to open at WesternU

by Rodney Tanaka

June 17, 2015

Read 3 mins

The Southern California Medical Museum (SCMM) is set to open in its new home at Western University of Health Sciences.

SCMM will hold a preview from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, June 25, 2015 at WesternU’s Nursing Science Center, 350 S. Garey Ave., Pomona, Calif. The museum will then be open on a limited basis until the gala opening scheduled for mid-October.

The SCMM was founded in 1983 in Colton, and was in the San Bernardino County Medical Society building in Riverside for about 10 years. The Society moved to Redlands, but its new building was not a good fit for exhibiting the museum’s collections, said SCMM Director Bert (Hans) Davidson, MD, PhD, who is also a WesternU clinical professor.

WesternU is providing about 2,000 square feet to house the museum. The San Bernardino County Medical Society will cover administration.

“It’s much larger here. It’s a dedicated space. In Riverside we were wall decoration. We were in hallways and in a large conference room,” Davidson said. “When the university offered this, I was floored. I was really happy. We now have a ‘real,’ traditional museum with room for expansion and temporary exhibits, a work and conference facility.”

Custom-built cabinets display a wide range of medical, pharmaceutical and dental artifacts, art and publications. A glass-walled conference room has been converted into a diorama depicting a physician’s office from the 1920s to the 1940s and a dentist’s office from the 1920s to the 1950s.
Through its exhibits, publications and programs, the Southern California Medical Museum stimulates, informs, and educates the general public, medical professionals, and students about the history of health care, with emphasis on Southern California and the West, according to the museum’s website.

SCMM is the only museum in Southern California dedicated to the collection and preservation of medical artifacts and the recording of the history of medicine in the Inland Empire, California and the West. The museum and historical committee came about as the result of more than a decade of work by Merlin Hendrickson, MD, and others. Hendrickson was a major donor financially and materially, and his influence is still seen in the collection today. The SCMM is supported by donations and funds through the Physicians Memorial Gift and Benevolence Fund, a non-profit, 501(c)(3) charitable organization, according to its website.

SCMM loans some of its collection to other museums, including Civil War items loaned to the Pasadena Museum of History’s “When Johnny Came Marching West: How the Civil War Shaped Pasadena” exhibit currently on display. It also has a speakers’ bureau. Lectures are available for many aspects of medicine and its history.

“If you don’t know where you’re coming from, you don’t know where you’re going,” Davidson said. “Knowledge of history plays an important part in the understanding of the present and the future.”

A Claremont Colleges class studying the history of medical technology has already visited the museum, and will be back several times, Davidson said. Following the June 25 preview, the museum will be open 1-5 p.m. every Friday and Saturday, and 5:30-9:30 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month to coincide with downtown Pomona’s Art Walk. Groups can visit by appointment at other times.

“We need to get our feet wet and make arrangements for the museum to open,” Davidson said. “We have a limited number of volunteers to keep it open.”

Davidson invites people to volunteer at the museum or join the museum committee.

“It’s a learning experience, especially for people in health care, but not only for them,” he said. “Here is an opportunity to teach and learn, and do research to find out more about a topic that was not completely known. Research helps in all aspects of life. The more you know, the better off you are.”

Call 909-273-6000, ext. 105 or email for hours and availability prior to coming to the museum, and to RSVP for the preview.


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