The Russell Museum gives a historical overview of Massachusetts General Hospital, or MGH, as we locals say. Founded in 1811, MGH is the third-oldest hospital in the U.S.
It’s not a large museum, but the artifacts on display are interesting. There is everything from medical instruments from the 1800s to a virtual dissection table that a docent operates for visitors.
I learned that the hospital performed the first arm replantation in 1962, dental insurance didn’t exist in the U.S. until the 1950s, and researchers are studying Weddell seals—who can hold their breath for up to an hour when diving—to gain insight on how to help people with conditions associated with low tissue oxygen levels. I’m not big into science and medicine, but I found it fascinating. Definitely worth a visit.
I thought I would be in and out of the Boston Fire Museum in under an hour.
The museum is in one big room, which used to be an actual firehouse. When I arrived, there was a children’s birthday party going on, so I quietly strolled along and looked at a number of old fire engines, a display about the devastating Cocoanut Grove fire in 1942, and artifacts such as “clackers” used in colonial times to wake up sleeping families to alert them of a fire or other emergency.
I had just finished looking at a black-and-white photo of a firefighter emerging from a house fire on a Boston street. The photo was taken in the 1960s; I forget the rank of the firefighter, but he was pretty high up. His lungs were severely damaged during the fire, but he survived. The photo caption also said his three sons were firefighters.
Cue an older gentleman in a red volunteer shirt approaching from stage right, pointing at the photo and saying, “That’s my father.”
Paul and I ended up talking for TWO HOURS. This is what happens when you pair a curious person with a person who exudes passion for his life’s work. He gave me a rundown of his firefighting career. He explained the alarm bell system and all of the different symbols on the helmets that were hanging from the ceiling. Being an animal person, I had to ask him about the horses who used to pull the engines (there was a stable in the back of the firehouse/museum). I’ve always respected firefighters, but my respect reached a new level that day. And it was just a joy to talk with someone who was so dedicated to his career.
Another amazing thing about both museums is that they are free of charge. They gladly accept donations, and I gladly left a donation on my way out.