While in Tennessee last week I got a chance to tour the Museum at Mountain Home, the name locals still use for the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Johnson City. Located in a strikingly beautiful 1902 building with a tower, the Museum occupies some 9,000 square feet of what used to be the dining hall for 1,000 residents. I know of no other medical museum in the state of this size or having as large a collection.
The Museum has an ambitious goal: to illuminate the medical heritage of the Southern Appalachians. Exhibits range from Native American herbs up through Civil War and other military medicine and on to more modern displays. While signage, lighting, and other enhancements still need work, the Museum is off to a great start, and already attracts a stream of visitors. More will come when the Museum expands its hours, currently Tuesday 9 a.m. – 11 a.m, Wednesday 1:30 p.m. – 3:30, and Thursday 9 A.M – 11 a.m. Admission is free.
The Museum has been a long time coming, and is largely due to the efforts of an extraordinary woman. Martha Whaley has gathered the Museum’s collections, worked with an enthusiastic group of volunteers, and coordinated fundraising efforts–yet the Museum is not her main job. She is an associate professor, technical services coordinator, and history of medicine librarian at the James H. Quillen College of Medicine at East Tennessee State University.
Martha and her supporters deserve a tremendous amount of credit for the Museum, which takes its place as the focal point of anyone’s visit to Mountain Home.