At its Annual Meeting in Knoxville on June 4, 2015, the East Tennessee Historical Society presented Awards of Distinction to the Museum at Mountain Home and the Heritage of Healthcare in Appalachia Consortium, both based at the joint ETSU/VAMC Campus in Johnson City, Tennessee.
The Museum was recognized for creating a permanent exhibit in 2014 to honor the achievements of Knoxville General Hospital School of Nursing and its nearly 900 graduates. Mary McCall McNamara (KGH Class of 1954) received the awards along with ETSU’s Martha Whaley.
The KGH training program existed from 1902-1956. Its influence can be traced around the United States, as well as Europe, Asia, and Central America. KGH graduates were pioneers in public and industrial health, nursing education, and modernization of nursing practice. The State Museum, in Nashville, is especially interested in KGH nurses who served during World War I for its “Great War” Centennial exhibition.
Museum Executive Director and medical college faculty member Martha Whaley said, “The KGH exhibit was developed on a shoe-string budget, primarily with donations from graduates and their family members. The collection of artifacts and oral histories has been more successful than we could have imagined.”
ETSU’s College of Nursing and Quillen College of Medicine provided support through personnel and services.
“The KGH presentation was a perfect extension to the Knoxville Academy of Medicine’s extensive early 20th Century physician’s office diorama on permanent display in the Museum,” Whaley said. The Academy’s collection of historical medical equipment and artifacts was donated about ten years ago.
Building on the success of the KGH exhibit, the Museum developed a permanent display of materials from Johnson City nurses’ training programs in association with ETSU College of Nursing’s 60th Anniversary observance in the Fall of 2014.
“We aren’t stopping there. Ultimately, we plan to represent nursing history throughout the South Central Appalachia region,” Whaley said.
As expected, researching and documenting the KGH and ETSU nursing exhibits required intensive efforts by several individuals from diverse locations. The researchers’ loose network formalized as the Heritage of Healthcare in Appalachia Consortium in 2014. The Consortium’s regional focus includes East Tennessee, Western North Carolina, Southeastern Kentucky, Southwestern Virginia, and Southern West Virginia. All aspects of healthcare training and practice in these areas, both historically and as they affect modern medical care, are of interest to the Consortium.
The Museum at Mountain Home and Quillen College of Medicine Library are ideal locations for archiving the Consortium’s research findings. Technological advances make it possible for scholars around the world to access materials housed in Johnson City. Nursing faculty members Sharon Loury, Ph.D., RN, of ETSU and Phoebe Pollitt, Ed.D., RN, of Appalachian State already have graduate students working collaboratively with materials housed at the Museum and Library.
In the Spring of 2016, the Consortium will sponsor a Symposium on Appalachian healthcare history at ETSU.
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