Back by Popular Demand

Some have suggested that the Civil War is the most written about war in history. Ebling’s own contribution to that is the exhibition “Costly Progress: Medical Advances in the American Civil War” which has been reprised to run until September 19th, 2014. Come visit the exhibition that has been described as “eye-opening,” “inventive,” and “amazing.” Capitalizing on the rich resources of Ebling’s Rare Books & Special Collections, curator, Micaela Sullivan-Fowler displays books and artifacts (surgical kits, etc.) that illustrate the complex interchange of clinical, social, cultural and statistical realities that framed the treatment of soldiers during the grim conflict.

Though 1861 through 1865 was a relative small spate of time, the war and its aftermath had a reverberating impact throughout the United States that arguably continues to this day. Specifically, while catastrophic in terms of morbidity and mortality, much was learned about successful amputations, the mechanics of prosthetics, proper anesthesia, the need for an organized ambulance service, the importance of triage, techniques in plastic surgery, the incorporation of hygiene and disease prevention for large populations, and the recording of statistics for disease and population demographics. All these initial lessons were advanced or improved in subsequent military operations, and informed how medicine and surgery is practiced today.

Included is an illustration of Camp Randall (before the football emphasis) illustrating a story on the celebration for the departing troops in 1861. There is so much that resonates about these narratives, we do hope that you can stop by…

Also, if you are heading downtown, the Wisconsin Veterans Museum has an exceptional installation that runs till April 12, 2015 called “The Last Full Measure: Wisconsin in the Civil War, 1863-1865.” Information here.

Finally, if you happen to be in Philadelphia, there’s a Civil War exhibition you won’t want to miss. Here’s little something from a recent visitor, Ebling’s Data Librarian, Trisha Adamus… “A must see for anyone interested in human health is the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Mutter Museum began as a donation from American surgeon Thomas Dent Mutter to The College of Physicians of Philadelphia to improve and reform medical education in the late 1800s. The museum’s collections of anatomical specimens, models, and medical instruments in a 19th-century “cabinet museum” set up to help the public understand the mysteries and beauty of the human body and to appreciate the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease. The exhibits are awesome and slightly creepy.

Some memorable permanent exhibits include slides of Albert Einstein’s brain, a man’s 8 foot long colon and the Hyrtl Skull Collection, a collection of 139 skulls, many inscribed with comments about the person’s age, place or origin and cause of death. The special Civil War Medicine Exhibition “Broken Bodies, Suffering Spirits” displays the instruments and medical kits used by doctors during the war and includes fascinating specimens of amputated limbs, some with the ball or shrapnel still imbedded within the bone! There is even an interactive exhibit that describes the process of losing an arm and actually shows how you would look as an amputee with mirrors and projection.”

Costly Progress is in the Historical Reading Room on the 3rd floor of Ebling Library. The exhibition is open when Ebling is open. For more information or to schedule a tour contact Micaela at or 608 262-2402