Female Doctor With Young Boy

Springfield’s Long History of Public Health Action Continues to Inspire Gratitude

“Gauze masks and open air were deemed very important in combating the Spanish Influenza. Social distancing was practiced, and people were encouraged to walk to reduce crowding in railroad and streetcars, while streetcars were disinfected every night. The clergy decided to close the churches, and the Board of Health closed just about everything else.”–Maggie Humberston, Curator of Library and Archives for the Springfield Museums

From the Civil War through present day, doctors and nurses, public health employees, social workers and philanthropists have contributed significantly to improving the health of this community with their skills, compassion, and vision.

The Museums recently opened an exhibit titled Heroes in Healthcare: Celebrating Springfield’s Medical Community as a direct response to the incredible work our front line healthcare providers have been offering for centuries and especially now in this time of pandemic. The staff found a consistent message of proactive care and remarkable selflessness.

As stewards of the Baystate Medical Center Archives, including materials from their Training School for Nurses, Museums staff were able to gather a rich history of healthcare in Springfield, said Maggie Humberston, Curator of Library and Archives for the Springfield Museums. “We drew on that collection with its assortment of photographs and institutional history to recount a story of outreach and care,” she said, “and a long history of striving to meet the public need.”

The Visiting Nurses Association Archives is also held at the Wood Museum. Humberston delved into that collection to share remarkable stories of how visiting nurses traveled to the homes of people of all economic backgrounds to not only treat disease, but also to offer wellness training, child care advice, and, often, a sympathetic ear!

As she researched the local response to the Spanish Influenza of 1918, Humberston discovered similar efforts to our own today as we work together to stem the spread of Covid-19 by wearing masks and keeping at social distance. “Gauze masks and open air were deemed very important in combating the Spanish Influenza,” Humberston said. “Social distancing was practiced, and people were encouraged to walk to reduce crowding in railroad and streetcars, while streetcars were disinfected every night. The clergy decided to close the churches, and the Board of Health closed just about everything else.”

With the World Health Organization’s declaration of 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, the Museums dedicate a part of this exhibit to specifically celebrating the city’s nurses. The Museums also present a Wall of Healthcare Heroes to honor the courageous and dedicated work of our hospitals’ front-line responders.

“When we brought the Hall of Heroes to the Museums, we knew how important it would be to celebrate real-life heroes with a complementary exhibit,” said Kay Simpson, President and CEO of the Springfield Museums. “Our healthcare heroes are helping us all face these unprecedented times with endless examples of heroic service and compassionate care. Thank you to our Healthcare Heroes!”

“We are proud to be a longtime sponsor of the Springfield Museums and appreciate their recognition of Baystate Health’s contribution to the community through its new Heroes in Healthcare exhibit,”  said Mark A. Keroack, MD, President & CEO, Baystate Health.

Note: The Museums are also grateful for the kind assistance of Mercy Hospital and the Archives of the Sisters of Providence in documenting the history of their organization.

The Springfield Museums present Heroes in Healthcare: Celebrating Springfield’s Medical Community at the Wood Museum of Springfield History, is on display through January 24, 2021. As a complementary exhibit to Hall of Heroes, located on the first floor of the Wood Museum of Springfield History, Heroes in Healthcare pinpoints the deep appreciation we all feel for those who put themselves in harm’s way in order to help others.

Sponsored by
Baystate Health