Medical Museum Provides Virtual Educational Resources for Visitors During COVID-19

By Jacqueline Gase
NMHM Public Affairs Coordinator

Hospital, Camp Jackson, South Carolina

Interior of a hospital ward at the Base Hospital, Camp Jackson, South Carolina, during the influenza epidemic. September and October 1918. (NCP 11066-3)

In the current climate of COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders, virtual environments have become an invaluable means of entertainment and education. But what can museums do to establish themselves in this digital space while they are not open to the public?

A museum's integration with digital spaces can help enhance audience engagement with a museum's collections through widespread accessibility. However, the use of the web can go beyond solely providing access to a museum's collections online.

The digital environment also offers a distinct learning platform where museums can implement educational programs to a wide variety of audiences. A museum's online learning resources, like teacher's guides, lesson plans, or even coloring books, can focus on a distinct aspect of a museum's collection and inform audiences about a museum's mission.

New online learning resources from the National Museum of Health and Medicine – a division of the DHA's Research and Development Directorate – are examples of how the DoD medical museum is using the virtual world as a means of education while its exhibits are unavailable.

On the education page of the museum's website, educators and students alike can browse a variety of resources that coincide with the history, research, and advancement of military medicine.

The museum's most recently developed virtual resource, "Pandemic: Comparing Influenza to COVID-19 Teacher's Guide," uses the museum's archival collections to engage students about the military's involvement and history of combatting pandemics from the 1918 "Spanish" influenza to COVID-19.

"Pandemic" is packaged with a downloadable PowerPoint presentation featuring images from the museum's collections, a document analysis worksheet, and an image analysis worksheet. The guide includes activities to help students develop their research and critical thinking skills. For example, one of the activities has students watching the October 2018 Medical Museum Science Café titled, "On the Centenary of the 1918 Influenza: Lessons from the Past and Planning for the Future," and evaluating the lecture with a guiding questions worksheet.

While "Pandemic" is geared toward high school students, other online materials like the Color Our Collections 2020 Coloring Book are for all ages. The themed coloring book highlights the Otis Historical Archives collection of World War II public health posters.

Even though the museum is closed to the public (as of this writing), pre-visit tour materials and teacher guides are available online for most grades. These resources allow a glimpse into the museum's collections and outline the major themes and exhibitions presented in the galleries.

"While all of us experience the effects of distancing, we are able to achieve our mission by staying relevant and connecting with our audiences in unique ways. These distance learning tools provide opportunities for us to join other museums worldwide in efforts to provide service and share our collections through #MuseumatHome programs," said Public Programs Manager Andrea Schierkolk.

The museum is also leveraging its social media channels by sharing museum materials using the popular #MuseumZen and #MuseumBouquet hashtags to engage with visitors on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. These interactive engagements offer meditative and relaxing content during this stressful period.

Keep an eye on the museum's website and social media channels, as we continue to add more online learning resources for educators, students, or those of an inquisitive nature.

NMHM provides forums for informal learning to connect the mission of the Department of Defense museum with the public. NMHM was founded as the Army Medical Museum in 1862 and is a division of the Defense Health Agency Research and Development Directorate.