Today, Deaconess and St. Mary’s health systems employ thousands of Tri-State residents, maintain large medical campuses, and offer state-of-the-art care. Each health system began its legacy of caring for sick and injured residents more than 100 years ago, and pieces of that history currently are on display at the Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science. “Caring Hands: Evansville’s Early Hospitals” features photography, newspaper clippings, advertisements, and historic medical equipment and attire. The exhibition runs through Feb. 27, 2011, in the museum’s Town Hall area.
“People like to see the old buildings and medical technology because things have evolved for the positive,” says Tom Lonnberg, the museum’s curator of history. “Back then, they didn’t see it from our perspective. In that day, this was cutting-edge health care.”
Photos showcase old-fashioned sterilization equipment, oxygen tents, operating rooms, and even nurseries — but the exhibition isn’t overly clinical. One series of photographs chronicles St. Mary’s move from its original hospital (on First Avenue at the current Hacienda location) to its present-day Washington Avenue site. The move took place in one day in 1956 with the help of 800 volunteers and employees and more than 100 semi trucks. Other photos show a mid-1920s reunion of children born at Deaconess Hospital, a soda shop that once served as the Deaconess cafeteria, and a dedication ceremony for a new television set at the Evansville State Hospital. Evansville’s healthcare facilities “seem to have a real sense of their history,” says Lonnberg, “that it’s important to keep track of where they’ve been."