Woman demonstrating new digital wall at Dittrick Museum.
The new digital wall at the Dittrick Museum at Case Western Reserve University features four interconnected touch screens that are as easy to use as a smartphone—responding to tapping, swiping or pinching.

Hands-on medical history: Interactive digital wall debuts at Dittrick Museum

“How Medicine Became Modern” exhibition opens at tech symposium Friday

You can put your hands directly on history starting this weekend at the Dittrick Medical History Center at Case Western Reserve University.

On Friday evening, the Dittrick Museum, on the third floor of the Allen Memorial Medical Library (11000 Euclid Ave.) on the Case Western Reserve campus, will debut its new “How Medicine Became Modern” digital exhibition wall. The 4-by-8-foot interactive touch-screen display previews the entire Dittrick collection through stories and images.

“This exhibition reveals medicine does not exist in a vacuum, but reflects the values and dynamics of American society and culture,” said James Edmonson, the museum’s chief curator. “Visitors can explore how medical innovations—as embodied in the artifacts of the Dittrick Museum—forever altered the American experience of health and medicine.”

Digitally experiencing history

Museum curator demonstrates digital wall.
Dittrick Curator Jim Edmonson demonstrates the interactive display

The new digital wall, similar to the “ArtLens Wall” in the Cleveland Museum of Art, features four interconnected touch screens that are as easy to use as a smartphone—responding to tapping, swiping or pinching.

The state-of-the-art system was designed by the award-winning BlueCadet of Philadelphia, which has also done projects for the National WWII Museum and NASA Goddard Visitor Center.

Museum visitors will be able to interact with full-size images and stories about the medical past through three thematic entry points to history: Women’s Health and Contraception, Communities in Crisis and the Spread of Ideas.

This is interaction on a new level,” said Brandy Schillace, the Dittrick Museum’s senior research associate and public engagement/programs fellow. “And the exhibition broadens perspectives by showing how the history of medicine influences and shapes practices in the present, while our digitized collections allow greater access to research and materials.”

Symposium at two museums

The exhibition wall’s grand opening coincides with the museum’s annual Anton and Rose Zverina Lecture and the “Technology in Museums and Education” symposium at the museum and Cleveland Museum of Natural History. The symposium focuses on the increasing role of high-tech tools and displays in enhancing cultural and educational experiences.

A full schedule of events can be found on the Dittrick page on the CWRU College of Arts and Sciences webpage.

The Zverina Lecture at 6 p.m. Friday in the library’s Ford Auditorium, the post-lecture reception and the new interactive exhibition are free and open to the public. The Zverina lecture series began in 1979 with an endowment from the Zverina family of Cleveland and has focused on the intersection and interplay of medicine and technology.

This year’s lecture will be given by Lisa O’Sullivan, vice president and director of the Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health at the New York Academy of Medicine, who will present “Medical Museums and the Digital Turn.”

The symposium begins at 8 a.m. Saturday when the Dittrick will host morning talks dedicated to the use of digitization and interactives as well as a presentation of Case Western Reserve HoloLens project and its impact on medical education.

A catered lunch will be followed by an afternoon at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, where participants will tour the new Human Health Galleries and learn about the Centennial Campaign to transform the museum’s galleries.

The symposium concludes with dinner for all registrants in the Powell Room of the Allen Memorial Medical Library.

Tickets to the symposium are $55 and registration is online.

For more information, contact Mike Scott at mike.scott@case.edu or 216.368.1004.

This article was originally published Oct. 11, 2017.