Crowd celebrates reopening of Country Doctor Museum
From left, Drs. Robert Frazier, mayor of Bailey; William Shelton, interim ECU chancellor; Josephine Newell, founder of the Country Doctor Museum; Michael J. Lewis, ECU vice chancellor for health sciences; and Dorothy Spencer, director of the Laupus Health
(Apr. 15, 2004)
The charm and challenge of providing medical care in 19th century rural America, enshrined in the Country Doctor Museum, is again on display. The museum officially reopened April 14 with a ceremonial afternoon ribbon cutting.
Closed for more than a year, the museum has reopened under the stewardship of the Medical Foundation of East Carolina University. The Country Doctor Museum Foundation, the non-profit organization that established and operated the museum since 1967, transferred it to the Medical Foundation last August.
Dr. Josephine Newell, founder of the Country Doctor Museum, practiced medicine in Bailey for 24 years. She and six other women started the museum in 1967, and when they handed the keys over to ECU last August the museum was debt-free, a fact Newell is quick to point out.
“After 35 years of struggle, age and disability forced us to seek someone to acquire it,” she said. “We know we’re doing the right thing working with ECU, a university that’s devoted to training country doctors, so to speak. We knew that if it was to be perpetuated that we’d have to be involved with a university.”
“Today has fulfilled my dream,” Newell said to the crowd of approximately 75 people gathered for the re-opening celebration.
Among those assembled were many of Newell’s friends who served on the board of the museum and as docents at the museum for many years, including Sarah Stallings May. A 1929 graduate of ECU, May began volunteering at the museum in 1967 after she retired from 35 years of teaching in Bailey and Nash County. May said she was pleased to see the museum again open to the public.
Housed in two 19th century doctor’s offices, the facility is operated by ECU’s Laupus Health Sciences Library as part of its History of Medicine program.
Over the past few months the museum has been spruced up with fresh paint, structural repairs and landscaping improvements. A local high school horticulture class has replanted the medicinal herb garden on the grounds. Anne Anderson, hired by the library in November as the historic site manager, has overseen refurbishment of the museum’s exhibits.
The museum’s normal operating hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Groups interested in touring should call the museum in advance at (252) 235-4165.
These leg braces are some of the items on display at the Country Doctor Museum.
An iron lung like this one on display at the Country Doctor Museum helped keep alive patients who could not breathe on their own.