Nursing history exhibition touches hearts of museum visitorsMarch 8, 2006
Nursing history exhibition touches hearts of museum visitors – More than 100,000 visitors since openingGatineau, Quebec, March 8, 2006 The first-ever exhibition on the history of Canadian nursing, A Caring Profession: Centuries of Nursing in Canada, has attracted more than 100,000 visitors since it opened on June 17, 2005. The exhibition is on display at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (CMC) until July 30, 2006.
The exhibition illustrates the often heroic role nurses have played in the lives of Canadians, from birth to death, since the country was founded. Curator Christina Bates found this a unique opportunity to focus on a largely female profession. “A Caring Profession has become something of a pilgrimage site for many nurses,” she says. “And for visitors, the exhibition is an eye-opening experience when they hear about nurses who have continually worked on the frontiers of healthcare to ensure the well-being of all citizens.”
Many visitors have left their own moving comments: “The evolution of technology has changed the work, but the caring for the patient today is as important, if not more so,” wrote one person. Another wrote, “This is a wonderful meditation on nursing a gathering place for nurses from all places.”
A Caring Profession is national in scope. The show delves into four centuries of vocational and professional nursing and examines the parallel nursing traditions of the religious Catholic model and the secular British-inspired model. It highlights the hardships and isolation nurses experienced in frontier outposts, and shows the crusading work of public health nurses, as well as the ongoing struggle of nurses today for professional recognition. Visitors will meet many nurses in the exhibition, including Myra Bennett, who was the sole provider of medical care for 322 km of coastal Newfoundland.
Ms. Bates worked closely with the nursing community and nursing historians, including military nursing expert Cynthia Toman, to bring this history to life. An important donation by the Canadian Nursing Association (CNA) of more than 1,000 artifacts stirred Bates to create this exhibition. She assembled hundreds of artifacts from convents, hospitals and schools to complement the selected CNA objects. The exhibition includes such artifacts as an iron lung, syringe kits, surgical instruments, apothecary jars, nursing uniforms, historic photographs, video clips, and much more.
The CMC also published On All Frontiers: Four Centuries of Canadian Nursing the first book on the subject in 52 years co-edited by Christina Bates, Dianne Dodd and Nicole Rousseau, and co-published with the University of Ottawa Press.
With the support of nurses and nursing organizations, the Museum has developed a full slate of programmes and activities, including a Nursing Station staffed by volunteer nurses, to help visitors understand this caring profession.
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