Maude Abbott and the Origin and Mysterious Disappearance of the Canadian Medical War Museum
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CONTEXT.—: In the early 1900s, it was common practice to retain, prepare, and display instructive pathologic specimens to teach pathology to medical trainees and practitioners; these collections were called medical museums. Maude Abbott, MD, established her reputation by developing expertise in all aspects of medical museum work. She was a founder of the International Association of Medical Museums (later renamed the International Academy of Pathology) and became an internationally renowned expert on congenital heart disease. Her involvement in the Canadian Medical War Museum (CMWM) is less well known. OBJECTIVE.—: To explore Abbott's role in the development of the CMWM during and after World War I and to trace its history. DESIGN.—: Available primary and secondary historical sources were reviewed. RESULTS.—: Instructive pathologic specimens derived from Canadian soldiers dying during World War I were shipped to the Royal College of Surgeons in London, which served as a clearinghouse for museum specimens from Dominion forces. The Canadian specimens were repatriated to Canada, prepared by Abbott, and displayed at several medical meetings. Abbott, because she was a woman, could not enlist and so she reported to a series of enlisted physicians with no expertise in museology. Plans for a permanent CMWM building in Ottawa eventually failed and Abbott maintained the collection at McGill (Montreal, Quebec, Canada) until her death in 1940. We trace the CMWM after her death. CONCLUSIONS.—: Sadly, after Abbott had meticulously prepared these precious teaching specimens so that their previous owners' ultimate sacrifice would continue to help their military brethren, the relics were bureaucratically lost.
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