A Visitor’s View: Kirksville’s Osteopathic Museum

Have you ever wanted to travel in a time machine?  When I visit the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine it feels like I am stepping back in time. The museum is located in Kirksville at 800 W. Jefferson on the campus of Andrew Taylor Still University (ATSU).  . The museum was founded in 1934 and includes more than 80,000 items including objects, photos and documents.

My favorite exhibit is the cabin where Andrew Taylor Still was born on Aug. 6, 1828.  Dr. Still is the founder of Osteopathic Medicine and he started the first school of Osteopathy in 1892 in Kirksville.  The cabin was built in Lee County Virginia in the 1820s The Stills moved away from Virginia in 1834 when Andrew’s father Abram, a Methodist circuit riding preacher and physician, moved to Tennessee  and then into Missouri and finally to Kansas.  The cabin was moved from Virginia to Kirksville in 1929.  It is full of period furniture and household items such as a cradle and a trundle bed.  You can step through the cabin door and back in time to see how pioneers lived.

Next to the cabin, I peek in the window of the small clapboard school house.  I see the skeleton in the corner and the exam table in the middle of the floor. The two- room school, called the American School of Osteopathy, was used from 1892-1894 when  a larger school was built. Women have always been allowed to study and gain a degree in Osteopathic medicine.  I love that Dr. Still included women in his first class and each year he trained female and well as male Osteopathic Physicians.  “I opened wide the doors of my first school to include ladies.  Why not elevate our sisters. . . to qualify them to fill all places of trust and honor, place her hand and head with the skilled arts.” Andrew Taylor Still states in his autobiography. The first class included 16 men and 5 women.

I like to step back in history by entering the Victorian parlor filled with personal items belonging to the Still Family.  Standing there I picture Dr. Still strolling thru the parlor on his way to the porch to meet with some young Osteopathic students.  “To be an Osteopath you must study and know the exact location of every bone, nerve, fiber, muscle, and organ, the course, the flow of all the fluids or the body, the relation to each other and the function each is to perform in perpetuating life and health,” Dr. Still stated many times.
One poignant exhibit is the iron lung used by victims of Polio.  It wrenches my heart to think of polio victims who could not breathe without living inside the iron tube. The fact that this life giving machine is archaic now encourages me that our scientists and physicians can conquer a disease just as Jonas Salk and others discovered the vaccine to stop polio.

The Museum of Osteopathic Medicine is open Monday –Friday, 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. and Saturday 10:00 a.m. -4:00 p.m.  Guided tours are available.  The expert staff is passionate about teaching the history of Osteopathic Medicine. Call 660-626-2359 to schedule a tour and enjoy your trip back in time.
Story by Debbie Boughton