National Museum of Health and Medicine

DoD museum focuses on history of U.S. medicine, current medical research

The mounted right tibia and fibula of Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles, commander of the Union 3rd Army Corps at the Battle of Gettysburg is on display at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland. Sickles was hit by a 12 pound artillery round shot on the second day of the battle, and was forced to have his leg amputated above the knee. The artillery round shot on display is a representation of the one that hit Sickles. |Courtesy photo of NMHM

The National Museum of Health and Medicine, or NMHM, promotes the understanding of medicine from the past, present and future, with a special emphasis on U.S. military medicine.

Located in Montgomery County, Maryland, NMHM was founded as the Army Medical Museum, or AMM in 1862 by Surgeon General William Hammond, who directed medical officers in the field to collect “specimens of morbid anatomy together with projectiles and foreign bodies removed,” to be studied at the museum.

In 1989, the AMM became the NMHM, and in 2011, it relocated to its present site at the U.S. Army Garrison Forest Glen in Silver Spring. NMHM is an element of the Research and Development Directorate of the Defense Health Agency and is funded through the Department of Defense, as well as from grants, contributions, donations and in-kind gifts.

Tim Clarke, NMHM deputy director for communications, said the museum maintains a collection of more than 25 million objects and artifacts, and about 50,000 people visit every year.

“NMHM is a museum where the past and future of military medicine is on display,” Clarke said. “Alongside historic artifacts from the Civil War, visitors can see the very latest technological advances developed to protect our service members in the field or restore them if injured.”

Clarke said many people visit NMHM to see artifacts associated with the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. These objects include the bullet that killed him on April 14, 1865, and the surgical kit used in his autopsy.

“Others visit [the museum] to see artifacts telling the story of innovations in military medicine from the Civil War to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said.

A radically advanced bionic arm known as the “Luke” DEKA Arm System is on display at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring.| Courtesy photo by Photo by Matthew Breitbart, NMHM

Other highlights include exhibits on traumatic brain injury, human anatomy, and the legacy of U.S. Army Maj. Walter Reed, who lived from 1851 to 1902. This exhibit focuses on his groundbreaking research of typhoid and yellow fever.

“The landmark discovery [of Reed] that yellow fever is transmitted by mosquitoes—has saved countless human lives,” the NMHM website states.

The museum also has several “virtual exhibits.” Topics include medical curiosities, the Spanish Influenza Virus and ophthalmology.

Upcoming events

On Sept. 16, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., NMHM will host a “Teddy Bear Clinic” for children in pre-kindergarten through second grade. The event includes activities and crafts designed to highlight the body, physical fitness and healthy habits. Children are encouraged to bring their favorite stuffed animal.

In March, the museum hosts an annual “Brain Injury Awareness Week” program for groups of students in grades fifth through eighth. This free event features hands-on stations with a focus on brain anatomy and topics related to neuroscience.

Blue Star Museum

As a Blue Star Museum, NMHM offers free admission to Soldiers and their families during the summer months.

“NMHM is a Department of Defense museum, and we’re committed to sharing the past, present and future of the history of military medicine, as well as sharing why military medicine is important to the military and to the American people,” Clarke said.

The National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland, maintains a collection of more than 25 million objects and artifacts. The NMHM is an element of the Research and Development Directorate of the Defense Health Agency. | Photo courtesy of NMHM

About NMHM

The National Museum of Health and Medicine is located at 2500 Linden Lane, Silver Spring, Md. 20910. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., daily. Parking is available in the visitor lot off Linden Lane. Admission is free.

Guided tours are available, free of charge, for groups of 10 or more individuals. Guided tours are available for students pre-K and up, and adults. Tour programs are tailored to suit the age and needs of the group. NMHM requires tours to be scheduled at least four weeks in advance. For more information about NMHM, and to view the museum’s virtual exhibits, visit, or call 301-319-3300. To schedule a tour, call 301-319-3312.


Story by Rachel Ponder, APG News