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Home : News : News
NEWS | Sept. 12, 2019

Army Medical Department Museum preserves history, supports education

By Dr. Grant Harward, PhD AMEDD Center of History and Heritage

The Army Medical Department Museum at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston traces its origins back to the Museum of Field Equipment established by the Medical Field Service School, or MFSS, at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, May 17, 1944.

The museum’s collection consisted of training items accumulated by the MFSS since its foundation in 1920 and equipment designed and tested by the Medical Department Equipment Laboratory.

The Museum of Field Equipment had a twofold mission: to display current equipment for training and store old equipment and historical models. The Medical Department Equipment Laboratory housed the museum in part of its building, a former stable converted into workshops, at Carlisle Barracks. The building was located where the Army War College now stands.

When Fort Sam Houston became the center of Army medical training after World War II, the MFSS re-located in 1946 and brought the museum along.

The MFSS took over the 9th Infantry barracks quadrangle on 2270 Stanley Road. The Museum of Field Equipment was re-designated the MFSS Museum and provided space in the basement of one of the buildings, today known as Building 2264.

The MFSS Museum was used to train soldiers and educate visiting foreign officers about AMEDD history. The museum was renovated and first opened to the public in 1954. The displays on MFSS history, medicine and surgery, preventive medicine, occupational therapy, field medical service, dental service, veterinary service, and administration occupied 14,000 square feet.

Early in 1955, as part of the MFSS’s 35th anniversary, the MFSS dedicated its four buildings and five facilities to deceased AMEDD officers who had made outstanding contributions to the Army during their careers. The MFSS Museum was named in honor of Maj. Oscar Burkard, M.A.C., 1877-1950, who received the last Medal of Honor in the Indian campaigns and worked in the Medical Department Equipment Laboratory.

Soon after, the Office of the Surgeon General made a major change to the museum.

The MFSS Museum was re-designated the Army Medical Museum March 15, 1955. The name was borrowed from the original Army Medical Museum created in 1862 to maintain a collection of specimens for research in military medicine and surgery that had become the Medical Museum of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in 1949, thus leaving the service without a museum dedicated to Army medicine.

The re-branded Army Medical Museum now had the mission to procure, exhibit and maintain significant historical items of the Army Medical Service. The Smithsonian Institute, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, and West Point Military Academy helped expand its collection.

In 1956, the Army Medical Museum was temporarily closed for further renovation to the basement facilities to incorporate new items. Displays became more focused on Army medical history, but were still used for training purposes.

In 1970, as part of the MFSS’s 50th anniversary, the Army Medical Museum was again renovated and re-opened. It now had 12,000 square feet, plus an adjoining workshop, to exhibit equipment, uniforms, insignia, paintings, posters, pathology specimens, and other AMEDD items.

In 1973, when the MFSS re-located to the new Academy of Health Sciences facilities in buildings 2840 and 2841 on 3630 Stanley Road, the Army Medical Museum remained behind and soon shrank to 8,000 square feet.

In 1978, retired AMEDD personnel, both military and civilian, created the Army Medical Museum Foundation to collect funds to finally move the museum out of the aging basement location in Building 2264 into a new purpose-built facility of 35,000 square feet. The Army Nurse Corps Foundation also contributed significantly to fundraising efforts for the new museum building.  

The Army Medical Museum was then re-designated the AMEDD Museum. The new Building 1046 on 2310 Stanley Road including a gallery, offices, event facilities and a gift shop opened July 24, 1989.

The AMEDD Museum became part of the AMEDD Center & School, successor to the MFSS, in 1991.

The museum’s facilities expanded in different phases adding another gallery, a workshop and a memorial courtyard in 1998, expanded collections storage in 2001, vehicle pergolas in 2006, and an amphitheater and a Medal of Honor Walk in 2012.

The AMEDD Foundation continues to raise funds and manage volunteers to support the AMEDD Museum. Today, the AMEDD Museum’s mission is to collect, preserve, exhibit, and interpret historic items related to the AMEDD and support training and education for military and civilian personnel.