"Our gift to future generations of Americans must
be a legacy of good health. This Museum will be that legacy."
William A. Haseltine, PhD
National Health Museum
Testimony before US Congress
Though only founded in 1996, the National Health
Museum is the ongoing result of decades of aspirations and
efforts by individuals who share a dream of a place for learning
and inspiration about health at the national Mall.
The Museums Chairman Emeritus C. Everett
Koop, MD first envisioned the institution while he was serving
as US Surgeon General from 1981 to 1989. From his office overlooking
the Mall, Dr. Koop would witness countless young people from
across the United States visiting Washington on school trips
every day. While at the Mall, these young Americans could
learn about the wonders of aviation, encounter the glories
of art, and experience Americas pioneering history,
all through visits to the many Smithsonian museums; yet they
would learn nothing about that issue most relevant to them:
their own personal health.
What was needed, Dr. Koop and others believed,
was a new modern museum at the Mall to fill this void; a place
that would educate and inspire these young people and,
indeed, individuals of all ages to achieve lives of
better health and wellbeing. Many years before, a medical
museum with historic human anatomical and Civil War medical
collections had drawn large crowds before departing its location
at the Mall in the 1960s. In spite of its popularity, Koop
envisioned the new museum as substantially different from
the "human curio shop" model of the past. He and
a group of similarly minded supporters began crafting plans
for an entirely new institution, one with a forward-thinking
mission that would seek to empower individuals to take greater
responsibility for their own health and wellbeing.
In October 1996, the National Health Museum,
Inc. was formally established. Incorporated in the District
of Columbia as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, the Museum
was conceived not as a Federal entity, but as a private institution
that would depend on volunteers for its funding and governance.
With the support of a board comprised of leaders from the
private sector and public service, museum planning began in
earnest. Using seed money provided by supporters, the Museum
hired its first president, assembled a staff, and began planning
its future. In 1997, the US Congress passed legislation stating
that the Museum should be located "on or near the (national)
Mall on land owned by the Federal government, the District
of Columbia, or both."
The Museum first began meeting its mission through
active educational programming in 1999 when it acquired Access
Excellence, an award-winning website for high school health
and biology teachers. Generously donated to the Museum by
Genentech, a biotechnology company, Access Excellence has
grown increasingly popular under the Museums operation.
As the Museums "virtual identity," it has
garnered numerous awards and frequent recognition as an inarguable
leader in the online educational arena. Its audience has also
expanded markedly in recent years, with over 1.2 million webpages
currently downloaded from the site each month. Plans are now
underway to enhance the site and further expand its audience
and educational offerings.
A milestone in the history of the National Health
Museum occurred in 2000, when renowned scientist, educator,
and corporate executive William
A. Haseltine, PhD, became Chairman of the Museums
Board of Trustees. Founder and CEO of Human Genome Sciences,
Inc., a leading biotechnology company, Dr. Haseltine is an
acknowledged pioneer in the field of genome research, as well
as a generous philanthropist for a variety of educational
causes. His acceptance of the role of Chairman has provided
the Museum with indispensable direction and energy at a crucial
moment in its history. Under his active and involved leadership,
the Museum has experienced extensive growth and important
progress in its efforts to secure a site at the national Mall.