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Need It, But Don't Know About It
NIH Museum Survey Indicates Support, But Also Ignorance

Last winter, the NIH History Office and DeWitt Stetten, Jr., Museum of Medical Research conducted an email survey about activities and exhibits produced by the office. More than 1,500 NIH employees responded. With the help of Fred Yamada, recently retired from CIT, the responses were analyzed. The results showed that most staff think saving NIH's history is important, but few realize that the History Office and Stetten Museum exist.

About 90 percent of employees believe that documenting, preserving and writing about NIH history is important or very important. A clear majority also thinks that the public and public officials need to know NIH history as well as patients and their families and employees. Most respondents think the Stetten Museum exhibits in the Clinical Center are well done and said they would like to see more exhibits in other buildings. In contrast, most respondents were also unaware of the other services the office provides, such as biography files on many NIH scientists and a historical NIH photo collection.

The question eliciting the most impassioned comments regarded advertising the exhibits to the public. A majority of respondents strongly believed that exhibits should be advertised. NIH staff seem to feel a deep obligation to account to the U.S. taxpayer, want to educate the public on health issues, and wish to encourage more students to enter the scientific disciplines. They also are proud of NIH contributions to health. The only negative answers to the question were couched in terms of congestion and security in the Clinical Center and the ever-present parking scarcity.

Starting soon, to remedy its low profile among NIH staff, the office will publish a series of articles in the NIH Record and NIH Catalyst. For those who like longer reads, two books are in the pipeline about NIH programs and scientists, which may become the first two in a series of books about NIH history. Shorter information brochures and fact sheets are also being considered. A new exhibit is planned, one current exhibit is being updated, and six web exhibits are in preparation. A self-guided tour of the exhibits available for staff, visitors and patients will also be produced.

If you'd like a copy of the detailed survey results (done in collaboration with the Office of Research Services) or would like to donate an instrument or instrument manuals and catalogs to the museum, call curator Michele Lyons at 496-7695. For general questions about programs and resources, contact Dr. Victoria Harden at 496-6610.


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