Palo Alto's Museum of American Heritage shares some of the more unusual items from its collection with its first virtual lecture, "Cringeworthy and Bizarre Artifacts," on March 4 at 7 p.m.
The talk is aptly named, highlighting an array of medical artifacts that prove the cure can sometimes be worse than the malady.
Jim Wall, president of the museum's board of directors, discusses items that historically were used in the practice of medicine, as well as devices peddled by quack doctors.
A preview video of the lecture posted on the museum's YouTube channel features Wall presenting several disturbing contraptions. On the quack side of things, the spring-loaded "resuscitator," which became popular during the 19th century, drove a set of needles into the skin. The device was purported to cure everything from gout to yellow fever, and even syphilis and hemorrhoids.
On the slightly more legitimate but no less painful side, the technique of blood-letting employed various instruments over its many centuries as an accepted medical practice, from knives specially designed for more controlled cuts to mechanical devices — again, spring-loaded — that when released would launch sets of small blades into the skin to make numerous but precise little cuts.
This talk may not be for the squeamish, but it does showcase some surprising objects and practices from history — and as a bonus, will likely make audiences grateful for the progress that modern medicine has made.
For more information or to RSVP, visit moah.org.