The Health Museum takes visitors on an unforgettable journey through the amazing human body
Have you ever wondered what your body looks like from the inside, wanted to study the intricate organs and systems that make our bodies function every day, or take an up-close look at a larger-than-life human brain? If you are intrigued by the spectacular world of science and the fascinating functions of the human body, the John P. McGovern Museum of Health &Medical Science, also known as The Health Museum, can offer a world of enjoyable and educational opportunities for you and your family.
A look back
As one of less than 10 institutions in America focused on providing health education for the general public and school groups, The Health Museum was founded by a committee consisting of George Morse, Oveta Culp Hobby, Morgan Davis and Gail Whitcomb. Recognizing the successful effects of the Harris County Medical Society and Junior Chamber of Commerce’s 1962 “Victory Over Polio” campaign, they lobbied for permanent health exhibits to be constructed for public display in the city. The Museum of Medical Science opened on Nov. 16, 1969, in the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
Although the museum experienced 21 successful years as part of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the desire to exist as a separate institution remained a collective dream for the museum’s founders. As a result of a $9.5 million capital campaign endorsement, the John P. McGovern Building was constructed in 1996 to house the Museum of Health &Medical Science, among the collection of other exceptional institutions that compose Houston’s Museum District.
In 2001, the museum’s board of trustees elected to rename the institution the John P. McGovern Museum of Health &Medical Science, while the logo, The Health Museum, was launched in 2006 in celebration of the museum’s 10th anniversary as its own establishment. As a member institution of the world-renown Texas Medical Center, the museum now ranks as one of the most visited health museums in the country.
Fit for the future
Endless possibilities are in store for The Health Museum as its first major expansion, a newly renovated traveling exhibit gallery, is unveiled this month. The Sue Trammell Whitfield Gallery will provide 6,000 square feet of space for hosting touring exhibits, bringing nationally acclaimed installations and interactive displays to visitors each season. Funded by the Fondren Foundation, the gallery will debut with the opening of Brain: The World Inside Your Head, running Jan. 27-May 6. Originally showing at the Smithsonian, the exhibit offers a miraculous glimpse into the body’s most fundamental organ, exploring everything from neurons to brain chemicals, mental illness to Alzheimer’s disease, and depression to dreams, through virtual reality, video games, optical illusions and other interactive stations that are sure to appeal to everyone from the tiniest Einsteins-in-training to seasoned scientists.
In addition to the museum’s lineup of limited-engagement exhibits, dozens of permanent exhibitions are available for viewing year-round. As the institution’s signature installation, The Amazing Body Pavilion offers a captivating walking tour through an oversized human body featuring gigantic models of human organs, teeth and an eyeball, as well as a 10-foot-tall brain. Visitors may also put their wits to the test with puzzles and mind-bending games in the interactive challenge, Brain Teasers, while the Amazing Imaging Machine gives families an opportunity to examine the body through X-rays, Gamma Rays and MRI. The Health Museum also hosts hands-on science classes, family labs, summer camps, mini med schools, health fairs, nutritional awareness courses and programs for schools, scouts and members throughout the year.
Support from community members, corporations, physicians and regional and national philanthropic organizations greatly assists in the upgrade of exhibits, museum-sponsored educational programs in the Greater Houston area, booking of distinguished traveling exhibits and much more. The Health Museum also offers a wide array of opportunities for volunteers of all ages. Summer volunteer programs are available for young adults age 13-17, while special-event service groups exist for individuals of all ages who would like to assist the museum with functions held in the evenings or on the weekends.
The Health Museum is open Tuesday-Saturday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. and is closed on Mondays. Free admission is offered to families on Thursday afternoons.
The Health Museum
1515 Hermann Drive
Houston, TX 77004