East Carolina University’s Country Doctor Museum marked its 50th anniversary in Bailey on Dec. 8 with an event that celebrated the museum’s founders and its future.
The museum is the oldest in the United States devoted to rural health care history. A group of volunteer female community leaders and physicians – led by Dr. Gloria Flippin Graham and Dr. Josephine E. Newell, both North Carolina physicians – founded the museum in 1968 in an effort to honor and preserve rural medical history.
Over the years, the museum’s collections have grown to include artifacts from the 19th and early 20th centuries and the fields of nursing, pharmacy, homeopathy and transportation.
In 2003, the museum was donated to the ECU Medical & Health Sciences Foundation and since then, the Laupus Health Sciences Library has managed it as part of its History Collections.
Beth Ketterman, director of the Laupus Health Sciences Library, said the relationship between the museum and the library is mutually beneficial for many reasons.
“Not the least of which is the ability to share the passion for preserving the legacy of country doctors and other health care providers who have given so much to ensure that the people of this rural part of our state could receive care,” Ketterman said. “We do this through interpreting artifacts, preserving the written record and providing educational experiences to the public.”
The event was attended by community members and featured free museum tours, birthday cake, live music by Drybread Road and a ceremony recognizing special guests, including Dr. Gloria Flippin Graham.
“Governor Roy Cooper kindly issued a proclamation recognizing the 50th anniversary of the museum which speaks to the visionary founders of the museum, as well as the leaders at East Carolina University who shepherded the museum into the ECU community,” said Annie Anderson, the museum’s director.
Ketterman praised the museum for continuing to build off the hard work of its founders and early employees.
“Our team has extended the reach of the museum beyond Bailey, with permanent and pop-up exhibits on the ECU campus, and at regional institutions of learning like Campbell University and Wake Tech. Many of the museum’s artifacts are now digitized and available for discovery by anyone in the world with access to the internet,” she said.
Museum employees also partner with area schools to educate children about the evolution of rural medicine and collaborate with community members to record local oral history.
For the guests who travel to Bailey to visit the museum, Ketterman said it “serves as a touchstone for memories of rural physicians, home remedies and community spirit.”
“The vision and hard work of the museum founders, and the continued hard work and dedication of the current museum employees, ensures that the museum will continue to be a valued educational and cultural resource in our region for another 50 years and beyond,” she added.
The museum is located at 7089 Peele Road in Bailey. Tours of the museum are guided and begin each hour on the hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Group tours are available. For more information about the museum, visit http://www.countrydoctormuseum.org.
-by Kelly Rogers Dilda, University Communications