Patrons can view the new attraction for free during an open house to be held on March 8

For years, Bowman Museum has had what director Gordon Gillespie called a medical room.

When staff would come across old doctor photos or antique medical instruments, they would stash them in a cabinet for safe-keeping.

Starting next week, those items and others will get the attention that Gillespie and other staff and volunteers believe they deserve. On Saturday, the museum will host an open house where people can witness the unveiling of the new Crook County Medical Legacy Exhibit.

"When we were redoing all of this (the museum annex) and upgrading our exhibits ... we talked about redoing the room," Gillespie said. "It was a priority, but we hadn't gotten to it."

Then, about four months ago, a committee was formed that included two members of the museum staff as well as a local doctor, a nurse, and former Rimrock Health Alliance Director Sharon Vail.

"It turned out the room itself needed some major renovations," Gillespie said. "It was amazing what state the floor was in. The floor looks fantastic now."

Like many of the upgraded exhibits, the medical room will feature more interpretation, with plaques covering the walls that portray the community's medical legacy.

"There are some unique things that happened, like the small pox epidemic of 1903," Gillespie said. "Every day they had these fliers that would name people in the town and say 'recovering' or 'still serious' - 'died.'"

Such a widespread affliction profoundly affected Prineville, Gillespie added.

"They were in so much fear," he said. "They were afraid to talk to each other. Bars shut down, everything shut down. School stopped."

As it turned out, the small pox outbreak resulted in a progression toward modern-day Pioneer Memorial Hospital. Gillespie explained that the community established a quarantine house. Doctors then decided they needed a place to perform surgeries and for patient recovery. That later gave way to the community raising funds to build the hospital in 1950.

"Our whole idea (for the exhibit) is that the community really has created a health legacy," he said.

In addition to viewing the new medical exhibit, patrons can expect to see the 1930 Chevy fire truck and 1946 ambulance owned by Crook County Fire and Rescue. The idea originated with a video used to promote Pioneer Memorial Hospital before it was built.

"Right in that is that ambulance," Gillespie said. "There is a guy sitting there and he is just sort of reading the paper and the phone rings beside him."

After answering the phone, the video cuts to the same man driving the ambulance through town.

"Then there are a few scenes where they are bringing people out of the ambulance," he continued. "It's a crack-up because in the old hospital on Second Street, you get these two guys and they take this person and they have to go up these stairs. They are going up the stairs," Gillespie recounts, his hand overhead to demonstrate how the men are carrying the gurney.

Not only will the ambulance be displayed at the open house, it will be parked inside the museum annex.

The Bowman Museum Open House, which will feature the Crook County Medical Legacy Exhibit, will be held at the museum on Saturday, March 8, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is free and refreshments will be served courtesy of the Crook County Historical Society.

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