The discovery of the use of ether as the first viable anesthesia for use during surgery by Dr. Crawford W. Long in Jefferson, Georgia on March 20, 1842 looms very large as a medical milestone. It’s on a par with–and predates by over 20 years–Joseph Lister’s discovery of antiseptics for sterile surgery and Louis Pasteur’s germ theory of disease. That the discovery happened in a rough and tumble frontier town makes it all the more remarkable.
The museum, billed as “the Birthplace of Anesthesia,” reopened Saturday morning, January 9th, on one of Georgia’s coldest days of the winter after a two-year restoration and exhibits update project lead by consultant and acting museum director Lesa H. Campbell (front row, in black). In spite of the weather, the Crawford W. Long Museum at 28 College Street in Jefferson was packed.
Mayor Jim Joiner (standing, brown jacket) said at a Chamber of Commerce preview party the day before that some said that Crawford W. Long’s discovery in 1842 successfully put the town of Jefferson asleep. But then he indicated that the work done revamping the museum on a $200,000 USDA Rural Development Grant was another example of the reality that the town is very wide awake.
Over 100 of the visitors surged through the front doors within the first 90 minutes. They flowed through the museum’s three, interconnected historic buildings seeing updated and enhanced displays with new information, and artifacts that had never been shown before. Outside, visitors were treated to a surrey ride through Jefferson’s historic district followed up by free coffee and hot chocolate across the street at Fusion Restaurant.
A visitor from Massachusetts said, “I think what they’ve done is absolutely excellent. I received a degree in museum studies from Harvard and this is even better than the Warren Anatomical Museum at the University.”
After the long hours put in by Campbell, by Vicki (to Campbell’s right) and Karen (far right) (museum staff), by Frank and Terry (contract craftsmen), Beth (Mainstreet Manager) and by Barbara, Jackie, Jim, Gerry, Reggie and other volunteers, such compliments are a tonic. So too, the wide eyes, smiles and kind words of the visitors upstairs in the new Anesthesia History Exhibit, on the main flow in the completely redone Crawford W. Long gallery illustrating the ether discovery and Long’s family and education, and down in the 1858 General Store.
The day ended with a fund-raising dinner, conducted in two seatings at Fusion, that featured guided tours conducted by Campbell. At the end of the last tour of the evening, she said that it was a little daunting explaining the import of Long’s work and the features of the anesthesia machines to an audience that included practicing anesthesiologists, one of who is a Crawford W. Long expert.
Everyone who shares the long-term vision for a museum hopes, on any given day, to treat visitors to an interesting and educational world of wonders. But in spite of the aching backs and tired feet that result from putting on a great show, there’s the inevitable pull by the work yet to be done. There are always new displays to construct and more research waiting to be done. The world inside the museum is infinite and both the staff and the volunteers are wide awake with the possibilities.