As someone who loves history, I’m always looking to check out a new museum. Just ask my friends, most of my vacations revolve around visits to museums and historic sites. If it’s old, chances are, I want to go see it.
Now that I’m the unofficial curator of Benco Dental’s dental museum (schedule a visit to CenterPoint East headquarters in northeast Pennsylvania to see it!), I’ve put all sorts of medical museums on my list of places to see, in addition to my usual must-see historic sites. So when I found myself in New Orleans at a conference for digital publishers and noticed a small, or so I thought, museum dedicated to pharmacy on a busy street, I knew I had to make some time to visit.
Formally known as the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, it is housed in the building where America’s first licensed pharmacist, Louis J. Dufilho operated his shop. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an historic building within the Vieux Carre Historic District.
In 1804, the State of Louisiana, led by Governor Claiborne, passed a law that required a licensing examination for pharmacists wishing to practice their profession.
Louis J. Dufilho, Jr. was the first to pass the licensing examination in 1816, making his pharmacy the first United States apothecary shop to be conducted on the basis of proven adequacy. Before this, pharmacists did not have to be licensed and dispensed unmeasured doses of medicine and dubious products. While there were numerous healthcare products of limited merit throughout the 19th and early 20th century, at least certain states were starting to realize that pharmacists needed formal training to be helpful.
The museum itself is a tribute to all sorts of medical supplies, some more useful than others. It is also filled with medical cases that rivaled the best antique furniture I’ve seen for beauty and usefulness. The pharmacy of the past was not a sterile environment, by any means!
While disappointed there wasn’t much dedicated specifically to dentistry, I did spy a few dental items mixed in with the hundreds of pharmaceutical products.
The museum was deceptively large. Exhibits upstairs were housed in exquisite antique cases, and even featured a recreated sick room of a wealthy New Orleans resident of the mid 1800s.
The museum, also the residence of Dr. Dufilho, was equipped with a lovely courtyard and now houses a fountain. Today, the museum hosts events in this historic area.
Unfortunately, my trip to the museum was all too short, because I had to get back to the conference (I ran out during a lunch break), but the next time I’m in the Big Easy, I hope to make a more in-depth visit. If you find yourself in the French Quarter, I suggest you take a trip there. The cost to enter is minimal ($5 for adults) and the exhibits are fascinating!