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Crawford Long museum delays reopening

POSTED: February 5, 2009 12:26 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

Renovations on the Crawford W. Long Museum in Jefferson began in June last year. The museum will reopen in June instead of March as originally planned.

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The renovation of the Crawford W. Long Museum in Jefferson has turned into a larger endeavor than was originally expected.

Instead of opening next month, the grand reopening date has been pushed to the summer.

“We originally targeted a March 30th opening, because that’s Doctor’s Day,” said Vicki Starnes, who handles the daily operations for the museum. “That is also the day that (Dr. Crawford W. Long) performed the first painless surgery using ether as anesthesia. The exterior renovations are basically complete, but we still have a lot of work to do in order to complete the interior portion of the project.”

In 1842, Long, who owned a medical practice in Jefferson, earned his place in medical history when he used ether as an anesthesia to painlessly remove a cyst from a patient’s neck. This operation marked the first use of surgical anesthesia in medical history.

The museum has been closed since last fall and so far the roof has been replaced, the building has been leveled and the exterior masonry has been repaired.

When the building reopens there will be several new features, including an entire second floor that was previously not open to visitors.

“The upstairs exhibit will show the progression of anesthesia from when Dr. Long first used ether to now,” said Lesa Campbell, who is the museum’s project manager. “We’re working with several (anesthesiologists) to make sure we get everything right.”

The goal of the renovations is to give all visitors, from children to senior citizens, a better understanding of not only medicine, but also the 1840s.

“The primary thing that we want to do with the exhibit renovations is to bring in more of an interpretive aspect, which involves placing (Long) in his proper time and place to bring a better understanding of what Jefferson and Georgia was like at that time,” Campbell said.

“People are fairly removed from what life was like for a country doctor in the 1840s, ’50s and ’60s, so we need to make sure to put things into context so that visitors walk away with a full picture.”

Upon reopening, the renovated museum on College Street will also feature more modern exhibit panels with text that is easier to read.

Although Long is a well-known figure in medical history, Campbell says that the museum’s staff is working to bring in more of a human aspect to his historic status.

“We have some information that we will be adding from his family that has never been brought into the exhibits at the museum,” Campbell said. “Rather than saying, ‘Here, this is Crawford Long, the man who discovered that ether can be used as anesthesia,’ we want to bring in more of his family life to make him more of a real person.”



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