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The Doctor Will See You Now: History of Medical Science in Northern Illinois Communities: Home


The exhibit focuses on education, practice, and public and mental health in the Northern Illinois region. The materials come from the Regional History Center’s archive collections with dates ranging from 1845 to the present.

The physical exhibit, curated in conjunction with American Archives Month, was displayed in October 2015 in the foyer of Founders Memorial Library at Northern Illinois University.


Items in this section documents the educational path of a medical or health practitioner. Students studying medicine and other health fields are required to peruse curriculums heavy in the sciences in order to best equip themselves with the knowledge needed when they become practitioners. Doctors and nurses are the focus of this section. Both are professions that require practitioners to have a comprehensive understanding of the human body as well as hands-on skills acquired during clinicals to treat patients.




Public & Mental Health

State institutional care has been an important part of medical history. Many individuals who lack the resources to take care of themselves become wards of the state. Oftentimes, state institutional care is synonymous with mental health even though an individual might have been placed in an almshouse for being unfortunate and poor. Public health has become a major focus in the last century. Establishment of health related laws and mandates, along with the higher standards of living, has improved the overall health of individuals in the U.S. Now, preventable chronic diseases (e.g., diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol) are the new battlefront for health care.




Items in this section document doctors, nurses, and other medical or health professionals during their practice of medical treatments and procedures from the Civil War up through the 1990s. Noted in this section are two doctors from Northern Illinois, Dr. Giles Paddock Ransom and Dr. James Alba Johnston. Both men were well-respect and influential men in the area.




This exhibit was created by the staff of the Regional History Center, a unique component of the Northern Illinois University’s commitment to education, research, and public service.The Center’s goal is to acquire, preserve, and make available to the public the most significant historical records of the northern Illinois region.  The Center actively collects historical material from the 18 northernmost counties of Illinois, excluding Cook.  Since 1964 the Center has evolved from a small university archive to a multifaceted research center containing three related sets of historical records available to researchers: Regional Collections, University Archives, and Local Governmental Records.