After opening in early March, a virtual pandemic project undertaken by McGill University’s medical museum has drawn praise from Canadian philatelists.
The Maude Abbott Medical Museum (MAMM) has used hundreds of stamps and first-day covers to tell the story of Canadian health care with a philatelic-focused online exhibit. Primarily a topical collection (on the topic of Canadian health care), the virtual exhibit is expected to remain open for at least a year. It’s hosted on the McGill website alongside another one – launched last summer – on Montréal hospital postcards, MAMM’s first pandemic project.
“Stamps can tell a story, and this is a great example,” said long-time Canadian philatelist and national-level judge Joel Weiner, of Alberta. “I am sure all Canadians can learn about our medical heritage by going through the exhibit; I know I certainly learned new things.”
Weiner – who received his bachelor of science in biochemistry from McGill before earning his PhD from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. – also praised the exhibit’s philatelic explanations, which are aimed at non-collectors, plus its combination of basic medical research (like the discovery of insulin and stem cells) and “more applied aspects” of medical research (like HIV and neuroscience).
“The McGill museum has provided a very thorough study of Canadian doctors, researchers and healthcare innovations that have been recognized by postage stamps. I hope that Canadians can be made aware of the exhibit and of the contributions of Canadians to healthcare delivery and the important discoveries and innovations like insulin and pablum.”
MAUDE ABBOTT MEDICAL MUSEUM
Rick Fraser has served as the director of the Maude Abbott Medical Museum since 2012, when it was officially established by Montréal’s McGill University. The museum’s history, however, dates back to the early 1820s. Towards the end of that century, in 1898, a 30-year-old Maude Abbott was named its curator and “enthusiastically began developing the museum,” according to the McGill website. She also founded the International Association of Medical Museums (now the International Academy of Pathology) in 1906 and the Federation of Medical Women of Canada in 1924. In January 2000, as part of its 68-stamp Millennium Collection, Canada Post honoured Abbott on a domestic-rate stamp (Scott #1822d). The collection included 17 souvenir sheets, each of which featured four different stamps. Abbott graces the “Medical Innovators” sheet (SC #1822). She retired in 1936, four years before she died. An internationally recognized expert on congenital heart disease, Abbott was posthumously inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 1994.
THE HEALTHCARE COLLECTION
MAMM director Rick Fraser worked over the past five years with MAMM assistant director Joan O’Malley (not the person who sewed the first Canadian flag) to collect the stamps and covers, all of which belong to the museum’s collection.
Overall, the collection covers about 50 separate Canadian healthcare topics across four sections:
- “Canadian Physicians”;
- “Healthcare Builders”;
- “Disease and its Treatment”; and
- “Healthcare Organizations.”