Discover the development and evolution of the modern operating room, from re-purposed kitchen tables and sawdust covered floors to glass operating theaters on the roof of an urban hospital. The exhibit includes a full-scale reconstruction of a 1940s operating room using vintage furnishings, architectural elements and instruments.

Balfour Operating Table


When Tri-State Sanitarium, the precursor to Willis Knighton Medical Center, opened in 1924 the administration touted the use of Balfour operating tables.  The Balfour table was an advance over the old four-legged flat tables used in operating rooms for decades. 

Invented by Dr. Donald Balfour of the Mayo Clinic, the table was designed to be raised or lowered by the surgeon and moved into various positions.  It has a rail on each side to permit attachments creating what we now think of as “an operating table:”

The cost of the table in 1924 was $450.  Today’s operating room tables cost as much as ten times that.

Location in Museum

In the Operating Room exhibit


Mid-20th Century

100 Years