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.

Surgical Instruments


Over the centuries many different tools have been used in surgery.  Yet, it is likely a mid-19th Century doctor would be familiar with many of them today.  For others, such as the "laser knife, the 19th century surgeon would be amazed. 

There are a great variety of instruments used to grasp like forceps, cut like scalpels,  close blood vessels like clamps, and to open skin and tissue like retractors.  Modern tools have one thing in common.  Virtually all of them must be made so they can be sterilized.  Even the robotic surgical machines must be made as germ-free as possible.

Many, like those on display from the 1940’s are made from stainless steel. Perhaps the greatest step in surgical tools came recently with the introduction of robotic surgery where the doctor doesn’t even touch the patient.

Location in Museum

In the Operating Room case


20th Century

100 Years