The Dr. Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry has received congressional designation as the nation’s official dental museum. The designation is the result of a resolution introduced by Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings and Sen. Paul Sarbanes. The resolution was signed by President George W. Bush on November 12, 2003.
The museum, which opened in 1996 and is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is located on the campus of the University of Maryland, Baltimore. More than 10,000 visitors from across the nation visit this interactive educational and entertaining museum annually.
“The museum will continue to expand and develop programs and exhibitions that demonstrate to the public and especially to children the importance of oral health. Its mission is to provide oral health education in a fun and entertaining way and to preserve the history of our great profession,” said Jack Gottschalk, D.D.S., National Museum of Dentistry Founding Benefactor and Board of Visitors Chair Emeritus.
Permanent treasures of the museum on display include George Washington’s dentures (made of ivory, not wood, as many believe), Queen Victoria’s personal gilded dental instruments, the “Tooth Jukebox,” which plays vintage dental commercials, and the “Tower of Chairs,” which depicts the evolution of the design of dental chairs. On the “Wall of Smiles,” visitors identify famous smiles. The most popular part of the museum for school children is the “Terrific Tooth Tales” exhibit, which includes interactive stations featuring a reading area with popular children’s books on dentistry and oral health, a miniature dental office where children play the role of the dentist, dental assistant, or dental hygienist, and a computer area. A new exhibit, “The Future Is Now! African Americans in Dentistry,” pays tribute to the movers and shakers who paved the way for African Americans’ success as dental professionals through dramatic portraits, moving memoirs, and inspirational stories.
The museum has also created traveling exhibits to reach national audiences. Currently, “Branches, Bristles, and Batteries: Toothbrushes Through Time” is touring several cities and teaches families about the evolution of the toothbrush and how to achieve good oral health. This exhibit will reach approximately 2 million visitors during a national three-year tour of children’s and science museums. Beginning in the fall of 2004, the African Americans in dentistry exhibit will become the museum’s second traveling exhibit.