Infectious Disease in American History
Infectious disease, and our response to it, has shaped American history. The museum’s collections document the technologies and techniques employed to prevent, diagnose, and treat infectious disease over the past 200+ years. They shed light on the impact of infectious disease on individuals and communities, the work of medical professionals and scientists, and the role of government in public health.
To learn more, explore our collections, exhibitions, archives, and blogs below.
Find resources and collections by Disease Topic
Learn about the earliest vaccination campaign, and how people around the world worked together to eradicate the dreaded pox.
Explore how scientists used horses to develop an effective treatment for this disease once known as the “scourge of childhood."
Learn how citizens across the United States pitched in to help develop and test a vaccine for polio
Discover why tetanus, also known as “lock-jaw,” became associated with Fourth of July celebrations and World War One.
Discover why influenza-- once known as “la grippe”—requires a reformulated vaccine every year.
Investigate why controlling rabies requires effective methods to deliver vaccines to people, pets, and wild animals.
Measles, Mumps, and Rubella
Learn why scientists in the 1960s developed vaccines for common “childhood diseases.”
Examine why public health officials urged tuberculosis patients to safely collect and dispose of their sputum.
Whooping Cough (Pertussis)
Investigate some of the challenges scientists faced when developing a pertussis vaccine.
Plague, scarlet fever, pneumonia, meningitis, and others
Explore vaccines and serums developed to fight infectious diseases.
Infectious Disease and Animals
Consider why the relationships among humans, animals, and microbes are fundamental to understanding infectious disease.
Discover how diagnostic tests have been critical to disease tracking and public health efforts.
New York City Public Health Collections
Learn about the NYC Health Department and its pioneering work in disease research and prevention.
Immune System Animations and Explanations
Explore how bodies fight infectious disease and how vaccines and other antibody-based technologies work.
Hygiene and Disease Control
Investigate how soap and sanitation became recognized as important factors in preventing disease.
Bacteria, Beer, and Health
Discover the connections between the "diseases" of beer and the development of antibiotics.