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“Whatever Happened to Polio?” Smithsonian Exhibition Travels to President Roosevelt’s Warm Springs

July 31, 2007

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is proud to announce a special loan of its “Whatever Happened to Polio?” exhibition to the Georgia Department of Labor’s Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation. The exhibition is scheduled to be on display for two years in historic Roosevelt Hall in Warm Springs, Ga. beginning on Aug. 15 and will be open to visitors weekdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. A special ribbon cutting and grand opening is planned for a Georgia Rotary Friends and Family Day on Aug. 11.

The display of the exhibition in Georgia will celebrate Warm Springs as the place where polio rehabilitation and philanthropy efforts started in the 1920s via its founder, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt; where the March of Dimes began; and where the Polio Hall of Fame is located.

“Whatever Happened to Polio?” commemorates the 50th anniversary of the announcement of an effective polio vaccine on April 12, 1955. The exhibition was produced by the National Museum of American History where it was on view in 2005 for the anniversary year.

“The introduction of a successful polio vaccine in 1955 was one of the most significant events of the 20th-century,” said Brent D. Glass, director of the museum, “and I am very pleased to share this important history now with Warm Springs and their visitors.”

“Whatever Happened to Polio?” tells the story of the polio epidemic in America, development of the vaccine, current worldwide efforts to stop polio transmission and the stories of polio survivors. It also explores changes in American medicine in the 20th century and the impact a disease can have on society as a whole.

Poliomyelitis is a viral disease that primarily affects the motor neurons that control muscles, especially those of the limbs, breathing and swallowing and can cause paralysis and sometimes death. As a result of the Salk and Sabin vaccines, the last case of wild polio occurred in the United States in 1979. A massive international public-private sector collaboration began in the 1980s with the goal of eliminating transmission of poliovirus everywhere in the world.

The March of Dimes was the original presenting sponsor of the exhibition, with additional funding from Rotary International and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. The special loan display of the exhibition at Warm Springs was made possible through funding by Rotary International and Georgia Rotary District 6900, as well as by a grant from The Georgia Humanities Council.

For additional information about Roosevelt Warm Springs, please call (706) 655-5000 or visit

The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. The museum is closed for major renovations and will re-open in summer 2008. For information about the museum, please visit or call Smithsonian Information at (202) 633-1000, or (202) 633-5285 (TTY).