Merck Grant to Support Smithsonian Future Exhibition on History of American Medicine

Merck recently awarded a $500,000 grant to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History to use for developing an exhibition and programming on the history of American medicine in recognition of the work of Dr. Maurice Hilleman and to mark the 2019 centennial of his birth Aug. 30. Dr. Hilleman was responsible for the development of more than half of the childhood vaccines routinely recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He developed many of these vaccines while employed as a scientist at Merck where he served as head of the Department of Virus and Cell Biology from 1956 to 1984.

The museum is working on a major 3,500 sq. ft. exhibition, “In Sickness and in Health,” that will draw on the museum’s vast medicine and science collections to explore the history of prevention, diagnosis and treatment over the last 200 years. Exhibition artifacts will include surgical instruments, acupuncture needles, pharmaceuticals and prostheses as well as objects from new and expanding fields such as biotechnology.

“Being sick is a universal experience. And the struggle to prevent, control, treat and eradicate illnesses has been central to U.S. history,” said Anthea M. Hartig, the museum’s Elizabeth MacMillan Director. “We are grateful to Merck for assisting us in sharing this important, yet often unknown medical history with our visitors in the museum and online.”

“Curiosity and a deeper understanding of the past inspires future scientific and medical breakthroughs,” said Julie L. Gerberding, chief patient officer at Merck. “In honor of the great scientist and vaccine inventor, Dr. Maurice Hilleman, we are so proud to support the Smithsonian’s efforts to bring this fascinating chapter of history to light.”

Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. It helps people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more informed future. The museum is located on Constitution Avenue N.W., between 12th and 14th Streets, and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. For more information, visit For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.

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Valeska Hilbig

Melinda Machado