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The bullet that killed Abraham Lincoln has a new home. The National Museum of Health and Medicine opens Monday in Silver Spring, Md., two years after shutting its doors on the grounds of Walter Reed Army Medical Center and 150 years to the day after it was established as the Army Medical Museum by Army Surgeon General William Hammond.
The new facility showcases many of the artifacts from the old museum, including favorites like the bones of Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles' leg, shot through with a cannonball at Gettysburg in 1863; a giant hairball taken from the stomach of a 12-year-old; and a sliver of President Ulysses S. Grant's throat tumor.
But the space also illuminates medical advancements. One section honors military medicine's contributions to the field. An exhibit on traumatic brain injury features items from the museum's brain collection, the world's largest. The museum also displays the then-cutting-edge autopsy kit used to identify John Paul Jones after his exhumation in 1905.
"The purpose of the museum is for collections, education and research," said spokesman Tim Clark, Jr. "We have a national mission to not only showcase developments in medicine but to serve as a resource for scientists and physicians with a collection that totals 25 million" pieces.
Just a fraction of the museum's vast trove is on display, and visitors will find the new space smaller than the old, taking up about a third of a new 20,000-square-foot building. But Clark said it has more usable exhibit space and will allow for more rotating displays.
New features include windows into some of the working spaces, where visitors can watch forensic pathologists at work and get a glimpse into the facility's vast storage warehouse.
The $12 million building, funded as part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process, stands just outside the gates of the Forest Glen Annex, an adjunct to Fort Detrick, Md., which houses the Joint Pathology Center, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and Naval Medical Research Center.
The museum, at 2500 Linden Lane in Silver Spring, will celebrate its opening Monday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11 a.m. followed by an open house from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Thereafter, it will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily except on Dec. 25, when it is closed.
The National Museum of Health and Medicine and the National Cryptologic Museum at Fort Meade, Md., are the only two museums in the Defense Department's 94-museum system with a national historic focus; the other 92 focus on military history or some aspect of the armed services' heritages.
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