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California Hospital preserves nursing school’s past in museum

A wood OB/GYN exam table and wool nurse’s cape remind visitors to California Hospital’s Archives Room of how much medicine has changed and the respect nursing has achieved.

A cap with three stripes, a heavy wool cape and a box of glass and metal syringes are a few of the artifacts in the Archive Room at the California Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles — a museum dedicated to the history of its former nursing school.

Two graduates of the nursing school are the keepers of the flame. Barbara Jury, RN, BSN, who worked at California Hospital her entire career, which started after her graduation in 1950, began the museum. Joyce Jacob, RN, BSN, PHN, MEd, a 1960 graduate, is president of the alumni association.

Operating from 1898 until 1984, the California Hospital School of Nursing’s history is long and storied. The one-room museum contains yearbooks chronicling the events, joys and challenges of each of the school’s graduating classes. It also offers glimpses into the nation’s history. Nursing students’ uniforms from the 1940s reflect how the U.S. tightened its collective belt during World War II. Made of plain, white cotton, starched stiff and cinched with a cotton belt, the uniform had no adornments and lacked the traditional pinafore.

Jacob said one of her favorite objects in the museum is the uniform of the school’s first director of nursing, Annie Williamson. It is an ankle-length, pale blue-green plaid dress with a pinafore. But Jacobs is most moved by the blue-and-gold wool cape on display. “It makes me feel the pride and respect for the nursing profession,” she said.

Other museum items include a wooden wheelchair, a box of metal and glass syringes the school gave each graduate in the 1920s and an OB/GYN wood and leather exam table from the 1930s “that looks like a torture device,” Jury said.

A popular object in the museum is the uniform of the school’s first director of nursing, Annie Williamson.

Jury conceived the idea for the museum after a 1905 nursing graduate attended a graduation picnic in 1963. She showed the new grads a satin ribbon emblazoned with a red cross that she and other nurses wore when responding to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. “The new nurses were intrigued,” Jury said.

Since then, Jury and Jacob have added to the museum, rotating displays and featuring items from classes celebrating anniversaries during annual school reunions.

“Every so often, something new pops up that someone must have found cleaning out a closet,” Jacob said. “Family members of former students also give us things. A friend of mine left a garter belt, white stockings and white bobby pins designed to hold a cap.”

The public is welcome to visit the museum on the first floor of Leavey Hall on the hospital’s campus. To have it opened, visitors must call the CHMC Foundation’s Director of Development Susan Shum.

“In other hospitals, everything has been thrown away,” Jury said. “This hospital was supportive of us, and we are honored to have this place.”

To visit the museum, call Shum at 213-742-5662. For a photo gallery of the museum, visit

By | 2020-04-15T09:31:00-04:00 September 10th, 2012|Categories: Regional, West|0 Comments

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