City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

CDC Global Health Odyssey Museum to open VD exhibition


Curator Louise Shaw take a group on tour through the CDC's Global Health Odyssey Museum in January. AJC/Bita Honarvar

Just after Valentine’s Day the Global Health Odyssey Museum at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta will open a new exhibition: “VD: Values, Rights, Public Health.”

Yes, an exhibition about sexually transmitted diseases.

How…totally not romantic.

And yet, so interesting: the exhibition covers the struggles of advancing science and managing public opinion, showing how attitudes changed over time and how the public health problem has been portrayed over time. Visitors will learn about the Tuskegee Experiment, a trial that allowed subjects to suffer from advanced venereal disease, despite a known cure. It covers the AIDS era, too.

All this was covered in a profile of the museum by Bo Emerson that ran in Sunday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

From Bo’s story, “CDC museum shows the beauty of science“:

Documenting the struggle against sexually transmitted diseases from the turn of the 20th century to the present, the new exhibit shows how scientists and policy-makers dealt with public attitudes while trying to solve what was one of the leading threats to American health.

From 1900-1940, one in 10 Americans was infected with syphilis. The disease killed 100,000 people a year and was the leading cause of childhood blindness. But most media preferred euphemisms such as “social hygiene” over straightforward discussion of infection. Dr. Thomas Parran, venereal disease specialist with the U.S. Public Health Service, was famously precluded from using the words “syphilis” and “gonorrhea” on a CBS radio interview in 1934.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve never visited this museum, despite it being free, local and geeky — three of my favorite characteristics. Have you visited? What was it like?

Want to go? “VD: Values, Rights, Public Health” opens Feb. 16 and runs through May 28.  9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursdays. Closed federal holidays, and through Feb. 15 for exhibition installation. Free. (Vehicle search and government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license of passport, required for entry.) Global Health Odyssey Museum, Tom Harkin Global Communications Center, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Road, Atlanta. 404-639-0830,

7 comments Add your comment


February 3rd, 2010
7:11 pm

I have been to the CDC museum a few times and I’ve never seen anything like what you describe, Val. The exhibits I’ve seen have been very tastefully done and without any gross pictures. The VD exhibit described in the article hasn’t even opened yet (it opens on February 16) so the posters here can’t be talking about that show.


February 2nd, 2010
4:12 pm

Reportedly, a shot of penicillin will clean up the exhibit quite nicely.

Val Detmer

February 2nd, 2010
4:05 pm

Well Jamie, the exibit was permanent. The puke was temporary and cleaned up before I departed.

Val Detmer

February 2nd, 2010
4:02 pm

I know Dave I know. Believe me, you never want to go to the 3D exibit. It’s crippling.


February 2nd, 2010
3:59 pm

Val, you were trying to be funny..but in the process you got me sick..I hate those pictures..I had to look at them in middleschool, high school, and college..each time i got sick light headed and started sweating..worst thing ever!

Jamie Gumbrecht

February 2nd, 2010
3:55 pm

Ohhhh, wow. I hadn’t even thought of that. I can see how some may want to carefully time their visits. Any idea if you were looking at a permanent exhibition, or a temporary one?

Val Detmer

February 2nd, 2010
3:13 pm

I did visit but unfortunately right after lunch- big mistake. I’d just devoured three chili dogs at The Varsity. Yikes. One of the first pictures I saw had an uncanny likeness to those chili dogs. I nearly barfed in the waste basket. I regained my unsteady composure and trudged on. Minutes later I saw a picture of ooze that looked just like the Big Orange I had earlier drank. It shows great pictures of many organs but they are all covered with really bad sores and/or scabs. I must say that completely ruins the effect. I would only go back again if the pictures are without sores and stuff.