Author: Claire Olszewski, Museum Blog

A Note from the Collection: Christmas at IMSS

Published by Claire Olszewski.

With the Museum fully decked with festive decor, it is starting to feel like the holiday season is among us. I would like to take this opportunity to look more closely at a few relevant items in the collection. Christmas, the religious holiday traditionally celebrated in many Western cultures, marks a time of joyfulness and togetherness. Those observing the holiday often reach out to loved ones in their community, give gifts and indulge in feasts. The British Medical Journal and The Lancet have embraced Christmas for its positive benefits such as stress relief due to distraction from everyday life and increased caloric consumption in preparation for colder months ahead, while warning of the negative effects including over-indulging and loneliness.

The first is a series of transcripts of letters written by Florence Nightingale, the famous English founder of modern nursing and hospital administration, to her longtime friend Mrs. Truelove. The letters are dated between the years of 1864-1885 and signed with the warmest regards to her dear friend. The image below is one manuscript, dated December 23, 1869. The gift Nightingale sent was filled with evergreens, game meats and baked goods. Nightingale points out the fact that the Mutton is from Hampshire because the Truelove’s had previously lived in Hampshire. Original letters penned by Nightingale are on display on the 4th floor Nursing Exhibit.

Transcript of Letter from Florence Nightingale to Mrs. Truelove, dated December 23, 1869 (M1957.368.1.-2).

Hiding in plain sight within the Museum is a Christmas card from the Victor X-Ray Corporation in 1930. In the exhibition, “X-Rays and Medical Imaging,” on the 3rd floor of the Museum sits a black-etched card with Wilhelm Roentgen printed on the cover. When turned over, the back side reads “Bringing Relief and Happiness to the Physically Afflicted . . Contributing Daily to the Fund of Human Welfare. . . He who has thus Devoted himself During the Year Must Surely find Joy in Retrospect at this Season. To the Thought we add our Sincere Greetings and Good Wishes for Your Christmas and New Year. C.J. Samms President, Victor X-Ray Corporation.” Christmas cards were increasingly popular among businesses and medical providers, used to encourage donations and charity from their upper-class constituency.

Christmas Card from the Victor X-Ray Corporation, 1930 (xx2005.94).


“The Life of Florence Nightingale: in Two Volumes.” The Life of Florence Nightingale: in Two Volumes, by Edward Tyas Cook, Macmillan., 1914, pp. 119–121.

Moulds, Alison. “Christmas and the Victorian Medical Press.” Constructing Scientific Communities, 15 Dec. 2017,

Claire Olszewski was the Fall 2018 Permanent Collection Intern at the International Museum of Surgical Science. She graduated from Columbia College Chicago in December of 2017 with her BA in Visual Arts Management and minor in Art History. She currently works at Linda Warren Projects as a Gallery Assistant.