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John P. McGovern Museum of Health and Medical Science Collection

By Tara Carron, Archivist and Special Collections Librarian.

Newly processed! The John P. McGovern Museum of Health and Science collection has been processed and a finding aid is available at

The Health Museum: A Brief History

In 1962, the “Victory Over Polio” campaign prompted the formation of a citizens committee, which recommended creating permanent health exhibits. Funds were raised from public contributions, physicians, and a grant from Houston Endowment Inc. The Museum of Health and Medical Science (also known as “The Health Museum”) opened on November 16, 1969, at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Over the course of 21 years, it provided health education and quality information. After a successful multi-million-dollar campaign, the John P. McGovern Building was constructed in Houston’s Museum District, and the museum officially opened on March 16, 1996.

In late 2001, the John P. McGovern Museum of Health and Medical Science was dedicated in Dr. McGovern’s honor to recognize the contributions of Dr. McGovern to the Museum’s success, which have helped educate and entertain hundreds of thousands of children and families by providing innovative exhibits and interactive programs on health and medical science.

In July 2017, The Health Museum became a Smithsonian Affiliate, the first in the Houston Museum District. Two years later, in November 2019, the museum celebrated its 50th anniversary in Houston’s museum community. Today, the Health Museum remains a favorite educational destination among many Houstonians, as it continues to inspire interest and foster curiosity in health, the human body, and medical sciences to individuals of all ages.

The Collection

The McGovern Museum of Health and Medical Science collection was donated to the McGovern Historical Center by Dr. John P. McGovern and is comprised of both ephemera and artifacts, which have been separated into two series. In Series I, users will find Museum-published and issued newsletters, exhibit advertisements, and other printed marketing materials from the years 1998-2009. Series II is comprised of seven pieces antique medical equipment, including (but not limited to) electrocardiograph machines, an ophthalmoscope, and Dr. McGovern’s personal medical bag.

The McGovern Museum of Health and Science collection is one of four major collections related to the contributions and legacy of Dr. John P. McGovern, including the MS 021 McGovern Collection of Texas Historical Medical Documents, MS 200 John P. McGovern Medical Medallions Collection, and MS 115 John P. McGovern, MD Papers.