GV, Grand Rapids Public Museum showcase GR women’s work in public health


GVL Archives

Haley Rosendale, Staff Writer

The Grand Rapids Public Museum and Grand Valley State University have teamed up to create an exhibit featuring the historic public health work done in Grand Rapids.

On Wednesday, March 29, the Grand Rapids Public Museum (GRPM) debuted its presentations and program to the public. The GVSU students involved with the program were interns at GRPM and were able to conduct their own research for their presentations. The exhibit is a part of the “GR Stories” series, centered on the history of public health in Grand Rapids.

GR Stories are short stories about the history of Grand Rapids, an ongoing series at the museum. Multiple stories are happening at once, and each one has a corresponding in-person or virtual program presentation.

Each GVSU intern conducted in-depth research about different topics in the public health history of Grand Rapids. Each got to showcase their conclusions through a presentation at the exhibit’s debut. There was also a panel discussion about public health history moderated by GVSU history professors.

Hannah Krebs, a sophomore history major at GVSU and GRPM intern, researched whooping cough for the exhibit.

The theme for this one was public health in Grand Rapids, so I did a presentation on the creation of a whooping cough vaccine in Grand Rapids during the Great Depression by mostly female scientists,” Krebs said. “I focused on women’s involvement, including Dr. Pearl Kendrick, Dr. Grace Eldering, lab technicians and public health nurses because of the significant barriers to scientific fields that they faced during that time.”

Callie Dzurisin is a junior at GVSU and GRPM intern majoring in biomedical science. Dzurisin worked on the exhibit alongside the other interns. 

“My project was titled ‘The Evolution of the Cough Plate Medium: How Pearl Kendrick and Grace Eldering’s Work in Grand Rapids Contributed to the Standardization of this Diagnostic Technique,’” Dzurisin said. “My goal was to bridge the gap between medicine and history. I wanted to explain what was going on in the labs that Drs. Pearl Kendrick and Grace Eldering worked in. These two women’s research right here in Grand Rapids allowed them to develop a whooping cough vaccine that saved thousands of lives.”

Both Krebs and Dzurisin got to work hand-in-hand with the Grand Rapids Public Museum on the project, as well as student and intern Coltrane Bodbyl-Mast. Krebs and Dzurisin described their work experience as exciting and rewarding.

“I learned a lot about the history of Grand Rapids, specifically the history of public health in Grand Rapids through many different kinds of sources stored in the archives, such as papers, photographs, and artifacts,” Krebs said. “The project supervisor from the museum, Andrea Melvin, was extremely helpful for my project.” 

“GR Stories” are presentations designed to talk about the intricate history and impact of Grand Rapids. The series educates the public on important discoveries made and work done in the city, providing the opportunity for the Grand Rapids community to interact with their own history. 

The research I did is important to share because it is not only a significant part of Grand Rapids history that not many people know about, but also because it is an important piece of women’s history as well,” Krebs said.