About the NIH Stetten Museum and Its Exhibits

The DeWitt Stetten Jr. Museum of Medical Research, established in 1986, preserves and interprets the material culture of the scientific work of the NIH.  In conjunction with the broader Office of NIH History, the Stetten Museum collects biomedical research instruments, photographs, videos, journals, or oral histories, as well as objects related to the general history of the NIH, including architectural artifacts, artwork, and clothing.

Through onsite exhibitions and displays, as well as online-only exhibits and tutorials, the Museum brings these materials to life to inform the public of the breadth and significance of research performed at the NIH, the world's largest research entity dedicated to biomedical and behavioral research and training.

The Stetten Museum is currently a "museum without walls," and our exhibits are displayed across the NIH Bethesda campus.

Onsite Exhibitions and Displays


  • Christian Boehmer Anfinsen: Protein Folding and the Nobel Prize — This exhibition, in the NIH Clinical Center (Building 10), celebrates Christian Anfinsen's legacy by illuminating just a few of his contributions to science and society.
  • Curiosity & Collaboration: The Work of Michael Potter — This exhibition, in the NIH Clinical Center (Building 10), captures the spirit of Michael Potter, a man driven by curiosity, not competition, whose only goal was to answer questions about the nature of life.
  • Santiago Ramon y Cajal: Father of Modern Neuroscience — Santiago Ramón y Cajal was the first to describe the nervous system, including neurons, in exquisite detail.  His original drawings, as well as information about current NIH neuroscience, are on exhibit in NIH Building 35, the Porter Neuroscience Center.
  • NIBIB: Improving Health Through Emerging Technologies — This exhibit outside of Building 31, Room 1C14, showcases a few examples of NIBIB-funded research, explaining today’s futuristic research in historical context
  • Marshall Nirenberg: Discovering the Genetic Code — This exhibit honors the career of the Nobel-prize winning NIH scientist Nirenberg, who deciphered the genetic code in the early 1960s with the collaboration of his NIH colleagues. The exhibit is located in the NIH Clinical Center (Building 10), outside of Lipsett Auditorium.
  • The Stadtman Way: A Tale of Two Biochemists at NIH — This exhibit highlights the work of Drs. Thressa and Earl Stadtman, distinguished biochemists who have worked at the National Institutes of Health since 1950. It is located in the anteroom to the Lipsett Auditorium on the first floor of the NIH Clinical Center (Building 10).
  • Innovation and Invention: NIH and Prosthetic Heart Valves — The development of artificial heart valves involved surgeons, engineers, patients, and regulators.  This exhibit explores their stories and presents current and future examples of artificial heart valve innovation. The exhibit is currently in the process of moving from the NIH to the FDA and is expected to be on display again by 2020.


  • Cray X-MP/22 Computer — NIH's first supercomputer, the Cray X-MP/22, is on display in Building 31C near the B3 elevators.  This Cray was the world's fastest supercomputer from 1983 to 1986 and the first one devoted solely to biomedical research.
  • Siemens 1-A Electron Microscope — This Siemens 1-A Electron Microscope was used for over three decades by Dr. Albert Kapikian, NIAID.  The instrument, used to detect and characterize various viruses, is now on display in the lobby of NIH Building 50.
  • Varian A-60 NMR — A Varian A-60 NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance), used at NIH in the 1960s, is located in Building 50.

Online Exhibits

People & Places

  • Howard Bartner and 40 years of Medical Science  — Howard Bartner, an NIH medical illustrator, devoted 40 years to portraying human anatomy in his drawings.
  • Roscoe Brady & Gaucher Disease — How medical researchers study diseases, by answering three basic questions. Focuses on Dr. Roscoe Brady's team at NINDS and their work with Gaucher disease.
  • Converging Pathways of Pain Research at NIDCR — The story of how pain research evolved at NIDCR.
  • Joseph Goldberger & the War on Pellagra — Public Health Service physician Dr. Joseph Goldberger's discovery of the cause of pellagra, a disease, resulting from a diet deficient in vitamin B, that killed many poor Southerners in the early part of the 20th century.
  • Human Genetics and Medical Research — Cracking the genetic code allowed us to study diseases at the molecular level, which has increased our knowledge of potential preventions and treatments for diseases. The study of genetics has become central to the science of medicine. This exhibit asks many questions: How do genes cause disease? Can gene therapy work? How do we manipulate genes and should we?
  • A History of the Pregnancy Test Kit — This looks at the history of the home pregnancy test and examines its place in our culture.  Research that led to a sensitive, accurate pregnancy test was done by scientists in the Reproductive Research Branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health.
  • Martin Rodbell: How Cells Respond to Signals — This exhibit explains the work of Martin Rodbell and his colleagues in discovering a mechanism that transformed our understanding of how cells respond to signals. In a series of pioneering experiments conducted at the NIH, Rodbell studied hormones--substances which have specific effects on cells' activity. He could not have predicted the broad impact his findings would have.
  • Synthetic Opiates and Opioids — The quest for new painkillers and a synthetic source for morphine and codeine.


  • The AMINCO-Bowman Spectrophotofluorometer — In the 1950s the NIH's Dr. Robert Bowman developed a sensitive instrument-called the spectrophotofluorometer, or “SPF”-that allowed scientists to use fluorescence as a way to identify and measure tiny amounts of substances in the body.  This exhibit explores the instrument and its use in scientific studies ranging from anti-depressant medication to AIDS research and the Human Genome Project.
  • Early Computing at NIH — Here is a snapshot of some of the computing tools used in NIH labs, highlighting objects that are now in the NIH Stetten Museum collection.
  • Early Medical Instruments at the NIH — A cross section of precision instruments from the in-house research program at NIH, used between 1945 and 1965.
  • Equal Arm Analytical Balances — Instruments, designed on a “seesaw” principle, to measure mass precisely by placing a sample in one pan and known weight in an opposing pan until an equilibrium was established.
  • Laboratory Instrument Computer (LINC) — The story of one of the first supercomputers from its conception in MIT's Lincoln Laboratory, through its use in biomedical research laboratories.
  • Medical Posters — A collection of 24 medical posters drawn by artists at the NIH, representing topics from arthritis to women's health.
  • The National Cancer Institute Real-Time Picture Processor — The Real Time Picture Processor (RTPP) was one of the first special-purpose hardware computers developed for grayscale image processing and was designed to aid in biological image analysis.