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Hospital Marks Centennial Year By Celebrating Its Humble Beginnings

Originally Posted: May 14, 2009

Kelly Carroll

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Southampton Hospital is celebrating its centennial this year with an exhibit at the Southampton Historical Museum and one at the hospital itself. Image courtesy of Mary Cummings

Southampton - According to historian and author Mary Cummings, the beginnings of Southampton Hospital were not exactly meritorious.

"There was an operation in a doctor's house that went wrong in 1908," she explained, sitting in the Southampton Historical Museum, weighed down by hundreds of pages of notes for her new book 100 Years of Healing - Southampton Hospital: 1909 to 2009. "It was odd, because Southampton was well established as a fashionable resort. The sophisticated came, but there was no emergency facility for care."

After the faulty in-home operation, the hospital's first building was a boarding house with two rooms. It soon moved to the corner of Lewis Street and Meeting House Lane, in a structure that still stands today. After only six years in operation, the hospital then moved into a new home in 1913, "which was considered the very last word in modern facilities," according to Cummings.

In addition to curating the exhibits, Cummings has also written a book about the history of the hospital. Photo by Kelly Carroll

"Over the years, it's grown incredibly," she continued. "It was supported by both the summer and year-round communities. The amount of support is remarkably high."

Now, for the hospital's 100th anniversary, the Southampton Historical Museum will be host to a large-scale exhibit honoring it's storied history.

This exhibit, in conjunction with one at the hospital itself, focuses on the hospital as it used to be, complete with a reconstructed hospital room, set up to look like a private hospital residence from 1916. According to Cummings, the museum has been collecting memorabilia - including a doctor's bag, surgical instruments, and a nurse's mannequin - for the past six months.

But what might be the greatest collection of all is the gathering of baby photos, from everyone who has ever been born at Southampton Hospital. As part of the exhibit, these photos will cover the museum's walls, identified for all visitors. The museum's exhibit will begin with an opening reception Saturday, May 16, at 2 p.m. All that were born at the hospital are encouraged to attend, because at approximately 3 p.m., a large group photo will be taken.

"It's a nice, interactive thing," Cummings asserted. "If everyone who was ever born in Southampton [contributed], it would fill every wall."

Enhancing the museum's exhibit will be the various events around the village associated with the hospital's centennial celebration, one being the release of Cummings' book, and the other being a panel discussion on the memories of several Southampton Hospital nurses.

Baby photos were collected up until May 14. The museum staff will also be taking a large group photo of all those born at the hospital at their opening reception. Image courtesy of the Southampton Historical Society

"They have good stories of well-known people in the past," Cummings said, noting that many healthy Southampton residents would choose to move into the hospital as they aged, the wealthy of them sometimes adding caring nurses to their generous wills. "That made life interesting for the nurses," she continued, with a laugh.

In addition, the exhibit held in the hospital will open in June, and run until December. Curated by Cummings, this exhibit will also include memorabilia from the hospital, and is to be chronologically set up in segments pertaining to two-decades at a time. Photos will be a main segment of this exhibit, as well as explanatory text. According to Cummings, there may even be an audio portion.

"I think people can't help but be impressed," she asserted. "It's history."

Cummings began her work on this exhibit and her book more than a year ago. Through her research, she said she has found that "throughout good times and bad, the hospital has always been able to rely on a dedicated cadre of doctors and nurses and a supportive community," as she writes in her book.

"In the end, it was a dedicated few," she added. "It's often been remarked that for a country hospital it has offered many departments that rival a city hospital - it's the center of this community."

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Guest (Andrea) from NYC & Southampton says::
I was born at the hospital. I'm getting myself a copy of the book :)
May 16, 2009 6:57 pm


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