GNL In the News

UTMB Teams with The Health Museum in Houston on Outbreak Exhibit

Oct 29, 2019, 09:48 AM by Connie Holubar

outbreak4UTMB has teamed up with The Health Museum in Houston to customize a Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History exhibit called OUTBREAK: Epidemics in a Connected World.

The exhibit, which opened this month and which will be on display through May 2020, looks at how infectious diseases emerge, spread and are contained.  Museum staff worked with UTMB staff to gather information on three major Houston-area epidemics: plague, polio and HIV.

Dr. Paula Summerly, a medical historian at UTMB, was instrumental in providing detailed information about the 1920 bubonic plague epidemic in Galveston.  Her input resulted in customized panels focused on the cause of the disease and the island’s response to it.Outbreak2

In addition, staff from UTMB’s Environmental Health and Safety department provided information on the personal protective equipment (PPE) worn both by healthcare personnel when treating highly infectious patients and by those who conduct medical research on dangerous pathogens in the lab. Visitors are greeted by full-size stand-ups of EH&S personnel in their PPE, and displays portray field equipment that was provided by the department.

During the seven-month run of the exhibit, UTMB faculty will also participate in educational sessions and special events for both youth and adults, including “Cocktails & Conversations,” which are held on Thursday nights at the museum. 

Another team of UTMB faculty and staff are helping with an “Escape the Epidemic” escape room project, which is slated to launch in February 2020, and which will be offered as a special add-on event for museum visitors. Drs Dennis Bente, Chad Mire, Matt Dacso and Connie Holubar are collaborating with the museum staff to create realistic scenarios and fun activities associated with that ambitious project.

This latest collaboration with the museum is the result of a relationship that has developed between the museum and the university over the last couple of years as part of the Galveston National Lab’s community outreach program.  Participants in the museum’s annual week-long Teen Summit have visited the GNL for presentations and tours, and museum staff say the tours are always ranked as a favorite among summit participants.

The Health Museum is located in the city's Museum District at 1515 Hermann Drive. For more information on The Health Museum and the Outbreak exhibit, visit