Wolfsonian Curator: “Quackery” a Big Reason Health Exhibit Works


What makes an exhibit stand the test of time at the Wolfsonian? According to Chief Curator Marianne Lamonaca it not only has to do with how relatable it is, but if it can also provoke a good chuckle.  The current Advertising for Health exhibit, a museum staple since February, prompts both reactions and that's why it will be around a while longer.

"The whole idea of this quackery related to pharmaceutical products is definitely entertaining in a certain way," admitted Lamonaca.  "The early ads from the beginning of the 20Th century are for things that had no real basis in scientific fact -- it left a really big open arena to do whatever you want."

Lamonaca said the exhibit -- which was funded by former pharmaceutical exec and collector of medicine ephemera William H. Helfand -- will likely run until next February, providing more time to review the evolution of medicine though graphic posters and, of course, magic tonics.  And according to Lamonaca, many people will be surprised at what was considered a "cure all" in the old days.

"A lot of these medicines and these products were really alcohol based - people felt better after a glass of wine or shot of vodka," she explained.  "Also, a lot of these medicines had laxative effects, it made people feel their body was repairing something."

She added, "Today there are still colon cleanses, so in a way viewers recognizes these strategies still exist today. There is a relevance to our own lives."

Contact Us