Poisons and Panaceas: Inside the 19th-Century Medicine Cabinet

Our upcoming ExhibitLab uncovers the fine line between deadly and lifesaving in the world of modern medicine.

On view May 1, 2024–October 26, 2024
First Friday Opening: Friday, May 3, 2024 | 5pm–7pm
Horiba Exhibit Hall

“Only the dose makes the poison” is a common saying in toxicology. This ExhibitLab will uncover that fine line between deadly and lifesaving in the world of modern medicine by highlighting the rise of the pharmaceutical industry from the 19th century into the early 1920s.

Artifacts such as Dr. Pierce’s Favorite Prescription Tonic for Menstrual Pain, Charles Millspaugh’s Medicinal Plants, Eli Lilly & Company’s Hand Book of Pharmacy and Therapeutics, and an assortment of risky medicines reveal the industry’s surprising link to herbal and alternative remedies.

Poisons and Panaceas was curated by former gallery guide Nandini Subramaniam with assistance from the museum’s Molly Sampson and former library staff member Ashley Augustyniak.

About ExhibitLab

ExhibitLab is the Science History Institute’s space in the Horiba Exhibit Hall for small, focused displays that showcase specific collections, prototype new ideas, or respond to current events. Our staff members, fellows, and school and community partners curate these displays.

For more information about ExhibitLab, please contact Molly Sampson at msampson@sciencehistory.org.

View past ExhibitLabs >>

Featured image: Bottles of Chocolate-Flavored Medicines, part of Eli Lilly & Company’s Hand Book of Pharmacy and Therapeutics, ca. 1919.

Horiba Exhibit Hall is named for Japanese businessman and 2006 Pittcon Heritage Award winner Masao Horiba (1924–2015), founder of Horiba Radio Laboratory, now Horiba Ltd., a manufacturer of advanced analytical and measurement technology.


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