Florence Nightingale’s customised wheelchair is going on display in the UK for the first time, as part of a new permanent display at the Florence Nightingale Museum.
Acquired by the Museum from the Johns Hopkins University, USA earlier this year, following a successful fundraising appeal, the wheelchair was used by Florence Nightingale in her Mayfair home, as she fought her own illness.
After her death in 1910, the wheelchair was kept in storage, but in 1920, the American physician Howard Kelly purchased the chair and gave it to Johns Hopkins University’s School of Nursing.
The university recently restored the wheelchair and was willing to donate it to the Florence Nightingale Museum, if the museum raised the £12,000 to cover the cost of the conservation-grade packaging and transportation to bring the wheelchair back to the UK, as well as installation costs inside the museum.
It arrived recently and is now part of a new exhibition in the museum.
Set within a replica field hospital tent, containing a timeline of military nursing events, from the Crimean War to the opening of NHS Nightingale during the Covid-19 pandemic, the museum’s new exhibition will feature a combination of historic objects and interviews with serving and retired military nurses. It will also feature an updated area dedicated to British-Jamaican doctress Mary Seacole illustrating how Nightingale and Seacole continue to inspire nurses today.
The display will be introduced by former Royal Marine Mark Ormrod, a triple amputee who sustained his injuries in Afghanistan, and Wing Commander Charlie Thompson, one of the nurses who saved him.
Gabrielle Gale, General Manager of the Florence Nightingale Museum, said, “The quite remarkable personal recollections which nurses have contributed to our new display truly bring home the extraordinary skill, determination, character and enduring spirit of the people who serve as military nurses. We are extremely pleased to be honouring them in a small way here.”
The new exhibition, Military Nursing in Peace and War opens on Saturday 24th June at the Florence Nightingale Museum, next to St Thomas Hospital in Lambeth.
Opening weekend events:
- Saturday 24 June: Mary Seacole performing at 11:30, 1:30 & 3:30;
- Sunday 25 June: Talk and Q&A with former army nurse and LGBTQ+ activist Elaine Chambers (booking recommended)