The mission of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia is to “advance the cause of health while upholding the ideals and heritage of medicine.” The Mütter Museum, with support from the Historical Medical Library, advances the College mission through its own stated mission to engender curiosity and knowledge about the body and health, and to increase the understanding of medicine in its cultural and historic context. More than 180,000 people visit each year from around the world.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness caused by a new form of coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and was first identified and isolated in Wuhan, China, in January 2020. While the number of new cases of COVID-19 in China were on a gradual decline in March 2020, the United States was just seeing case numbers begin to rapidly spike. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine issued “Stay at Home” orders to Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Monroe, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties, effective beginning 8PM on Monday, March 23, 2020. On Thursday, May 7, 2020, that order was extended to Thursday, June 4, 2020. Philadelphia moved to the yellow phase of reopening on Friday, June 12, 2020; and to the green phase of reopening on Friday, June 26, 2020.

The Mütter Museum reopened its doors, following new COVID-19 guidelines, to Fellows for an “Open House” on Wednesday, July 15, 2020; to members on Friday, July 17, 2020; and to the general public on Saturday, July 18, 2020.  The Historical Medical Library opened for a limited number of research appointments beginning the week of September 7, 2020, also following new COVID-19 guidelines.

On Friday, November 20, 2020, Philadelphia entered a second lockdown period, following Mayor Jim Kenney’s renewed “Safer at Home” guidelines. The College, including the Mütter Museum and the Historical Medical Library, closed once again, beginning on Wednesday, November 18, 2020.

The Mütter Museum reopened to the public on January 15, 2021, with an even greater limit on admissions per hour. The Library remained closed to researchers.

This digital exhibit documents the College’s reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, beginning with its closure effective end-of-day Thursday, March 12, 2020. New content was added monthly through April 2021. The final update to this exhibit was on April 16, 2021.

How did the College communicate the closures? How did it continue to engage its audience during the stay-at-home orders issued by Governor Tom Wolf and Mayor Jim Kenney? How did people continue to ‘visit’ its collections while staying home? How did the College plan for and implement its two reopenings?

These are some of the questions this exhibit can answer. Visitors can read our email updates, find links to interact with us on social media, take virtual tours of the Mütter Museum, explore the Historical Medical Library’s digital collections, and watch recorded virtual events. Articles and interviews written by, or about, our Fellows and staff give additional context to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the Philadelphia area. Stories and photographs contributed by College staff and Fellows give a personal view into COVID pandemic life.


Sit back and engage with your favorite “Disturbingly Informative” institution from the comfort of your own home!