A piece of personal pandemic history from the country's best infectious disease expert has found a new home at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, presented his three-dimensional model of the coronavirus to the museum's national medical and scientific collections in a video conference ceremony on Tuesday.
"I wanted to choose something that was really meaningful and important to me because I used it so often," said Dr. Fauci on Wednesday in an interview about his decision to give the model to the museum.
The model he said was made on a 3-D printer at the National Institutes of Health is a blue sphere studded with spikes that replicate the spiked proteins that attach to Cells in our airways can lodge in our airways so that the virus can slide in. Dr. Fauci said he often used it as a visual aid to alert members of Congress and former President Donald J. Trump about the virus.
"It's a really phenomenal graphical way of getting people to understand," he said.
Dr. Fauci announced the donation and showed the model when he received the museum's Great Americans Medal on Tuesday for his leadership in the country's Covid-19 response and contributions to the battles against other infectious diseases such as AIDS.
The National Museum of American History said its curators had collected items from the pandemic for a future exhibition entitled "In Sickness and in Health," which will examine "over 200 years of medicine in the US including Covid-19." The museum has also accepted digital contributions from the public through the Stories of 2020 platform.
The spread of the coronavirus has given museums and institutions across the country the opportunity to document a pandemic. Many have done the same with the protests against racial injustice that have raged across much of the country over the past year.
March 3, 2021, 5:04 p.m. ET
Dr. Fauci could be used for research purposes or for educational exhibits, said Diane Wendt, a curator in the Department of Medicine and Science at the National Museum of American History.
Ms. Wendt said it may be too early to judge which objects are most important or meaningful and which best tell the story of this pandemic. But she said the responses the museum received from the public suggest that the materials they would like to see curated and kept include personal protective equipment like masks and the diaries and Christmas cards that people kept and that show a piece of pandemic life.
"Certainly, as historians, I think we are probably joking that we really like things that are at least 50 years old – like" We are fine, we look at this from a safe distance, so to speak, "said Mrs. Sagte Wendt we of course recognize that we have a responsibility. History is being written every day. "
Dr. Fauci said he could envision donating other items to museums and institutions in the future, whether from his time as manager of the country's response to the coronavirus pandemic or from leading federal efforts to fight HIV, SARS, the 2009 swine flu pandemic, MERS and Ebola.
"I think when you get to a certain stage you have things that are more valuable to the general public than you do if you keep them," he said.
During the influenza pandemic of 1918, "the visualization of the virus was not even possible," said Ms. Wendt, making the donation from Dr. Fauci remarkable.
He reiterated that view, saying that the tools to fight the coronavirus pandemic, including visual modeling and, more recently, safe and effective vaccines, are significant developments that will bring the nation closer to control of the virus.
"We cannot get victory ahead of schedule," he said of the pandemic. "But I think it will be important for the Smithsonian to record this."