The USNS Comfort wasn’t the first floating hospital to dock in Hell’s Kitchen, as a new exhibit at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum reveals. On The Mend: Restoring Intrepid’s Sick Bay details the history and efforts to restore the vessel’s medical facilities.

Sick bay doors at Intrepid Museum
The sick bay doors are a significant feature of the exhibit.

It opens today (Friday) at the museum on W46th Street and 12th Ave, made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature as a part of the institution’s year-long 40th anniversary commemoration. 

The exhibit is part of a larger project to restore and expand the museum, which receives over one million visitors a year. “We are excited to launch this sneak peek,” said Intrepid Museum President Susan Marenoff-Zausner. “It is a modest exhibit to help bring key stories of the sick bay to our visitors, and illustrate the plans that we have to refurbish the actual space on the aircraft carrier, a site of incredible living history telling important stories. Ultimately, we will open this space where this history happened and it is vital in our efforts to illuminate this intersection.”

Sick bay syringe at Intrepid Museum
The sick bay team made sure that Intrepid’s personnel was up to date with their immunizations. All photos: Phil O’Brien

In addition to viewing a 3D model of the vessel’s sick bay, featuring recreations of the ship’s operating room, x-ray room, and pharmacy, visitors will be able to peruse photographs, archives and oral histories depicting the complexities of onboard medical care from patients and medical professionals on the aircraft carrier. “Ultimately we’ll be using these 3D scans to develop what will be an augmented reality and virtual reality experience,” said Marenoff-Zausner.

The centerpiece of the showing will be three original doors from the sick bay, each featuring a Charles Schulz-inspired medical cartoon painted by sailors onboard. The cartoons will be highlighted in a showing on April 27 as part of the museum’s virtual veteran’s programming, in which participants will connect via Zoom to the Charles M Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, CA. Museum curator Benjamin Clark will explore how cartoonist Schulz’s military career connected to the creation and  success of the Peanuts series, while Danielle Swanson, collections manager at Intrepid Museum, will follow up with how Schulz’s work influenced and inspired sailors who served on Intrepid. 

Intrepid Museum President Susan Marenoff-Zausner opening the new exhibit.
Intrepid Museum President Susan Marenoff-Zausner. opening the new exhibit.

On April 2, museum educators will virtually present how the medical departments operated on Intrepid and Growler in a time when life-saving techniques were less advanced. The virtual program, entitled Life Saving STEM, will be targeted at teens and will also feature NYU Langone experts demonstrating CPR. 

For those interested in touring the museum, the Intrepid offers free guided in-person and virtual tours including programs for veterans’ organizations, military families, accessible tours for visitors with dementia and their caregivers, as well as hard of hearing, deaf, and blind visitors. “We prioritize inclusivity and we offer a robust array of programming, which provides an accessible, enjoyable, and a very welcoming experience for anybody who walks through our doors,” said Marenoff-Zausner

Intrepid Museum sick bay
Sick Bay artifacts on display at Intrepid Museum.

After a well-attended opening event, the Intrepid staff looks forward to welcoming visitors back as the museum restoration progresses. Said Marenoff-Zausner. “This is the first phase of a long-term, large-scale project to restore the space, interpret the space and open the space.”

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