The building at Antonijas iela 1 was built in 1879 after a design by Heinrich Scheel. It was built as a family home and was turned over to the museum in 1957 after one of Latvia’s most distinguished physicians, Pauls Stradiņš, bequeathed to it the private collection that he began to establish in the 1920s and 1930s. After Stradiņš’ death in 1958, the museum was named after him, and it was opened to the public in 1961.
The purpose of the museum is to encourage public interest in the development of medicine from antiquity to the present day, also helping people to understand the close linkage which exists between history and medicine. The museum is one of the three largest museums of its type in the world.
Major events at the museum
- In 2005, the museum participated in the “Museum Night” event for the first time, offering the theme “Evolution of Sex.” Some 3,000 people visited the museum that night.
- Also in 2005, the museum received an exotic fetish figure from the tribes of the Congo River region in Africa – “Nail Man.” The figure is on exhibit at the museum at this time.
- In 2006, the museum received a beautiful and expensive object – a silver dish for musk which was presented by the physician and philanthropist Jānis Birks.
- From August 23 until 27, 2006, the 13th Congress of the European Association of Museums of the History of Medicine was held in Rīga. Leading specialists from more than 20 countries attended the event.
- In 2007, the museum staged an unprecedented exhibition from Finland, “Panoptikon,” which involved a display of wax copies of 40 different bodily organs.
- On September 27, 2007, an international conference was held in honour of the museum’s 50th anniversary.
- In 2008, the museum used the “Museum Night” event to present a unique musical performance by a Danish artist, “Labirynthis.” He performed sounds which he said were created in his own ears.
- In August 2008, the museum took part in the “White Night” project with the topic “Life and Death in Ancient Rīga.” Later this was developed into an educational programme in the urban environment.
- In 2009, the museum received a pharmacist’s doll that was named von Schnabel. It was created by the sculptor Zigurds Galūns.
- In 2009, the museum held its first “Scientists’ Evening,” the topic being “Humankind and the Cosmos.”
- On April 12, 2010, the renovated exhibition on space biology and medicine was reopened".
- On November 25, 2010, a memorial plaque was put up in honour of the distinguished Russian surgeon Nikolai Pirogov. This was done in partnership with the Latvian Medical Association and the Russian Embassy in Latvia.
- In 2010, the museum received an award from the city of Rīga for popularising the field of medicine and conducting research into the history of medicine in Rīga, Latvia and the World.
- On December 11 and 12, 2010, the museum offered a look at a truly unique item – the only Nobel Prize medal which is located in Latvia. The prize was awarded in 1908 to Ilya Mechnikov and Paul Ehrlich for their study of the human immune system.
- On March 7, 2011, the museum welcomed cosmonaut Anatoly Solovyov, a Rīga resident who holds the record for the longest time spent in open space.
- On March 9, 2011, the museum organised an international conference, “The View from Space,” in honour of the 50th anniversary of the first human space flight. A tele-bridge was established with the International Space Station so that a conversation could be had with Aleksandrs Kalers, a cosmonaut who was born in Latvia.
- On May 27, 2011, the museum received the annual award of the International Council of Museums for its restored exhibition on space biology and medicine and the events related to the “View from Space” project.
The Pauls Stradiņš Prize
In honour of its founder, the Pauls Stradiņš Museum of the History of Medicine established the Pauls Stradiņš Prize in 1982. Each year it is awarded by the museum in partnership with the Latvian Academy of Sciences for outstanding work in the area of medical studies or research into the history of medicine (the annual award is granted in one of those two categories each year).
The prize was designed by the sculptor Jānis Strupulis. It is a bronze object measuring 24.5x10 cm, and it is fastened to a wooden foundation so that it can be placed on a table. On the front is the Ancient Greek god Asclepius, with a snake wound around his wand. Under the image is the text Praemium Pauli Stradini. On the back is a profile of Pauls Stradiņš, with the text Museum Historiae Medicinae Pauli Stradini nominatum and a snake, which is the symbol of medicine. The name of the winner and the year of the award are engraved in the centre of the back with an appropriate text in Latin. The prize is awarded together with a certificate in Latin.