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Iron lung tells story of fear and hope

23 NOVEMBER 2004


An iron lung which helped generations of polio sufferers in a Sydney hospital to breathe arrives at the National Museum of Australia tomorrow for the new exhibition, A World Without Polio: Truly Remarkable.

The exhibition traces the widespread fear that gripped the Australian community when polio peaked here in the 1950s. It also tells the personal stories of Canberrans affected by polio, including Nurse Lyn Cummings, whose colleague Judith Shakespeare died on Acton Peninsula in 1954 just a week after contracting the virus from a patient.

The iron lung arriving this week was used from the 1930s at Prince Henry Hospital in Little Bay. This plywood version was invented by Australian Ted Both and was used throughout Australian hospitals since it was lighter and cheaper than earlier American versions.

WHAT: A World Without Polio iron lung arrival

WHEN: 11am, Wednesday 24 November 2004

WHERE: Hall, National Museum, Acton

A World Without Polio opens on 9 December - the eve of Rotary's centenary and the end of the polio virus - delayed by a recent African outbreak but expected to be eliminated by 2006.

The iron lung on show in the Hall will be switched on for demonstrations for 15 minutes at 11am and 2.30pm daily. The exhibition in the Nation Focus Gallery includes striking photographs of the worldwide effort to stamp out polio, historic newsreel footage of the disease's impact in Australia and more personal stories of those affected by polio, ranging from I Can Jump Puddles author Allan Marshall to Kerry Packer and John Laws.

A World Without Polio was developed by Rotary in partnership with the National Museum and will be officially opened at 11am on Thursday, 9 December by Kim Beazley, who had childhood polio. The exhibition is in the National Museum's Nation Focus Gallery from 9 December to 27 February. Entry is free.

For interviews, images or more information please contact public affairs director Martin Portus on 02 6208 5351, 0409 916 481 or m.portus@nma.gov.au