Tour a vast collection of early medical devices

For more than 30 years, Steve Erenberg has collected early scientific and medical objects and instruments. Erenberg’s store and museum in Peekskill, New York, is packed with Victorian medical masks, surreal anatomical models and long forgotten devices.


For more than 30 years, Steve Erenberg has collected early scientific and medical objects and instruments.

Erenberg's store and museum in Peekskill, New York, is packed with Victorian medical masks, surreal anatomical models, and long-forgotten devices.

Here's a look.

A lot of these objects have character.

You can sense it.

They have an aura about them.

I mean, there's nothing sinister in this collection, and people look, and they say, 'Oh, what is that?

Is that S&M or is that a torture device?'

No. They're medical devices, or they're life-saving devices.

I mean, you have to think of someone wearing a smoke mask to go into a smoky building.

They really had to be a hero to wear that stuff.

And then you have some other things, and it could be a brace or a prosthetic device, and there is a sad story behind it.

My name is Steve Erenberg, and I'm a collector, but now I'm a dealer.

My son and I -- we collect and buy anything from a prosthetic hand to an airplane engine.

Scientific electronic equipment, medical head devices -- it's early technology.

And the collection has been going for over 30 years, and I can't even count how many things we have.

One of my favorite things to collect are early anatomical models.

They're really art.

Early on, they started with cadavers, and then came wax, and wax was unstable, also.

And Dr. Auzoux did them in papier-mâché. Every piece is hand-painted and labeled, and maybe there's 400 pieces in this life-size horse.

It's the kind of model I wouldn't want to take apart unless I had gone through four years of veterinary school.

[ Chuckles ] This is one of my favorite pieces, and it's French.

There are different keys that connect to pulleys and to strings, and it shows how the different muscles of the eye works.

When I was in school, I failed science.

I was an artist.

I was not geared to be a doctor or a scientist, so I found the aesthetics of some of this equipment to be more interesting than its use.

You see design trends.

You go back to Victorian times, and they used wood.

They'd use mahogany.

It would be polished.

It would have brass corners on it and edges and details and knobs.

And then you find aluminum and you find pressed steel, and the shapes become more organic or more free-flowing.

This was a teaching aid for learning how to reconstruct the face.

Students would build a wax face over the metal skull.

It looks as if Salvador Dalí did that.

That's a quack medical device for electrical treatment -- two wands that a patient would hold.

They'd feel the electricity running through their hands, and they'd think that something was happening.

If you look at early quack devices, they're designed to be better-looking than their purpose.

This is a nebulizer, and you can see it's Victorian if you look at the legs.

And this was used by doctors.

Maybe they had a little eucalyptus in this one, a little saltwater in this one, and there'd be a pipe with a breathing apparatus, and they would mix a couple of things for the patient, and, 'That will be $5, please.'

[ Chuckles ] The more important it looked, the better people thought it worked and the more money the doctor would get.

And some of these things aren't quack devices.

They were state-of-the-art for their time.

Just, over time, they proved not to really work that well.

This is light therapy.

Now they use light therapy to treat depression, but back in -- I believe this is 1920s.

I believe this one was used to treat any number of ailments.

It could have been kidney disease, it could be stomach problems.

It looks like an electric chair, but it's actually from the Kellogg Sanitarium.

You would sit in that chair, and it would vibrate your whole body.

I mean, everything there had to do with your bowels.

I'd rather try the electric chair.

I can't help but think, when I see some of these new devices that are being used and new materials, that 100 years from now, we'll be looking back at them and laughing and calling them quack devices, but that's what science is.

We always think state-of-the-art and that we're ahead of our time, and it will never get any more modern than that, but it's always changing.