HEALTHSPACE CLEVELAND (formerly the Health Museum), a nonprofit institution incorporated on December 28, 1936 as the Cleveland Health Education Museum, was the first permanent health museum in the country. The museum officially opened on November 13, 1940 through the efforts of the ACADEMY OF MEDICINE OF CLEVELAND in Cleveland in cooperation with area medical, dental, public-health, civic, and cultural organizations. Its original purpose was to portray the advances made in medical and health science and to promote personal and community hygiene. The incorporators of the Health Museum were Dr. Lester Taylor, Dr. Hubert C. King, Dr. James A. Doull, Howard W. Green, and H. Van Y. Caldwell. It has been governed by a Board of Trustees, which Dr. Robert M. Stecher chaired until 1972. Dr. Bruno Gebhard was the museum's first director (1940-1965), succeeded by Lowell F. Bernard (1969-1989) and Michael J. Marks (1991-present).
The museum's original home at 8811 EUCLID AVE. was a gift of ELISABETH SEVERANCE ALLEN PRENTISS, who also established $420,000 in trust for the museum and a national award for public service in the health-education field. In 1945 the museum acquired the forty-three-room Treadway mansion at 8911 Euclid Avenue; a $2.5 million expansion in the early 1970s added two new wings. In 1969 the institution divided into two main functions: a museum and an educational center. The old museum was remodeled to include thirteen self-contained classrooms, each with its own exhibits, supplementary audio-visual equipment, and materials relating to specific subjects. By 1978 over 50,000 schoolchildren a year received two hours of instruction from fifteen health educators. Other programs, aimed at adults and families, included workshops on aging, and health and safety in sports. In January 1993 the name was changed to the Health Museum, and plans for a major expansion and renovation were announced. In 1995 the museum was in the midst of a capital campaign to raise $17 million for the expansion and renovation; goals of the restructuring included a renewed emphasis on adult education, and a regional health center.
In 2002 the organization's name was changed to HealthSpace Cleveland with the opening of its new exhibit gallery and education center. At this time the institution developed a distance-learning program that reached more than 45,000 students in twenty-five states across three countries. In 2006 the Health on Wheels outreach program was one of HealthSpace Cleveland's model programs, as it took the museum into the Greater Cleveland Community several days a week. HealthSpace Cleveland's vast exhibition floor, well-equipped labs, and numerous educational theaters offered engaging, hands-on learning experiences to thousands of visitors each year. In 2007, HealthSpace Cleveland and the CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY agreed to merge.