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#MuseumWeek and the Importance of Heritage

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This week, thousands of museums and their fans across the world are celebrating #Museum Week. It’s an opportunity to use social media to engage people and get them excited about museums. Johnson & Johnson is proud to participate this year for the first time.

As the chief historian for Johnson & Johnson – and as a lifelong museum nerd – it’s not difficult to get me started on talking about the rich history of Johnson & Johnson and about our museum. Since Johnson & Johnson was founded in 1886, our company has advanced health care and helped shape the modern world through innovations such as helping make surgery sterile, the first commercial first aid kits (1888) and first aid manuals (1901), trusted consumer products and maternal and child health kits to make childbirth safer (1894), the first premade commercial dressing for small wounds (1921), breakthrough medicines, community programs and much, much more. Understanding our history is one of the best ways to understand Johnson & Johnson and the values that guide our company.

But our heritage is more than just a look back at the past: it’s a look at our present and future too. Stories from history tell us “how we got to now.” They show the longevity of our commitments, and they illustrate that, although needs and technologies evolve over time, our commitment to saving and improving lives endures. You could say that understanding our heritage helps us get to our future.

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The Johnson & Johnson Museum before restoration

A lot of folks may not realize that Johnson & Johnson has a museum. It’s tucked away on our New Brunswick campus, in the last remaining building from the early history of the company: our 1907 former Power House. The museum was started more than a century ago by our scientific director Fred Kilmer to document the growing legacy of innovation at Johnson & Johnson. Kilmer was a member of the New Jersey Historical Society, and he understood the power of museums.

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Our museum building in 1919, when it was the Power House.

We’re restoring and revitalizing the Johnson & Johnson Museum to make it an immersive, fully interactive, state-of-the-art experience. The project includes refurbishing the historic building (it’s our largest artifact!) with its beautiful architectural features such as an original pressed tin ceiling, large mullioned windows, glazed subway tile and historic brickwork, and we will be creating a leading museum experience in the setting of a building from our history. In the process, we’ve been uncovering pieces of our legacy – and rediscovering connections – from as far back as 1888 to stories that are still unfolding now. And for anyone who may not be able to get to New Brunswick, we’re also building a first-ever companion online digital museum so that everyone can learn about our heritage. Both museums will debut in 2016, the 130thanniversary year of Johnson & Johnson.

Here’s a sneak peek at what our museum will look like:

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View of the exterior with new lobby

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The new Museum lobby looking into the exhibit area

As our museum restoration progresses, I’ll be posting regular updates on our Kilmer House blog and via @JNJHistory on Twitter. Since Johnson & Johnson has touched so many lives for so many generations, we hope everyone will join us on our museum journey. And if you have a story to share, we’d love to hear it!

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