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Poland man’s photographic compilation museum worthy

August 27, 2012
By Kathleen Palumbo , Town Crier correspondent

If a picture is worth a thousand words, Steve DeGenaro may well be one of the wealthiest men in the world.

A registered respiratory therapist since 1982, DeGenaro, a collector of medical photography, death photography, and iron lung photography for more than three decades, amassed an assortment he has since spent a few years downsizing.

Sharing that his collection was compiled from a wide variety of sources ranging from E-bay and flea markets to Sotheby's, DeGenaro's anthology has been exhibited in museums, libraries, and galleries across the United States and Europe, followed by a downsizing of the amassment in just as widespread a manner.

Article Photos

Photo by Kathleen Palumbo, Town Crier correspondent
Having found Steve DeGenaro through the respiratory therapy department at Youngstown State University, the Rose Melnick Medical Museum at Youngstown State University currently houses the exhibit: “Life in the Iron Lung: Polio and the modern respirator,” made possible by DeGenaro’s photo compilation.

Sharing that the photography was beginning to take over the attic of the home he shares with his wife, Judge Mary DeGenaro, with whom he has two sons, DeGenaro said a few years ago it was time to begin the process by cataloging his collected works.

Beginning with the death photography, DeGenaro made a donation to University of Colorado at Riverside three years ago, with an exhibit planned for 2013-2014. Turning his attention to the medical photography of which he said, "There's an interest historically," DeGenaro said he sold the bulk of it to the Dittrick Museum of Medical History at Case Western Reserve University.

Finally, addressing his most prized collection -- the iron lung photography DeGenaro's compilation is being shown at the Rose Melnick Medical Museum at Youngstown State University in, "Life in the Iron Lung: Polio and the modern respirator."

According to information provided on the website of the Melnick Medical Museum, the current exhibit explains the causes, history, mysteries, and effects of the polio virus, and the evolution of the iron lung in drawings and illustrations from an 1864 design by Alfred F. Jones, to the modern respirator of J. H. Emerson, whose grandson DeGenaro said he once made contact with through a photo search.

Just as there is more than one way to disperse the wealth of DeGenaro's photographic compilation, he shares that there are benefits from each, sharing that while selling brings the obvious monetary reward, donating provides a manner in which to keep his name on it.

Now also a Medicare inspector for home health care, as well as a consultant on medical equipment in the industry, DeGenaro said he has begun a non-profit, through which he collects medical supplies and donates to sites he has visited in both San Quentin and Honduras.

As for his penchant for photography, having reclaimed the family attic, DeGenaro remains a formidable source of information and photography on the iron lung.

"I wouldn't mind writing a book on this someday," he said.



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