Audrey Davis, 72, museum curator

September 05, 2006

Dr. Audrey Blyman Davis, a retired Smithsonian Institution curator who created exhibits at the National Museum of Dentistry in Baltimore, died of leukemia Tuesday at her Bolton Hill home. She was 72.

Audrey Helen Blyman was born in Hicksville, N.Y., and attended public and Catholic schools on Long Island. In 1956, she earned her bachelor's degree in chemistry and education from what was then Adelphi College in Garden City, N.Y.

After three years teaching high school, she received a fellowship to study at the Harvard Graduate School of Education for a year. While there, she met her future husband of 46 years, Miles Davis.

Dr. Davis taught in Massachusetts for several years before she and her husband moved to Maryland in 1962. While her husband taught at the Johns Hopkins University, she earned a doctorate there studying the history of science.

In 1967, she began a 26-year career curating exhibits for the Smithsonian Institution. She rose to the position of Curator of Medical Sciences for the National Museum of American History.

She left the Smithsonian to help start the Dr. Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry in Baltimore, which opened in 1996. There she chose objects for display, wrote scripts and conducted research.

Once the museum was open for a few years, she retired.

Dr. Davis was the author of numerous scholarly books and papers, including Medicine and Its Technology and, with co-authors, a pictorial history titled The American Dentist.

She also used her love of medicine and history to help found the Ocular Heritage Society for people interested in history and artifacts related to eye care.

A member of the Bolton Swim and Tennis Club, she competed in area amateur tennis tournaments and enjoyed watching the Wimbledon tournament every year on television with her fellow tennis players.

She was also active in civic organizations, including the Mount Royal Improvement Association and the Midtown Community Benefits District. Dr. Davis' husband said she would sometimes go out and scrub graffiti off surfaces herself.

She was a parishioner at Corpus Christi Church and was active on several committees for the church's centennial year. She also collected postcards and rare books, particularly about the history of science and medicine.

Services were held Saturday.

In addition to her husband, Dr. Davis is survived by a daughter, Laura Davis Beilstein of Houston; a son, Allan Watson Davis of Columbia; a sister, Maureen Wilson of Phoenix, Ariz.; two brothers, George W. Blyman of Helena, Mont., and Robert Y. Blyman of Hicksville, N.Y.; and four grandchildren.

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