13 March – 17 April 2013, Monday to Saturday, 10am – 5pm
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London, WC1E 7HT
and off-site locations.
Cartographies of Life and Death marked the bicentenary of John Snow (1813–1858). The exhibition celebrated his famous inquiry into the cholera outbreaks of 1850s London, and the lasting significance of his work in the fields of disease mapping and public health. Historical documents from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Library & Archives, the Wellcome Library, the Museum of London and the London Metropolitan Archives, some on display for the first time, were shown alongside specially commissioned contemporary artworks. Conceived as a disease mapping ‘detective’ trail, the exhibition invited visitors to chart their own journey of discovery across different sites and ways of mapping.
Tracing the history of how death and disease have been recorded since early times, the exhibition highlighted the improved insights mapping offered into the patterns of disease. The use of maps to present medical and other knowledge was advanced in the nineteenth century when the need to understand unfamiliar epidemics became increasingly urgent with the new social and environmental conditions brought about by the Industrial Revolution and the expanding British empire.
Snow’s medical and street-level knowledge of the Soho area where he also lived, led him to deduce that cholera was transmitted by water, not ‘miasma’ or polluted air, as previously thought. It was the application of cartography though, that gave his complex theory its accessible image, and today summarises a powerful story of how cultural, social and political beliefs can act as barriers to scientific knowledge and understanding.
The printed and mobile maps linked the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine with nearby Soho, the site of Snow’s seminal Broad Street map.
Curator: Julie Hill, Artakt, Central Saint Martins College of Arts & Design.
Curatorial advisor: Caterina Albano, Artakt, Central Saint Martins College of Arts & Design.
Exhibition designers: St Pierre & Miquelon
In association with Art; Public Realm & Archive Research Group, Central Saint Martins College of Arts & Design. Funded by The Wellcome Trust People Award & Arts Council England/National Lottery.