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Cartographies of life and death explored in John Snow bicentenary exhibition

‘Cartographies of Life & Death – John Snow and Disease Mapping’
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT
13 March – 17 April 2013, Mon-Sat 10am-5pm. Free entry.

Inspired by the pioneering work of medical detective John Snow, who traced the source of a deadly cholera outbreak in 1850s London to a water pump in Soho, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is opening its doors to the public with an exhibition celebrating his work and legacy.

Historical treasures and newly commissioned artworks inspired by science will be found both in and around the School. Presented in the style of a disease mapping ‘detective’ trail, exhibition highlights will include a pop-up water-based cocktail bar, weekly street performances, and disease maps from the School’s archives showing how scientists have tracked disease outbreaks around the world from the early 1900s to the present day.

John Snow (1813–1858) is considered the founder of modern epidemiology – the study of the patterns and causes of health and disease in populations. His work laid the foundations for better sanitation in the capital and still influences public health research and policy today. The exhibition, which runs from 13 March 2013 to 17 April 2013, is curated by Artakt, Central Saint Martins College of Arts & Design.

New contemporary artworks include: Amy Sharrock’s ‘Water Bar’ at the site of the John Snow memorial water pump on Broadwick Street, Soho, serving only water, will ask us to rethink our relationship with water; Catherine Anyango’s ‘Tunnel’ drawing based on her journey into London’s sewers; ‘In the Event of Snow’ by Pam Skelton uses animation to bring together the biological, environmental and social aspects of Snow’s pioneering work; Anne Eggebert’s  drawings combine Google Earth with Pro-Med mail data on where cholera outbreaks occur today; and Eggebert & Cole’s ‘Weekly Returns’ will see a series of cross-disciplinary public street lectures and performances return expert knowledge to the streets of Soho.

The exhibition will also feature the work of world-renowned culinary artists Bompas and Parr, whose work ‘Scent of London’ reveals the city’s invisible architecture and cartography of smell.

Visitors will be able to use a mobile website, which integrates contemporary aspects of mapping such as GPS and Google Maps, to travel from the main exhibition site on Keppel Street through Victorian London to the location of John Snow’s seminal Broad Street map. A printed map will also be available from the exhibition’s main location at the School’s Keppel Street site and distributed at various locations across the capital.

Historical items on display from the archives of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the Wellcome Library, Museum of London and the London Metropolitan Archives include rare maps and printed ephemera relating to cholera outbreaks at the time.

Shah Ebrahim, Professor of Public Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “Scientists at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine are still influenced by the work of John Snow today. As world leaders in epidemiology and with hundreds of staff across the globe working to improve health worldwide, we’re proud to follow in Snow’s footsteps.

Exhibition curator Julie Hill of Artakt, Central Saint Martins, part of University of the Arts London, says: “Far from merely illustrating scientific ideas, the artworks commissioned for this exhibition offer a way for us to critically and imaginatively engage with them, bringing art and science together in the spirit of John Snow, a truly experimental and interdisciplinary thinker.“

The free exhibition takes place Monday to Saturday, 10am-5pm at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT.

The exhibition is supported by a Wellcome Trust People Award and Arts Council England.

Other School events to celebrate the John Snow bicentenary

  • 15 – 16 March 2013: Mapping disease:John Snow and Cholera
    Celebrate John Snow’s 200th birthday and discover the history of John Snow at a public lecture and drinks reception with historian and journalist, Sandra Hempel on 15 March, followed by an all-day scientific symposium looking at historical aspects of his work on 16 March.
  • 11 – 12 April 2013: Snow’s legacy: Epidemiology today and tomorrow
    This two-day conference will gather leading researchers in a contemporary evaluation of John Snow’s legacy and explore how epidemiology is influencing education, criminology and economics. The event will close with a panel debate chaired by Channel 4 newscaster Jon Snow. A conference gala dinner will take place at the Wellcome Trust on 11 April with after-dinner speaker Ben Goldacre, author of Bad Science