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German ‘Epidemics’ exhibition recalls mankind’s endurance against its biggest threats

German ‘Epidemics’ exhibition recalls mankind’s endurance against its biggest threats

The exhibition tells the story of over 30 pandemics, how they started, spread and changed society, science and culture

On 1 October, the exhibition ‘Epidemics. Curse of the Past, Threat of the Future’ will be unveiled in the Roemer- and Pelizaeus-Museum in the city of Hildesheim, Germany. The exhibition tracks the major epidemics in human history, such as the plague in the 14th century, the cholera epidemic in the 19th and the Spanish Flu in the 20th. The exhibits showcase the devastating impact these events can have on society, as well as the breakthroughs in culture and medicine that they have helped create.

EpidemicsCross-sections of people, Source: Julian Stratenschulte/dpa

The exhibition is a joint project between the Hannover Medical School and the museum. Lower Saxony Minister President Stephan Weil will give an address at the opening ceremony, to be attended by key medical officials as well. It will be officially open for visitors as soon as 2 October and will close down on 1 May 2022.

The greatest threat to mankind

Epidemics have claimed more human lives than all wars and natural disasters combined and as such represent the greatest threat to the existence of mankind. Millions of people fell victim to the great plague outbreak of the 14th century, the cholera pandemic in the 19th, the Spanish Flu (Influenza) in the 20th.

Despite the scientific and technological advances humanity has made, the COVID-19 pandemic of the 21st century has still managed to claim 4,5 million lives and counting.

Iron LungAn Iron Lung, a machine used to assist breathing,
mainly cases of polio and botulism will be featured in 'Epidemics',
Source: Hewa on Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0

At the same time, while no one can overlook the sheer amount of human suffering caused by outbreaks, they also lead to profound cultural, societal and scientific advancement. Europe’s plague outbreaks in the late Middle Ages have been credited with anything from jumpstarting the Renaissance to codifying the ‘doctor's’ profession.

30 chapters from the book of diseases

The ‘Epidemics’ exhibition is divided into 30 sections, symbolising the 30 chapters in the book ‘Ursprung und Behandlung von Krankheiten: Causae et Curae’ (Origin and Treatment of Diseases: Cause and Cure). It also features 800 exhibits documenting 30 infectious diseases, showing their medical and scientific, as well as their artistic and cultural impact.

Furthermore, the exhibition tells a story of how these pandemics started, the tragedies they caused but also the triumphs of medicine and the social consequences.

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