You’ve got three weeks left to see Dirt, the latest exhibition at my favourite free London museum the Wellcome Collection.
Chronicling dirt, disease and decay throughout the ages, Dirt: The filthy reality of everyday life looks at attempts to combat filth in all its forms. From the belief that cleanliness is next to godliness and ‘Jews are lice and they cause typhus’ (that’ll be the Nazis then), books, posters and public education materials show the way our attitude to disease has changed throughout the years. I particularly liked the section on Jon Snow’s pioneering work on the spread of cholera. There’s a reason they named that pub on Broadwick Street after him you see – Snow discovered that cholera was being spread because of shared water pumps by mapping cholera deaths in Soho. Mixed in with all the historical artefacts are pieces of topical modern art, like two side by side videos of a man washing his hands, which, the caption tells me, makes it an ‘emotionally charged’ act. While I love modern art exhibitions in and of themselves, here I think it’s largely superfluous to need and I much prefer the factual side of things where you get to learn loads of interesting facts. For instance, did you know that the Dutch town of Delft is so called because it was built around a main canal that was ‘delved’ out of the ground. Good eh?
Dirt: The filthy reality of everyday life is on at the Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE until 31 August 2011. Entry is free. Go to the Wellcome Collection website for more info.