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Iconography of Contagion (MWV24)

 

 

In this episode of MicrobeWorld Video we visit the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., for the opening of "An Iconography of Contagion," an art exhibition featuring more than 20 public health posters from the 1920s to the 1990s. Covering infectious diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, AIDS, gonorrhea, and syphilis, the posters come from North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

This video features interviews with J.D. Talasek, Director of Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences, and Michael Sappol, Ph.D., Curator-Historian for the National Library of Medicine, along with several of the opening's attendees, on their impressions and thoughts of how public health promotion and education have changed over the decades.

The presentation of the posters along with comments provided by Talasek and Sappol provide insight into the interplay between the public's understanding of disease and society's values. The exhibit reflects the fears and concerns of the time and also the medical knowledge that was available. Considered an art form, many of the posters are beautiful and entertaining, but during their heyday, they sought to educate people on matters of life and death.

The exhibition is free and open to the public weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until December 19, 2008. The National Academy of Sciences is located at 2101 Constitution Ave., NW, in Washington, D.C. Visitors enter at 2100 C St., N.W. The gallery is located upstairs.

For those who can't make it to the Nation's Capitol, but would like more information, please feel free to download the exhibit's brochure.

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