Cartographies of Life and Death: John Snow and Disease Mapping in Soho

By Culture24 Reporter | 25 February 2013

Exhibition preview: Cartographies of Life and Death: John Snow and Disease Mapping, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, March 13 – April 17 2013

A photo of an ancient map of an area of london showing black lines on yellow paper
This map shows deaths from cholera in Broad Street, Golden Square and the surrounding area between August and September 1854, taken from John Snow's publication, On the Mode of Communication of Cholera© London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Archive
In 1850s London, John Snow became a saviour by tracing a deadly cholera outbreak to a water pump.

A photo showing a portrait of a doctor sitting at a table wearing a suit in the 1850s
© London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Archive
On the same Soho street, artist Amy Sharrock is about to turn that same pump into a Water Bar, serving watery cocktails as part of a new trail of disease, intertwined with street performances and informed by maps from the School of Hygeine’s archives of outbreaks from the past century.

Sharrock’s idea aims to make us rethink our replationship with water, but it’s a drop in the ocean of a programme awash with bright sparks. Pam Skelton will depict Snow’s work in animation form, Catherine Anyango has returned from a series of sewer trips with a clutch of drawings, and Anne Eggebert has used Google Earth and mail data to work out where cholera outbreaks occur today.

Food artists Bompas and Parr are on smelly form, taking a look at the city’s invisible architecture and cartography through a piece titled Scent of London. And visitors will be able to weave between the exhibition site and Snow’s Victorian London thanks to online maps they can download to their mobile phone, making it easier to find some of the street lectures and performances taking place during the exhibition.

The Wellcome Library, the Museum of London and the London Metropolitan Archives have also allowed rare maps and ephemera from the time to be put on public display once more.