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Disease X exhibition online version from the Museum of London

Like many other London museums, the Museum of London has shifted focus to bring first-class online content to visitors at home while our physical doors are closed. A primary strand of this digital programming is publishing objects and stories from some of the museum’s most popular exhibitions from both past and present. The latest instalment of this programme launches with the temporary exhibition Disease X: London’s next epidemic?, originally open between November 2018 and March 2019, now available online.

London, like the rest of the world has been affected in unprecedented ways by the current Covid-19 crisis, but it’s not the first time a virus has hit the capital. London has been affected by many epidemics and pandemics over the centuries including plague, cholera, smallpox, influenza and HIV/AIDS. The opening of Disease X in 2018 marked the 100th anniversary of the second and most deadly wave of the so-called ‘Spanish Flu’.

Using the Museum of London’s collections, new historical research and interviews with public health experts and epidemiologists the exhibition explored if the city might be at risk from an unknown ‘Disease X’ as the World Health Organisation called it.

The Disease X digital exhibition shares the stories, objects and words of the original display to demonstrate what the past can tell us about historical maladies, their impact on London and its people and the different methods used to fight back. Some of which include the mourning dress worn by Queen Victoria to mark the shock passing of her grandson Prince Albert Victor due to ‘Russian Flu’, a 17th century pomander used to waft away the foul smells thought to cause diseases like the plague and a poster advertising ‘Flu-Mal’, which dubiously claimed to combat both influenza and malaria.

This exhibition is an important reminder and puts into context that disease has been a constant part of the ‘London story’ and has led to a series of medical advances, the original exhibition asked the question, when would be the next epidemic ? Unfortunately we did not have to wait long with the arrival of the coronavirus.

If you would like further information, visit the Museum of London website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
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Disease X : London’s next epidemic? at the Museum of London from 16 November 2018 to February 2019

One hundred years after the outbreak of the deadliest wave of ‘Spanish Flu’, an epidemic that killed 5% of the world’s population, the Museum of London in a new display will look to the future for the next unknown lethal disease that might hit us and explore the deadly epidemics of past centuries.

This year, the World Health Organisation declared an unknown pathogen (micro-organism causing disease), they have named ‘Disease X’, one of the great potential risks to life and a top priority for research. The next international health crisis may be caused by something unknown to doctors and with no known cure.

The new display uses the museum’s collections to show the effect of historic epidemics on London and how we might learn from the past should we be visited by ‘Disease X’.

In the early 1890s, the ‘Russian Flu’ epidemic killed a million people across Europe. Among the victims was a man whose demise changed the course of history, threw Britain into a state of shocked mourning and created major public awareness of the danger that had been visited upon the country. Prince Albert Victor known as Prince Eddy, brother of the future King George V and grandson of the reigning monarch, Queen Victoria, was second in line to the throne. In January 1892, shortly after his 28th birthday, Prince Eddy was hit by influenza, developed pneumonia and died at Sandringham. His sudden death, when apparently fit and healthy, shocked the nation. It became brutally clear that nobody was immune to the threat of Russian Flu. The fact that Russian Flu would strike down people across society, caused widespread alarm.

Among the key exhibits in the new display will be the outfit worn by Queen Victoria in the very earliest period of mourning for her grandson. Never previously displayed in public, the outfit features a thick band of black crepe, designed to display the depth of the Queen’s sadness.

The display also features previously untold stories of Londoners struck down by disease. Among these is that of William Leefe Robinson of the Royal Flying Corps. Awarded the Victoria Cross for shooting down a Zeppelin airship on its way to bomb London, Robinson was an acknowledged hero, who later survived being shot down, captured and imprisoned in France. After making three attempts to escape, he eventually made it home to Middlesex in December 1918, just in time to celebrate Christmas with his family, only to be killed by influenza on New Year’s Eve.

It also includes the skeleton of a 9 month old infant who died from smallpox. While epidemics rarely leave any trace in the human skeleton, smallpox did affect the bones of growing children and this can be seen in the elbow joints of this baby, who was buried in the early 1800s at the Crossbones Cemetery in Southwark.

If you would like further information, visit the Museum of London website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here