Dirt: The filthy reality of everyday life
Thursday 24 March 2011 - Wednesday 31 August 2011
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'Dirt' reveals the fascinating world of filth
that remains one of the very last taboos.
Our major new exhibition takes a closer look
at something that surrounds us but that we are often reluctant to
confront. 'Dirt' travels across centuries and continents to explore
our ambivalent relationship with dirt.
Bringing together around 200 artefacts
spanning visual art, documentary photography, cultural ephemera,
scientific artefacts, film and literature, the exhibition uncovers
a rich history of disgust and delight in the grimy truths and dirty
secrets of our past, and points to the uncertain future of filth,
which poses a significant risk to our health but is also vital to
Following anthropologist Mary Douglas's
observation that dirt is 'matter out of place', the exhibition
introduces six very different places as a starting point for
exploring attitudes towards dirt and cleanliness: a home in
17th-century Delft in Holland, a street in Victorian London, a
hospital in Glasgow in the 1860s, a museum in Dresden in the early
20th century, a community in present day New Delhi and a New York
landfill site in 2030.
Highlights include paintings by Pieter de
Hooch, the earliest sketches of bacteria, John Snow's 'ghost map'
of cholera, beautifully crafted delftware, Joseph Lister's
scientific paraphernalia and a wide range of contemporary art, from
Igor Eskinja's dust carpet, Susan Collis's bejewelled broom and
James Croak's dirt window, to video pieces by Bruce Nauman and
Mierle Ukeles and a specially commissioned work by Serena
Part of the Dirt Season from the
This exhibition is free. See opening hours
Photography is not permitted in this exhibition
Explore the exhibition's six different locations and their relationship to dirt at specific points in time.
Events, discussions, activities and walking tours to accompany the 'Dirt' exhibition.
The exhibition features various films exploring dirt-related themes.
Do you know your muck from your microbes? Your grime from your germs? Test your knowledge of dirt with our quiz.
The cleaning team at the Wellcome Trust and Collection are a vital part of our enterprise. The buildings are vast, have high numbers of visitors, specialist requirements (and even a ghost, apparently!), so keeping them dirt free is quite an undertaking. This film follows Ashley and Alejandro around the galleries while they clean up the weekend’s mess.
Add your filthy images to our Flickr pool.
This provocative book features specially commissioned essays and a short graphic novel section on the significance and implications of dirt from the microbial level through to the environmental.
Obsessively avoided and often misunderstood, dirt - and our complex relationship with it - is the subject of a season of activity from the Wellcome Trust, running from March to September.