sat 10/12/2016

Art Gallery: The Wellcome's Dirt - The Filthy Reality of Everyday Life | reviews, news & interviews

Art Gallery: The Wellcome's Dirt - The Filthy Reality of Everyday Life

Art Gallery: The Wellcome's Dirt - The Filthy Reality of Everyday Life

A fascinating pictorial tour through our mucky, disease-ridden past

'Monster Soup, commonly called Thames Water' imagines what pestilent creatures may be found in the Thamesetching by William Heath, 1828. Credit: Wellcome Collection, London

There have been exhibitions, indeed even a whole museum, dedicated to cleanliness: the Deutsches Hygiene Museum in Dresden, for instance (image 9), which was founded for the purpose of public education in hygiene and health, but which later embraced and diffused racist theories during the Nazi era. Yet there haven’t been many – or any, as far as I’m aware – devoted entirely to dirt. It’s all around us, yet historically we seem to have considered the subject unworthy of serious cultural examination. And the reasons for avoidance are just as interesting as the filthy matter currently under the microscope at the Wellcome Collection (see theartsdesk's review).

With Bazalgette’s engineering ingenuity, the process of cleansing the River Thames began

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