Contagious Cities is an international cultural project which supports local conversations around the global challenges of epidemic preparedness.

Where and when

The project is staged across four global cities:

  • Geneva
  • New York
  • Hong Kong
  • Berlin

It is running from September 2018 to December 2019.

Microbes, migration and the metropolis

Cities bring people – and germs – together. Through the stories it tells, Contagious Cities explores the outcomes of this cohabitation, and the relationship between microbes, migration and the metropolis.  

Combining different perspectives and expertise, partners in the project are co-producing artist residencies, exhibitions, interactive experiences, events and broadcasts. Together, they are investigating the physical, social, economic and cultural effects of infectious disease. 

The project has been developed by Wellcome. It marks the centenary of the 1918 flu pandemic, during which a third of the world’s population was infected and 50 million people died.

What's happening

Map of a yellow fever outbreak in New York

Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

Map of a yellow fever outbreak in New York.


Germ City: Microbes and the Metropolis takes a fascinating look at New York’s long battle against infectious disease – a fight involving government, urban planners, medical professionals, businesses and activists. The exhibition, at the Museum of the City of New York, was developed in collaboration with the New York Academy of Medicine.

Contagious Cities: Far Away, Too Close explores the psychological and emotional dimensions of disease and contagion, particularly in relation to people’s ways of life. Co-produced by the art and heritage teams at Hong Kong's Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts, it includes an art exhibition featuring local and international artists, and a heritage exhibition that looks at the historical context of the bubonic plague.

The Chinese town, West Point, Hong Kong. Photograph.

Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

The Chinese town, West Point, Hong Kong. Photograph.


In partnership with BBC Radio 3 and Cast Iron Radio, we commissioned a series of essays in which five writers consider the history and effects of a different contagion in their city. The essays were broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in November 2018 – you can listen again on BBC Sounds.

WNYC, operated by New York Public Radio, have drawn on their archives and newsroom to offer a series of engrossing narratives chronicling the relationship between cities and contagious disease.

Brooklyn Historical Society will dedicate several episodes of its award-winning podcast Flatbush + Main to the history of disease and public health in Brooklyn. 

In collaboration with BBC World Service and Wellcome Collection, a special episode of The Evidence will be recorded at the Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts and broadcast in April 2019.


Various events will be running in Hong Kong and New York:

New York Public Library

Credit: New York Public Library

Our partners

Contagious Cities has been developed by Wellcome in collaboration with: 

Credit for main illustration: Dale Crosby Close/Wellcome. CC-BY-NC

Contact us

If you have any questions about Contagious Cities, email:

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