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 three global cities:

  • Geneva
  • New York
  • Hong Kong

It is running from September 2018 to winter 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 planned

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.

The Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts will host an exhibition exploring contagion in Hong Kong from a contemporary art and heritage perspective. Opening in January 2019, the exhibition will delve into Hong Kong’s relationship with epidemics in unexpected and intriguing ways, attempting to reveal the interactions between people and disease in urban settings.

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 (BHS) will dedicate public programming and several episodes of its award-winning podcast Flatbush + Main to the history of disease and public health in Brooklyn. This will coincide with the opening of a separate BHS exhibition in 2019, Sick: seven diseases that changed Brooklyn, to explore how four centuries of Brooklynites have experienced and understood sickness and health.


Oi! Street Visual Art Space helps local communities to explore social issues through community projects. A programme of events in 2019 will bring to life collective memories and individual sentiments in times of epidemics.

In midtown Manhattan, the New York Public Library (NYPL) and the Graduate Center of City University of New York will present a series of public events during spring 2019 looking at how stories of contagion are told. An exhibition at NYPL will showcase more than one hundred years of mapping contagion in the city.

The New York Academy of Medicine has organised a diverse range of panel discussions and events, in partnership with the Museum of the City of New York (MCNY). This includes two exciting walking tours – one of Roosevelt Island and one of the Ellis Island Hospital Zone – and a workshop, Germ City: Science + History, for teachers. 

MCNY will also run several school and family programmes investigating New Yorkers’ relationship with infectious diseases over time. 

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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