Pure Filth

Peggy Jones, the Well Known Mud-lark at Blackfriars. Wellcome Images

Peggy Jones, the Well Known Mud-lark at Blackfriars. Wellcome Images

Our new exhibition ‘Dirt’ opens today, exploring over 350 years of filth, grime and germs in everyday life. From Delft in 1683 to Freshkills Park in 2030, discover how dirt has shaped our past and how we might shape its future. Booking also opens today for some of our special Dirt events, exploring everything from the unsung cleaning workers of the world to a walking tour of London’s unseen river of muck, the Fleet.

Serena Korda’s Laid to Rest project is transforming dust collected from houses, businesses and institutions into a time capsule of 500 commemorative bricks which also form part of the Dirt exhibition. If you can’t make it to the exhibition or events (or are just impatient), why not add a picture to Filthy Flickr pool, documenting the foul and filthy, or take our Dirt Quiz and find out how well you know your muck from your microbes?

The Wellcome Trust’s Dirt Season also opens this week, with activities across the country, at the Eden Project, music festivals and some Dirty Weekends in Glasgow. There’s dirt on BBC Two in April, too: in Filthy Cities Dan Snow investigates the stinking histories of London, New York and Paris.

Online, you can find out more about the science of Dirt with articles on the ‘hygiene hypothesis’, cultural attitudes to dirt, the war on waterborne diseases and more. Once you’ve genned up on grime and germs, you can put your knowledge to the test in our Filth Fair game, identifying 331 different dirt-themed objects in a brand new painting by ‘Ultimate Alphabet’ artist Mike Wilks. It’s available (free) for your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, and also to play online in your browser.

It all sounds like good, clean fun to us.

2 thoughts on “Pure Filth

  1. I’m a poet who enjoys writing on science themes. I thoroughly enjoyed the Dirt exhibition which I visited during National Poetry Month when I rose to the challenge of writing a poem a day. Below is a short piece inspired by your exhibition, incorporating words which I found in it.
    It would be good to have an outlet specifically for poetry on your site, as it is such an effective way of interpreting scientific subjects. (I’ve also written about forensic pathology, chaos theory and neonatal intensive care and won the British Science Festival open mic competition in 2010.) Thanks for the inspiration.

    Scrubbing the step – cleanliness or godliness

    We are generators of dirt
    even to our ultimate disintegration.
    Our waste is evidence of our
    advance on earth.
    We diligently clean our homes
    and turn our backs
    on the gigantic
    dust heaps, letting the
    scavengers risk disease.
    Gravity pulls us into dirt.
    You and I are earth.

    © Heather Wastie

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