A night at the (Malaria) Museum

May 1, 2014

Last Friday, 25th April, was World Malaria Day. Public health practitioners worldwide celebrated the great strides that humanity has made in combating this deadly disease, as well as renewing their focus and commitment towards the ongoing challenges which have thus far prevented us from being able to eradicate it.

Malaria sign

Here in Dublin, the Malaria Museum held its grand opening to the public. This novel art, science, and public health promotion space houses a wealth of information on the history of the struggle against malaria, and highlights some of the strategies which now protect travellers and communities across the globe from its devastating influence.

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Originally the brainchild of entrepreneur Marco Herbst, the Malaria Museum first debuted in Berlin, and showcased an unusual collection of historical artefacts, scientific tools, public health information posters, and much more, demonstrating our past battles with malaria. Now, having moved to the Tropical Medical Bureau’s Grafton Street HQ in Dublin, the collection is once again on display, expanded with features such as videos showing the life cycle of the parasite, information for travellers on how to best avoid infection, as well as showcasing the work of Irish-based artists, each of whom built a unique and innovative piece around the subject of malaria.

Artists1

Visitors entering the museum and coming up the stairs are greeted by Leanne McLaughlin’s larger-than-life mosquito sculpture (top-left): the most instantly recognisable symbol of malaria’s influence, and the vector for its transmission. Passing through the museum, two pieces by Jimmy V. Zalkauskas, constructed from scrap metal and other reclaimed materials (top-right) give the mosquito an otherworldly and eye-catching look. Eileen Hutton created a series of wooden sculptures representing the different stages of the mosquito’s life cycle (bottom-left): a highly tactile piece which invited visitors to interact, dissassemble, and reassemble the parts as a 3-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. Perhaps most intriguingly, Fiona Byrne chose to focus on the malaria parasite – microorganisms of the Plasmodium genus – (bottom-right), creating a highly unusual and visually exciting piece, showing it as it could never be seen with the naked eye.

Marco H

The museum was officially opened with short speeches from Creator Marco Herbst, Museum Director Vanessa Breen, TMB CEO Andrew Lewis, and Dr. Graham Fry – Medical Director of the TMB and Lecturer in Clinical Tropical Medicine at Trinity College Dublin.

Prop1

Great credit was given to Director Breen, whose early conceptual visions for the space have been realised and expanded upon, creating a truly one-of-a-kind experience. She later commented:

We felt the night was a huge success, with three times the number of visitors we’d expected. Being an educational organisation we were delighted to repeatedly hear visitors say that they’d learned so much and would need to come back in order absorb fully all the entertaining and quirky information displayed at the Malaria Museum. Next week we are excited to launch a series of public lectures given by Trinity professors who are specialists in the field of malaria, continuing to generate awareness about the fight to eradicate malaria. All times will be listed on our website and Facebook page.”

Opening speech1

The event was well-attended by a varied crowd of interested members of the public, scientists, health professionals, academics, and artists, and the overall reception to the museum was overwhelmingly positive. The effort, enthusiasm, and sheer hard work that has gone into the museum is clear, and as TMB CEO Andrew Lewis commented:

We had a huge collaborative effort here: you have the academics, the companies, you have doctors, and you have a vast range of people who then brought in friends, family, the general public, and they were able to help create this vision, and we see this Malaria Museum as a platform – we see this as something that can go not just beyond this room in Grafton Street, but throughout Ireland. We know there’s an interest in bringing it overseas, and it’s something that can get the message out there, of how we can actually prevent malaria, how we can combat the spread of it, and there’s a lot of good organisations out there who are doing really good work, and we would like to work alongside them to help spread the message.”

For anyone who missed the big opening night, fear not! The Malaria Museum will remain a feature at the Grafton Street TMB for the next five weeks, so you have plenty of time to get down there for a visit- you may end up staying for longer than you expected. The Malaria Museum is a great feature for public health education, providing a visually-arresting and hugely informative space, which delivers essential knowledge as well as a fascinating look at malaria’s history.

 

-Stephen Macdonald (IFGH)

-Photography by Louise O’Sullivan (Malaria Museum)

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