Catch Your Breath

Exhibition looking at the role of breathing in culture and human life.

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Catch Your Breath

Breathing is so much more than simply biology. From babies’ first cries to our final dying gasps, breath is our constant companion on the journey through life.

This new exhibition draws on art, philosophy, anthropology, medicine, history and literature to demonstrate the unique role of respiration in human life and culture.

Combining research from the ‘Life of Breath’ project led by the universities of Durham and Bristol with contemporary artworks, and alongside objects from the Royal College of Physicians’ amazing 500-year old collections, these new displays vividly convey how breathing is not simply a bodily function, but a force that allows us to speak, laugh and sing.

In the UK today one in five people has breathing difficulties or respiratory illness. In fact, respiratory disease is the third biggest cause of death in the country. Yet, despite this startling reality, to many people breathlessness as a condition is – like the air - invisible.

Seeking to break through this silence and stigma, the exhibition brings together the voices of patients and clinicians through time, speaking to the vital importance of breath itself and the atmosphere we all share.

From an Italian Renaissance Bible to a Victorian edition of Charles Dickens’ classic novel ‘Bleak House’. An 18th century medicine jar that once contained ‘dried fox lungs’ to a 21st century cyclist’s breathing masks. From one of the earliest ever stethoscopes to the moving and graphic account of a young man caring for his father in the final stages of illness. A pipe of peace to an advertisement for ‘asthma cigarettes’. The incredibly diverse objects on show relate how breath can contain profound social and spiritual meaning, as well as being a marker of both health and illness.

Occasionally harrowing, often hopeful, never less than intriguing and frequently inspiring ‘Catch your breath’ reflects on the ways in which we experience breathing and breathlessness, how doctors have diagnosed and treated the diseases which cause distress, and how artists and writers have sought to capture this most fundamental of human actions.

The exhibition seeks to raise our consciousness of breath and breathlessness, to tackle the stigma that surrounds breathing problems and place this universal act - that defines human life and yet so often goes unnoticed by so many – in the forefront of our minds.

The exhibition is accompanied by a programme of events and late openings for more details visit the website at https://history.rcplondon.ac.uk/event/catch-your-breath

Text supplied by third party.

Performance times

Royal College of Physicians Museum, London NW1

11 St Andrews Place, London, NW1 4LE

Wed 26 Jun

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Thu 27 Jun

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Fri 28 Jun

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Mon 1 Jul

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Tue 2 Jul

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Wed 3 Jul

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Thu 4 Jul

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Fri 5 Jul

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Mon 8 Jul

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Tue 9 Jul

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Wed 10 Jul

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Thu 11 Jul

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Fri 12 Jul

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Mon 15 Jul

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Tue 16 Jul

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Wed 17 Jul

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Thu 18 Jul

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Fri 19 Jul

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Mon 22 Jul

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Tue 23 Jul

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Wed 24 Jul

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Thu 25 Jul

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Fri 26 Jul

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Mon 29 Jul

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Tue 30 Jul

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Wed 31 Jul

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Thu 1 Aug

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Fri 2 Aug

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Mon 5 Aug

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Tue 6 Aug

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Wed 7 Aug

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Thu 8 Aug

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Fri 9 Aug

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Mon 12 Aug

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Tue 13 Aug

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Wed 14 Aug

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Thu 15 Aug

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Fri 16 Aug

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Mon 19 Aug

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Tue 20 Aug

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Wed 21 Aug

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Thu 22 Aug

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Fri 23 Aug

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Mon 26 Aug

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Tue 27 Aug

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Wed 28 Aug

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Thu 29 Aug

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Fri 30 Aug

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Mon 2 Sep

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Tue 3 Sep

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Wed 4 Sep

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Thu 5 Sep

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Fri 6 Sep

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Mon 9 Sep

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Tue 10 Sep

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Wed 11 Sep

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Thu 12 Sep

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Fri 13 Sep

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Mon 16 Sep

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Tue 17 Sep

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Wed 18 Sep

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Thu 19 Sep

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

Fri 20 Sep

Free / 020 3075 1649

  • 09:00 – 17:00

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