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Hear the words “Germ City” and New Yorkers conjure images of bacteria-laden subway poles and rat-infested dumpsters. But “Germ City: Microbes and the Metropolis,” a new exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York, is not a gross-out showcase. Rather, the exhibition tells the history of New York’s long battle against infectious disease. It’s a chronicle of the city’s social and cultural evolution, one in which densely populated neighborhoods and the complex movement of people and goods created ideal conditions for the spread of germs and disease — not to mention the transmission of ideas and activism that sparked remarkable medical innovations, and even cures.

Organized in collaboration with The New York Academy of Medicine and Wellcome, “Germ City” is part of an international project called Contagious Cities, which looks at epidemic preparedness in cities around the world.

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