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Enduring Tuberculosis:America’s Quest for a Cure


Before the discovery of antibiotics, millions of people died from tuberculosis. When the United States government declared war on TB – the first time we had undertaken such a massive public health campaign – New Jersey played a pivotal role in the fight against the disease. Enduring Tuberculosis: America’s Quest for a Cure, which explores the science and the history of the disease, will open at The New Jersey Historical Society, 52 Park Place, Newark, in mid-July.

The exhibition was developed in collaboration with The Cooperstown Graduate Program in Museum Studies in Cooperstown, New York, and supported in part by a major grant from Johnson & Johnson and funding from the John Ben Snow Memorial Trust. The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey has provided additional funding for related programming.

The fight against TB introduced and reinforced behaviors that are now an underlying part of our culture. Getting plenty of rest, sleeping with the windows open, even using paper cups and disposable tissues are just some of the habits that have their roots in the anti-TB campaigns of the 20th century. Through primary sources, photographs, and objects, Enduring Tuberculosis: America’s Quest for a Cure provides visitors with an historical context for tuberculosis, a disease once deemed “cured” but now making an alarming comeback.

By examining such issues as the role of public health, the rights of individuals versus the needs of society, and the way in which disease can be used to marginalize entire segments of the population, the exhibition explores how TB has affected life, health care, and even architecture in the United States. “It is important to examine the issues surrounding a public health crisis like tuberculosis, which have a far-reaching impact on our lives,” says Sally Yerkovich, president and CEO of The New Jersey Historical Society. “This exhibition helps our visitors understand the history of the disease and our continued struggle to overcome it.”

Enduring Tuberculosis: America’s Quest for a Cure will be accompanied by related programming, including lunch-time presentations, a community forum, and programs for school groups.

The New Jersey Historical Society’s galleries are open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The exhibit will run through January 2005.

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