Science History Institute Debuts New Outdoor Exhibition

‘Between Us and Catastrophe’ showcases portraits of the pandemic’s essential workers.

October 22, 2020

The Science History Institute is pleased to debut a new outdoor exhibition titled Between Us and Catastrophe, a collaboration with Philadelphia photographer Kyle Cassidy that features six large-scale portraits of essential workers on the exterior of the Institute’s building at 315 Chestnut Street. On-site or at home, visitors can also listen to a special audio component produced by the Institute’s Distillations podcast team that includes exclusive interviews with Cassidy and the essential workers of the portrait series.

The exhibition is scheduled to be installed on October 27 and will remain on view through the spring of 2021.

View the complete set of portraits and text interviews >>

“We’re proud to present these important stories. These photographs help to document this shared experience of the pandemic,” said President and CEO David Cole, who took over leadership of the Science History Institute in May.

When the COVID-19 pandemic spread and lockdowns began in March of 2020, photographer and Philadelphia resident Kyle Cassidy recognized that we were living through a historic moment. But he also recognized that for many people, especially those working on the front lines of the pandemic, the moment might pass by without a record of our everyday experiences. Between Us and Catastrophe was created to capture the challenges and changes faced by essential workers across the region.

“Sitting home doing nothing would have driven me mad,” Cassidy says. “To feel that somebody out there is fighting your fight for you, and there’s nothing you can do to help.” As a photographer, he could put faces to the crisis and shed light on the many workers and helpers keeping us going. Originally, this project focused on doctors and nurses, but as the shutdown progressed, Cassidy realized there were far more individuals working to keep us all alive—from food shoppers and mask makers to sanitation workers and bicycle delivery people. These are the people standing between us, and catastrophe.

A global pandemic is a science story. But during a pandemic, so is a story about mask making, delivering food, and keeping our streets clean. Science is more than what happens in the lab or the search for a cure. These portraits remind us that we’re all connected to science and medicine and technology…but more importantly, we are all connected to each other.

Since March, the Institute has been focusing on digital content, including our ongoing Pandemic Perspectives series, which features interviews and articles to help frame this current crisis; virtual programming; and online exhibitions. Our conference center and research library have reopened, and the museum plans to reopen to visitors in the spring.

Above: Nicole, Naomi, and Hazelnut are making masks in Philadelphia. Image courtesy of Kyle Cassidy.

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