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Catch your breath

When and where

2 April 2019 to 20 September 2019
Royal College of Physicians, 11 St Andrews Place, Regents Park, NW1 4LE

Past event

Catch your breath

Take a deep breath. How does it feel? What does it make you think? How many breaths have you taken today without even noticing? 

2 April – 20 September 2019

Drawing on art, philosophy, anthropology, medical history and literature, this new exhibition combines research from the Life of Breath project with artist commissions and objects from the RCP collections and beyond, to show that breathing is so much more than a bodily function.

From a baby’s first cries to a dying gasp, breath is an ever-present companion on the journey through life. Breathing isn’t just a biological process; it enables us to communicate, to speak, to create music. It can have deep cultural and spiritual meaning. It can be a marker of both health and illness.

Catch your breath reflects on the ways people experience breath and breathlessness and how doctors have diagnosed and treated the diseases which cause the symptom. Working with artists, patients and doctors, we hope to raise awareness of breathlessness and to tackle the stigma that surrounds it.

This is a collaborative exhibition developed in partnership with Culture Durham, the Palace Green Library, the Life of Breath Project and University of Bristol. The Life of Breath project is supported by the Wellcome Trust.

@RCPmuseum #Catchyourbreath

'I find my breath gets short, but it seldom gets longer as a man gets older. I take it as it comes, and make the most of it. That's the best way, ain't it?'

Mr Omer in Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

Life of Breath

Exploring breathing and breathlessness at the interface between arts, humanities and medical practice

Life of Breath is a five year (2015-20) research project funded by the Wellcome Trust. It is led jointly by Prof Jane Macnaughton (Durham University) and Prof Havi Carel (University of Bristol). The Life of Breath team includes researchers from a number of different subjects including medicine, philosophy, anthropology, history, arts and literature. We also work with the British Lung Foundation, people affected by lung disease, healthcare professionals and people who use their breath in interesting ways.


Open Monday to Friday, 9am–5pm. Check planned closure days before your visit. Museum Lates take place on the first Thursday of the month, 5–8pm. 

Public programme

  • Catch your breath exhibition launch  Tuesday 2 April, 6.30-8.30pm (past event)
  • Catch your breath: Museum Late  Thursday 4 April, 5-8pm (past event)
  • The Singing Hospital Tuesday 30 April, 6.30 – 8.30pm Book tickets 
  • Catch your breath: Museum Late Thursday 2 May, 5-8pm with 6pm exhibition tour Find out more and book tickets
  • Catch your breath exhibition tour (MED+ fest) Friday 10 May, 3-4pm Book tickets
  • Singing for lung health: Balancing the biomedical with the musical Wednesday 12 June, 3-4.30pm Find out more and book tickets
  • Plants for breathing: Medicinal garden tour Friday 28 June, 2-3.30pm Find out more and book tickets
  • Plus more to be announced

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