An exhibition exploring the role of  “selfless” nurses during history’s deadliest pandemic has won accolades.


A hundred years ago, as the First World War came to an end, Spanish ‘flu struck. Around 500 million people – a third of the world’s population caught the disease – and up to 100 million died.

Today the pandemic has largely been forgotten, but the Florence Nightingale Museum is staging a temporary exhibition to show the critical role that nurses played.

The small, independent museum at the back of St Thomas’ Hospital, won an award for the exhibition in this year’s Museum and Heritage Awards.

It also won the Shop of the Year award (in the category for shops with a turnover of less than £500,000) for its revamped retail space.

The temporary Spanish ‘flu exhibition – now extended until January 2020 due to its popularity – explores the role of nurses during the devastating outbreak.

From nurses in military field hospitals to those in civilian hospitals and ordinary women caring for relatives at home, the exhibition shows these women performed a valuable role.

Little treatment was available for the disease and the women’s act in nursing the patients was selfless. Many went on to contract the virus themselves.

The exhibition explores how the rapid spread of the disease around the world was made worse by the large scale movement of troops at the end of the war.

The awards come as the museum prepares to celebrate the bicentenary of Florence Nightingale’s birth in 2020. Seen as the founder of modern nursing, Nightingale earned the nickname “the lady with the lamp” for her night-time rounds checking on injured soldiers during the Crimean war.

The museum, created in her honour, houses a collection of personal material associated with her life and work. It has undergone a major transformation over the past two years.

David Green, Director of the Florence Nightingale Museum, said the museum was delighted to receive the awards.

“For a small, independent museum like ourselves it means a lot. It helps boost our profile and shows what smaller museums can achieve,” he said.

The exhibition marked a step change in how the museum presents exhibitions, using greater creativity in design, and also working with partners such as Public Health England and the Centre for Disease Control to tell the wider story.