Back from the Dead

Students engaged in activities as part of Back from the Dead exhibition and programme

The exhibition celebrated the 75th anniversary of the first clinical trials of penicillin, explored the complex history of antibiotic development and the urgent global health threat posed by antibiotic resistance.

With resistant infections projected to kill over ten million people annually by 2050, it is more important than ever to foster public engagement on the topic.

About the project

Back from the Dead (November 2016-May 2017) challenged common antibiotic myths and generated new research data by surveying public understandings of antiobiotics, antimicrobial resistance and attitudes towards antibiotic stewardship.

Together with public events, gallery tours, arts workshops and a schools engagement programme, Back from the Dead attracted 47,796 visitors from all age and income groups from Oxfordshire and further afield.

Outcomes and impacts

​Our evaluation data demonstrates that visitors increased their understanding and awareness of antibiotics and antmicrobial resistance as a result of the exhibition.

The survey data on public attitudes towards antibiotic use will feed into a future Oxford Martin School policy paper, while the exhibition will leave a physical legacy in the form of a permanent display in the museum. Our work resulted in a re-cataloguing of 71 penicillin-related objects in the collection, which will be easier to access for researchers.

The participating researchers also gained valuable public engagement with research skills, which are essential for raising awareness about a complex biological-social problem.

Project Team

​Dr Claas Kirchelle, Oxford Martin School, Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, Wolfson College & Dr Andreas Kappes, Oxford Martin School, Department of Experimental Psychology.

Dr Silke Ackermann, Marie-Louise Kerr, Dr Sophie Waring and Dr Stephen Johnston, History of Science Museum

​"The whole day was a fascinating and multi-faceted exploration of the history of penicillin, and students greatly enjoyed the range of activities, artefacts and exhibitions they were able to participate in." Teacher, Cheney School

Funded by:​ The EPA Cephalosporin Fund