A Breath of Hope: 100 Years was a temporary exhibition at the Heinz History Center commissioned to celebrate the centenary of the American Respiratory Alliance (ARA), one of the original grassroots organizations dedicated to fighting tuberculosis and promoting improvements in air quality and lung health. The exhibit was open between April 4 and September 30, 2003.
Springboard was asked to organize the ARA’s extensive collection of photographs, documents and artifacts to create an evocative and memorable multi-media experience that engaged the visitor. The organizing concept for the exhibition focused on the invisible nature of affliction – millions of people worldwide died from TB before the nature of the illness and its transmission was understood. How people interacted with each other became a nature of great study and concern. The anchor of the exhibition, therefore, was the centralized presentation of hanging fabric panels, which contained custom-printed graphics and text. Airflow caused by visitor movements caused the panels to slightly flutter; this was the creation of a physical connection between the visitor and the story through the invisible medium of air. Other key components of the exhibition included original x-ray machines and diagnostic equipment, as well as a documentary providing first-person oral histories of how lives were affected and how a treatment was discovered. The culmination of the exhibition was a suspended wall of over 150 actual chest x-rays indicating various degrees of illness; visitors could peer past the x-rays to a recreation of the outdoor, year-round bedroom environment that provided cold, fresh air as a treatment to early TB patients.